Friday, December 30, 2011

Keirin Grand Prix 2011

Of course I couldn't be there, but here's the post race show:

I miss Japan!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Future pro keirin racer, Henry Toki Otsuka Broekema, was born October 3rd at 4:10 PM in San Francisco, yeah!!

I couldn't resist adding this one:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Elite State Track Championships

I decided to try something different leading up to this race. For all the races I targeted this season I've tried to do a little bit of a "taper" in the weeks before the race-- gradually reducing my training volume while maintaining the intensity in order to be fresh for the big event.

Well, despite all that, and in spite of trying hard to duplicate the training regimen I had in Japan before we moved back in the spring, my kilo times have just been getting slower and slower each time I've raced this year. Very, very frustrating! So this time I threw out the rulebook-- no taper. In the two weeks prior to the Elite State Track Championships I trained a normal heavy training volume, with four days on the bike and two days in the gym weekly. I figured the usual stuff wasn't working so it was time to experiment.

So how did that work out? The laboratory of pain known as the one kilometer time trial was the first test of my new non-method. Below Alan Vugrincic and Alex Farioletti get set to suffer.

Yeah, it didn't work out that well, which shouldn't be a big surprise to anybody with a simple grasp of the basics of exercise physiology. I already said this was an experiment borne out of frustration, right?

Vugrincic killing it for the top time.

My start was mindless and good, backstraight speed acceptable, first lap ticked off successfully and into float mode for the second lap. The float felt alright to me in the moment, but later Vugrincic told me it looked like I was already suffering at that point. The third lap came down like a ton of bricks. The power dropped out of my legs and I slowed to a crawl. It must have looked really bad, as the announcer took to warning racers following me not to "do a Broekema" and die a tortuous, slow death on the last lap.

The result speaks for itself: One minute thirteen seconds and change. The slowest kilo I've done in two years, and the slowest in the series of five kilos each of which had been slower than its predecessor. In March I did my fastest ride ever, a 1:09.70. Then, back in the US I did a 1:12.53, 1:12.68, at nationals a 1:12.90, and finally I fell out of the boat completely into the 1:13's. Marvelous.

The kilo podium. Allen and Alex both put down smoking times to take the first two spots.

Next up was the team sprint. We had to have had the most interesting team: Our starter, Mark Altimirano, at an incredibly youthful 58 is just old enough to be my high school drop-out dad, while our second man, 19 year old Daniel Farinha, is plenty young enough to be my own illegitimate son. Three generations of track racers on the same team!

And we did pretty damn well, too. Our start was smooth, if not lightening fast, and we all dropped into formation like clockwork, truly a thing of beauty when it happens right. Everyone's exchanges were tight and I didn't throw it down the toilet by "doing a Broekema" on my lap, either. Nice! 1:12 is not exactly lighting the world on fire, but it was a really nice execution. Thanks guys!

There was drama to come. Alex Farioletti and Fergus Tanaka's team set down a blistering 1:09 to smoke us good right off the bat. Then the LTO Velo heavyweights, Vugrincic, Allen and Malenke, who were heavily favored to blitz this event struggled off the line and put in a -for them- very sub-par time. We looked like a silver medal. Not too shabby!

But wait-- There was a late call from the officials that Alex's team had made an illegal exchange, and they were relegated to second. Gold medals for grandpa, dad and the kid! Not exactly the way you'd like to win a race, though. Most in attendance agreed that the call was tenuous at best, and in any case Farioletti's team had the best time by three whole seconds. Not like it was close or anything. But, a gold medal's a gold medal, I guess.

Time to hit the reset button and go back to the drawing board. Today I've finally accepted that this season I've dropped down a big notch from where I was before the move, and I'm not gonna get back there any time soon. On to next season, then.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Master's Track National Championships, 2011

So, this guy moves to Japan and discovers track cycling there, falls in love with it, studies on it for a couple of years, even finds out he may have a nickel's worth of talent for it. Same guy reluctantly returns to the US amid Japan's biggest disaster since WW2 with a pregnant wife, and against all odds wins a Stars and Stripes jersey at Masters Nationals at the first crack! That would have been a nice story, right? Well, not so fast, it didn't quite work out that way...

Day One: Kilo

We arrived at Trexlertown on Monday afternoon amid thunderstorms, so no track time the day before racing. Tuesday dawned damp and hot, but dry enough to get on the track. Warm-up was a bit of a shock-- more people than I'd ever seen on a track before were trying to get in a good hard effort at the same time as me, around 400 riders were in T-town for the week. I was out there for 15 minutes and succeeded in surviving, if not really getting in a single hard jump.

I brought my mom along --to race! She's a former roadracer, and at 67 years old more fit than me by a longshot, so when she told me earlier this year that she wanted to come to this event to cheer me on I told her she should compete instead. She already had a keirin bike I'd found for her in Japan, so why not? This summer I've been giving her some training tips which has been a lot of fun for me.

And she medalled in her first ever track event, the 500 meter time trial! Bronze! I was excited, but not surprised, really. I knew if she put her mind to it she would do it. Fit AND stubborn, she does not give up once she's started something! I was super proud.

The same could not be said for me, though. I knew that I was capable of doing a very good kilo time for my age group, and I know that tactically I've got a lot to learn in the match sprint. My team sprint was a big unknown as well since the three of us had never ridden together. So the kilo was my best shot at a good result.

Though I'd been training hard for it all year, I simply did not have the legs on the day. The start was good, but I felt I didn't get a good peak speed on the back straight, and then my legs just clamped up tight. Smooth it was not, pure struggle all the way.

6th place with a dismal 1:12.9, the slowest kilo I've done in about two years! What happened?! Technically it was fine, but when I got rolling the magic was just not there. I could write a list of excuses the length of my arm, but in the end I was just not fast that day, and that's all. Next year, perhaps.

Day Two: Team Sprint

The team sprint was possibly the race I was most excited about at Masters Nats. It's such a fun race, and so rare as a cyclist to do an event that is a true team effort. On paper we had a great team, too: Kurt Sato was our starter. He's only the current WORLD RECORD holder for flying 200 in his age group! Also a multi-time Masters National Champ, so we definitely had the first lap covered. Our second man was Paul Malenke, of the powerful LTO Velo team. A former college football player for the Airforce Academy and an elite track sprinter in his youth, Paul is a big, powerful rider. And then there was me as third man. I was definitely in good company.

But first my mom started the day off right by winning another bronze in the 2000 meter time trial! She was already hooked by medalling in the 500, but this sealed it. Right away she started comparing her times to the silver medalist and saying, "I think I can beat that!" I'm sure you can mom! NOW she's gonna get serious... .

Paul and I in the ready area before the team sprint. He looks a bit nervous while I seem to be admiring my rear tire... .

"Team West Coast Guys" at the ready. We're all wearing California State Champ kits from various years to show our West Side affiliation.

And we're off. Right here's where things started to unravel: Kurt was on a small 91 inch gear, and Paul seemed to have fluffed the first stroke. It was shades of Yamaguchi as Paul fought to reel in Kurt who had unintentionally opened a bit of a gap... .

Paul caught Kurt around turn three, but Kurt seemed to have slowed a little to wait for Paul. Wise of him. I think we also lost some speed there, but nothing to be done about it. Meanwhile, I was panicking a bit and yo-yoing off the back of Paul before finally getting my shit together as pictured above.

Paul passes off to me and I gun it for all I'm worth, but it's another disappointing sixth place. Definitely below what the team was capable of. Hmm. The nice thing about team sprint, while it's truly a thing of beauty when everything falls into place, is that even if it's a mess you've still got teammates to console you afterwards!

Here's the video, unfortunately the mid-section has been edited out:

After the racing we discovered this house which had a veritable museum of old Schwinns and other old American bicycles in the garage.

We talked to the owner, a life-long bike nerd of the highest order. It's a "bike shop", but somehow I feel like he doesn't let many of these roll out the door... .

Day Three: Day Off, NYC

My wife Tomo and I spent the off day by taking a bus from Allentown into New York City. We visited my brother at his posh office overlooking Central Park, Tomo did some shopping in Brooklyn and we met some friends for dinner. Nice.

Day Four: Match Sprints

Right, last chance for glory! Above I'm getting ready for the flying 200 TT qualifier. All week I'd been enjoying the smooth surface and steeper banking of Trexlertown, much nicer than our humble (but lovable) Hellyer. I felt confident that I could do a good time.

But yet again, fate was against me. No that's not fair to fate: I simply fucked it up! I stood too early and lost my snap before sitting, it was a real mess. I qualified, but felt gifted to have made it in. Time was a most pedestrian 12.27. It was not my year!

My first round played out perfectly for me, though, and it was really the high point of my week at T-town.

Here's the video:

I really rode my own race. Once I took the front, I was able to control with a couple of jab/float, jab/float moves, then hit it hard on the final straight. My opponent was no slouch, though and I had no time to let off even a hair before the line. Hard, fun ride.

But in the quarter final ride, my worthy adversary played me like a fiddle. Perhaps he'd been watching and noted that I like to ride from the front, or perhaps he was just a much smarter sprinter than I. He guarded the front well, I missed opportunities to get it, he kept things slow, and then expertly held me on his hip. Though I made a determined run on the final straight I came up a half wheel short. Hats off, he beat me fair and well.

Though losing the quarter final, I was in to the final ride for places five through eight. But I elected to DNS, mostly because my family and I had a long drive back to Wisconsin (where my mom lives) ahead of us, and it was already nearly six o'clock. So, I was done. All told, the results sheet says I left Trexlertown with two sixths and a seventh, though I think in the sprint tourney I should rightly be eighth. Really not bad, even though I'd been hoping for a lot more. Next year!


Up next, Elite Nationals qualifier at Hellyer, August 21... .