Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Elite National Championships


ADT Event Center, Home Depot Center, LA Velodrome-- whatever its name really is these days, this is a real track. Let me say that again: THIS is a REAL track! Man, I feel like I've been waiting to ride a track of this caliber my whole life: 250 meters, indoors, 45˚ in the bends, and made of glorious, glorious wood. Siberian pine, I'm told. Just a beautiful thing, cycling's equivalent of a Gothic cathedral. Perhaps this is over dramatic, but as I first stepped inside LA Velodrome, I really felt I was in church. No disrespect to my humble (and relatively nearby) Hellyer, but this was a different beast entirely.

Colorado Springs is a beautiful track as well, and given the altitude, measurably faster than LA. And they say LA is not even fast, for a wooden 250. I've even been told by some it's not faster than Hellyer (beg to differ...). And certainly the Japanese keirin tracks are beautifully engineered, each one of the dozen or so I've ridden with nearly identical, perfect transitions and banking ideally matched to the track length, as if they were all popped out of the same mold. 


But LA is different, it's one of those, the ones you see on the Olympics or World Cups or World Championships or on the YouTube vids of Fiedler vs. Chiappa that we trackie nerds pore over: An indoor, wooden 250 meter velodrome. The current state of the art, basically. Just look at this, with the flags of the nations hanging overhead, the high banks veering imperiously, the balustrade impossibly tall: Hushed tones only in here, please. Almost as if the long dead bodies of kings and obscure monks should be keeping silent and approving watch from underneath the infield stalls. Wouldn't want to wake them.


Ok, undoubtedly too dramatic again. But for real I've been looking forward to riding a track like this from the moment I became aware of track racing, and I really felt privileged to have the chance to ride here. For one thing, I'd be sharing the track with past and current US champions, members of Olympic, World Championship, World Cup and Pan Am Games teams-- the best riders in the country. This is after all the Elite National Championships we're talking about. Of course I hadn't a chance in hell of a placing! But just for a chance to ride the boards of LA I packed the family into a rented mini-van and braved the eight hours of hell on I-5. That, and for the In & Out Burger halfway.

And yes, I was coming all that way to race the kilo. Around sixteen hours or so on the road for a minute and change on the track. Logic? Sanity even? Probably not. This is racing, after all, and those things aren't found here.

Henry is into it!

I'd heard a lot of horror stories about riding LA. "It's really slippery!", "Special tires are necessary!", "You'll have to wipe your tires with alcohol any time you go out!", "Don't even let your tires touch the infield!", "You'll strike a pedal if you don't lean the bike away in the turns", "You'll fall your first time for sure!", stuff like that. And of course, the week before I left I got a flat on my rear track training wheel, that was naturally equipped with a "special" track tire, a Continental Steher. UPS bungled the rushed delivery of a replacement, and I found myself at LA with the decidedly un-special El Cheapo tire on my back-up clincher wheel to warm up on.

Thankfully I was pitted with Bobby Walthour, a guy who's got more track experience (and speed) in his pinky than I've got in my whole body. This is a guy whose grandfather and great grandfather were track world champions when cycling was bigger than baseball. I watched Bobby nonchalantly roll his borrowed tires (pumped up without a pressure gauge) through the dusty, perilous infield and onto that fearsome banking without an alcohol-soaked rag in sight. As I followed him around on the blue line, for the first couple of laps I kept expecting him to at least have a little slip or two. Nope, stuck like glue. I stopped obsessively wiping down my tires after that. Never had the slightest slip myself.

A wooden track is different to ride. It makes noise. It squeaks and creaks in different spots like a wooden floor (makes sense). It rumbles, too, when you're going fast, or when some riders go by doing an effort below you in the lane or above you at the rail. It had been a while since I'd ridden a 250 (the outdoor one in Japan), and the sense of verticality is definitely unique-- when you're on the blue, riders are above you and below you, there's a strange and fun feeling of being stacked up on top of each other. You can look to the right and have your eye level several feet below the high rider's tire, look to the left and you are six feet above the rider flying by underneath.

Silent as a tomb before morning warm-up.

Mercifully, warming up at Elites is nothing like the mad crush of warming up at Masters. When I arrived for warm up the first day there were four people in the building. Evidently, I was ridiculously early. Everyone was taking their time to get ready and the track was never that crowded. Refreshing. I did most of my warm up on the rollers in any case and then did just a few efforts on the track to get the feel for the turns. 

And the turns on a 250 are what it's all about. When you slam in there, you are IN it, not ON it, and you feel the g-forces really powerfully through the turn, it is truly fun stuff, like a roller coaster! Again, the steepness of the track means you don't really have to steer the bike at all, and it takes almost no effort to keep it right on the measurement line. So different from fighting the bike at Hellyer to keep from flying up the too-shallow banking. Heaven!

The next day was the race. Came in early again to find one other person in the building with me, and started calmly getting my business ready. I was the first rider off in my race, the elite kilo, but there were several other time trial categories before mine. Rollers, on the track for a few laps at the blue, three efforts, and back on the rollers. Ready.

Between Bobby and I and my friend Quinn Hatfield ( a local), we were keeping each other updated on how close it was to go time. Seemed all the time in the world, and I was just taking it easy, drinking a little, getting on the rollers every now and then.

"LAST CALL, DAVID BROEKEMA", boomed over the PA, where the hell was first call?! I scrambled off the rollers as fast as I could and up to the officials. "David?" "Yeah, I'm here" "Have you had your bike checked?" BIKE CHECK?? I hadn't seen it the day before and kinda guessed they weren't having one. "This is the national championships, of course there is a bike check", the official announced, stone-faced. Luckliy, La-La, a fellow Hellyerite, was already through bike check with my bike before I even knew what happened. Thanks, La-La!

Ok, deep breath. And my bike was loaded in the gate. At LA they use the official start gates that are keyed to release electronically with the countdown beeps, just like at the big international races. I've used them a few times as they're pretty common in Japan. But they are expensive, and unusual in the US so it had been a while. I'd actually spent a little time the day before listening to the countdown and figuring out exactly when the gate opened. It seemed to be opening just as the final tone sounded, not when the tone ended.


So I'm in the gate, I'm on my bike. "Thirty seconds", the official says. I get my straps tight. I'm not nervous, no time for it anyway with the confusion before the start. I hear the ten second beep. A few seconds of waiting, I focus my eyes on the middle of turn one, straight ahead, about five feet below the rail, check that my head is up. Five... , four... , three... , two... , one -I shift my hips back, then shoot them forward- ..., GO!!



I must have gone a nano-second early, as the gate jammed momentarily, then released me. No matter, I was off, good start other than catching the gate, good speed through the turn, I'm mindlessly accelerating standing down the back straight, slam back and sit entering turn three, into the aero bars smoothly. Right on the black line I'm clawing through the turn and continuing to accelerate down the home straight. One lap down and I'm at my cruising speed.

Lap two, I'm holding it steady, my feet feel light, quick and I'm nailing my line in every turn, this is easy! And this track feels fast. Just as in warm up, it feels as if someone is pushing me out of the turns and down the straights, beautiful, beautiful track, thank you! 500 meters, halfway and I'm feeling good, very good.


Lap three, still feel fast, but the legs are starting to tighten. Line still good, track still lovely, 750 meters one lap to go... , and I'm hurting, can't keep legs from slowing down, vision blurring, suddenly my saddle feels too low and I can't get power into the pedals, pain is building fast... , I'm in the last turn but I'm struggling to keep the bike on line, I nearly hit a sponge and over-correct coming high out of turn four..., just the final straight to go but it seems so far... , fighting to keep the pedals turning as they feel  mired in quickening concrete... , and  a final THROW for the line, I drop my head and drift uptrack.

video
                                                  [The last 500m, vid courtesy Paul Costuros]

I hear the announcement, "the time to beat, 1:10.368...". And I'm happy, I had no real expectations, but that is a very good time for me. The second best time I've done in the US, and probably within my top five best times ever. Not having been to this track before, I didn't know what to expect. I was afraid I'd just do what I'd been doing at Hellyer, a lowly 1:12, so this was a success. And- I wasn't last! My time left me 14th out of 20 competitors. I was genuinely afraid I'd be the slowest guy given the level of the competition. Therefore, happiness!

But I was by no means the fastest old guy. Bobby, 47, did a 1:08.811, which was actually something of a disappointment for him after setting an age-group world record with a 1:06.xxx at Colorado Springs this year. And Quinn, at a relatively advanced 40 years of age, actually managed to podium in fifth place with a staggering PB of 1:07.604-- old guy power!

Great experience. What a track! I can't stop thinking about it... . And another solid step up in my times and results. I'm now pretty much where I left off in Japan as far as my kilo times go, even though I'm on far, far less training time due to my fatherly duties. But no matter, I'm feeling good, and feeling motivated that I can go even faster next year. Bring on 2013!


Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 US Masters National Track Cycling Championships


Alright, it's a been a good long time since anything new appeared in this space. I guess fatherhood will do that to you-- the boy is ten months old now and all action. Maybe he already has a track sprinter's temperament? Seems like I barely have time to scratch my ass much less sit down for hours on end editing photos and mulling over catchy descriptors. It's actually taken me over two months to get this one out. Anyhow, here goes... .

A few events have passed under my wheels this year worth mentioning but no time to devote enough time to chronicalling properly: A couple sprint tourneys, some meaningful training sessions, a sprint tactics clininc with former British Cycling coaches (recommended!), Hellyer Velodrome Challenge, and Masters District Championships (2nd kilo, 1st team sprint), all of whch have seen a slight but noticeable (at least to myself) increase in my fitness and speed. Last year was a downward spiral all about coming to terms with my new status as a household domestic and the change in focus that requires. Read: less training, lower fitness, fewer results. In short, frustration.

This year, I'm doing if anything even LESS training than last year, but it seems like I'm making it count more. God, I am tired, but somehow I've been able to lift my game a tiny bit. Just that little bit is enough to keep me motivated to get up at five and train before work and brave the wife's fury when I occasionally sneak into the gym on the way home. It's a dangerous life.



First a couple words about the track. The velodrome at Colorado Springs' Olympic Training Center is a 333 meter track with a maximum 35 degree banking, and was designed for world class competition. It has seen battles between sprinting greats such as Marty Northstein, Jens Fiedler, the great Michael Hubner and more. The track is at an altitude of over 6000 feet, and this means that the reduced air density makes it one of the worlds fastest tracks and is frequently used for world record attempts. An exciting track with a lot of history!

My first view of the track was pure love- oh, that steep, tall banking, that smooth concrete... . Altitude or no, it looked fast! In fact the size and dimensions of the track looked nearly identical to the 333 I rode at the Japanese nationals in 2010. I knew it would be far and away the best US track I'd set wheel upon. That first day we arrived late and only had time to dump our tent and find the hotel, but I couldn't wait to ride the Olympic velodrome!

The weather was schizophrenic the entire time we were in Colorado Springs. One minute, hot, dry and still. Twenty minutes later a cool wind picks up, sprinkles appear and then it's bucketing, hapless racers running this way and that to get expensive bikes under sagging tents. Then hot and dry, track rideable in an amazingly short time. A couple hours later the winds would pick up, and it was time to look for heavy objects to tie the tents down to stop them flying away. That was about how a daily cycle seemed to go.




One of the great unknown secrets of my vast success as an old-guy track racer is my mysterious unnamed advisor who drops brilliant nuggets of knowledge on me out of the blue. I'll call him Obi-Wan. Here's what Obi-Wan had to say to prep me for Colorado springs:
"Colorado Springs is the best track in the world. Its heaven on earth. Your going to suffer greatly if you are not prepared for altitude. Takes 6 days to adjust. Either go right before your races, meaning a day before, or go 5  days before.  If you don't fall in either of those ranges...the best thing I can tell you is to make sure you don't ever go over 80% on any effort prior to your race. Your legs will feel like shit, your body will seize up, and your lactate levels. You will get a dry air cough in your lungs that will feel like you were sucking on a blow torch, expect this and don't let it bother you. Your can gargle with a slight amount (tsp.) of glycerin from a pharmacy to coat your throat, but its just the way it goes."
Right. So I hadn't felt anything of the altitude yet, but the following day when I got out for a few efforts I most certainly did. My plan was just to get out and do my normal warm-up, 20 laps gradually increasing to an 80% sprint pace, five to ten minutes rest, then a couple of flying 100's. Went pretty smooth, and the track was indeed a thing of beauty, definitely the best track I'd been on sine Japan and maybe even better than those tracks. But wow, it took an awful long time to recover from those little flying 100's, a REAL long time! I did just two of them, in the morning, and I was still hacking mid afternoon. I remember feeling a little wobbly and weird in general afterwards, too. Oh well, I thought, if that was the worst of it, no big deal.

It wasn't the worst of it. Thankfully I had no races the next day, as I woke up with a splitting headache and by mid afternoon I was bedridden feeling like I was gonna barf. I recovered fairly well by dinnertime, but it was pretty ugly. I wasn't sure if it was altitude or food poisoning. Obi-Wan set me straight:

"You got bit by altitude. Did you find you couldn't really feel your legs and when you did it was acid? 
Its the altitude. I feel sad telling you, and didn't for a reason, but you gotta be there a week before or you're fucked...
Some handle it better. You practically have to not ride at all if you come in with short rest. In a week I bet you gain 2 seconds."

Ouch. At least I had a night's sleep between me and the event that was likely my best chance at a result, the kilo.



Here's the entry from my training log for the day of the kilo:

Good warm up with (teammates) Paul and Allen in the morning before the track got real crowded. Bobby Walthour had set a 45-49 WR the previous day with a 1:06, and he'd just done a 1:08 at Hellyer so I had an idea it would be fast. Allen went out and did a 1:07.4 with a 35.2 500 split (eventually 2nd place). Got out there feeling ok. Start was good but I kinda lost my plan at first and had to throttle back my effort having started a little too hard. My 1st half-lap was 15.4. After that I kinda lost the thread and felt lost. I feel like I throttled back too much and didn't get the peak I could have. Never really got a rhythm. Probably didn't get relaxed enough and the last lap was hell, my last lap was 22.9, felt like I crawled across the line. Still podiumed with 1:09.236 in 5th, and that felt good (new PB by about .5 sec), but looking at my splits I think I could have had a 1:08 if I'd been more together on the same amount of effort. I have not had a good last lap since Japan, must fix this!




The last lap of a kilo always hurts, but this one seemed the most painful in memory. Altitude again? Anyhow, a podium and a medal felt good. A PB too, but only by .5 second over my best sea level time, was secretly hoping for better.


 


On the rest day following we went up Pike's Peak on a train. Super neat.


  






My mom was racing again this year at nationals. Her class was expanded to include the age category below hers, so she had a much larger field of competitors this year. While she was disappointed not to improve on her two third places from last year at Trexlertown, she still went away with two 5th place medals and two new PB's, going 2 seconds faster in her 500 meter time trial and a whopping 7 seconds faster in the 2000. Nice one, mom!


Sprints the next day pretty disappointing. Wicked headwind on the back straight slowed everyone and I could only manage an 11.68. My third best time ever, I'll admit I was really hoping to go at least 11.5. All the same, it's the first time I've gone sub-12 in the US, so I have to take some satisfaction.




In the rounds I just felt sluggish, and feel a lot was just mental. Lost my first round thinking I could get him from behind, but the wind probably played havoc with that. Rep round, I took the front, played it well, razored the guys, one guy just faded off with less than one to go, the other came up on my hip in t3, held him there through the turn and thought I had him but he came back and took it by a tire. 
Exciting race and fun, but I was done. Kind of a drag. Teammate Allen Vugrincic went on to take fourth.



Here's my training log entry for the last event of the week:
Team sprint day and I was psyched. Felt great in warm up and I was slaying my partner without trying on our jumps. Hot conditions and little wind. We got out clean but 2nd man started falling off the wheel exiting t2. This happened with the same guy last year, we've been using him as 1st man at Hellyer with some success, but we had to sub a guy and he really wanted to try 2nd man again. Our 1st man, Carleton, did a blazing acceleration out of t2 and Paul (2nd man) was gapped, but not as bad as last year. By the line, it was probably 5 lengths so not a total disaster, but definitely not ideal. I didn't freak out and just rested on his wheel, nearly skimming his tire. He faded a bit, but gradually, and I readied, backing off out of t4 and rolling on through the straight. 




I did my first solid last lap in the US. Just rolled in on through the whole lap, feet getting lighter even though I was on a 51x14, a gear bigger than I'd ever raced. My second half-lap felt quicker than my first and I was able to save something for us, 1:07.3 and another podium with 5th. That was probably my most satisfying effort since coming back to the US. Getting my mojo back?





Gearing was interesting at that track because of the altitude and the correspondingly fast condition of the track. Log:
I rode the 51x14 only for the TS, and weirdly, it didn't feel too big for that. I did not have a problem starting it at all and it felt pretty smooth during my lap. I rode 50x14 for everything else at CS. I usually ride that for 200's at Hellyer, but usually ride 49x14 for kilo and 49 or 48x14 for sprint rounds. I should mention these are all substantially smaller than the guys I usually train and race with ride. But I know 51x14 is big for me, that was an exceptional situation. I'm not planning to start gearing up. Apparently the top 4 guys at CS were riding 47/48x13 for the sprint rounds. Seems huge! Best time in my age group was 10.7 for the 200, and that was with the headwind! Some fast dudes.

                       
A satisfying week on the bike. Some ups, some downs, no earth-shattering breakthroughs, but a couple of solid efforts and decent times. Fun. And progress. Not a lot, but enough to keep the motivation necessary to  keep spending nearly all my precious little free time banging on at this. Next race: Elite Nationals at the LA Velodrome.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Hellyer Velodrome Challenge Qualifier #4

This was a qualifying event for the big race of the year, the Hellyer Velodrome Challenge. We expect some heavy hitters to show up gunning for the massive $10,000 cash prize. I may not even do this race, though: Baby and stay-at-home wife means working dad can't take the chance of a tumble in a keirin or miss-and-out, so it's time trials and sprints only for the foreseeable future. I do miss the special thrill of the last lap of a keirin!


                                A couple of shots of the A-group keirin action.

So the only reason I came down was for the team sprint, for which I was to be first man. Does it seem crazy to rent a car and spend the whole day at the track for a single effort that would last less than 30 seconds? Don't answer that... .

 But when I arrived I found that my arranged second man was out. Criterium the day before apparently sapped him too much. But my third man, budding road-to-track convert Nick Oliver (who'd smoked me in the sprints in his first ever track race), was ready to rock. Nick's buddy Jeff, a fellow roadie, volunteered for the empty spot in the squad.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do a run-through. But given Nick's obvious strength I wasn't too worried. As first man I simply had to start us off well, drop Nick off at a decent speed and get out of the way. One lap. Then Nick was to ramp it up during his lap and let Jeff hold onto the speed we'd created and bring it home. Easy!

Of course, you know it wasn't like that. Here's our start, not too bad, but I do have a little bit of a gap already. I found out afterwards that Jeff came out of one pedal, and I guess having never done a standing start before, Nick was totally unprepared for how hard I would come off the line. It looks so easy on TV... .

Me, oblivious in full flight. Having actually fluffed my second stroke, in my mind I'm struggling to stay ahead of Nick who I imagine is just about to run me over... .

And on the back straight the ridiculousness of it all is plain to see. I'm still going like hell while Nick has never caught on and has to do two laps in the wind.

...here I pull up and have to do a double-take-- where are you guys?? They were still in the turn as I finished my lap. Oops.

Well, that didn't really work out that well, but what the hell. Had a great day hanging out at the track watching races, and did one maximal effort that got timed. It was a 25.8 second lap, which considering my botched start isn't too bad. Something to work on.



Henry and Tomo had a great time too, and on the way home we finally got to try a ramen restaurant in San Jose we'd been hearing about for a while. Best ramen I've had stateside!   All in all, what I'd call a successful day at the track. Thanks to Nick and Jeff for riding with me. Next time we'll get it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day Match Sprints


Ah yes, a warm spring day at Hellyer velodrome, perfect for some friendly match sprinting action. There was a little bit of a headwind on the back straight, but otherwise a lovely day. There was a wide range of ages and experience levels, from 12 year old juniors up to grizzled veterans (ahem, my crew...), with a couple of very strong Cat2 road racers in the mix as well. That called for bracket racing, with the brackets set via 200 meter time trials.



Above, my buddy Aaron exhibits much improved form at the finish of his 200, showing the typical tough-guy elbows-out stance. My 200 was not bad, a 12.43 (5th fastest of 17) which I was mildly pleased with given the headwind slowing everybody's jump. Indeed, the top time was only an 11.97, so it was a pretty slow day. My time put me into the top bracket-- no easy pickings for me.

In my first round I drew man-monster Paul Malenke, whose Sequoia-like thighs strike fear into the hearts of his sorrowing opponents whenever he lines up for battle. Paul drew first wheel [actually, the ultra laid-back officials allowed riders to self-select their starting positions-- no coin toss], and we played throughout the first lap, me feinting and diving, he always watching and countering. Approaching the bell lap, I marginally lifted the pace from behind at the rail, and after faking another dive entering turn one, I caught Paul napping a bit and punched it over the top of him, taking the lead but staying just outside of the sprint lane. On the back straight I floored it for real, floated a little bit in the last turn to let him bunch up on me, then hit it for home on the back straight. It worked, I was able to hold off the big man by about a bike length.

Next round I drew Nick, a very strong Cat2 road racer who was having his first track race on the day. Despite his inexperience and borrowed bike, he'd posted a very respectable 12.6 in his 200m TT-- his first one ever. As a comparison, I think my first ever 200 was something like 13.7... . He definitely looked to have potential as a track sprinter, and Paul, David Allen and I had been giving him advice on how to approach a match sprint.

His first ride had been against David Allen, and he got it all wrong, allowing Dave to trap him against the boards and totally control the race. Tactics became irrelevant, though, as Nick was simply too strong and managed through brute force to cross the line first. Impressive!

Ok, so I'd drawn Nick for the semi-final. Apologies for these photos, there's an annoying delay on my camera that Aaron was not expecting:

Nick asked me to take first wheel, and priding myself as an accommodating gentleman-racer, I obliged. I instantly had Nick trapped against the boards, just as in his last round. "You did it again!", I said, "Dammit! What now?", he replied. I then showed him how I could keep him in check by slowing when he slowed, and accelerating and squeezing him against the boards with my hip if he tried to go over the top. Above is my back wheel as I take the front with a blast at the bell. I then floated in turn one and two to drive him up the banking off my hip and was able to drive him all down the back straight through turns three and four with him up the banking and doing more work. All going to plan...


But then just as in his previous ride, though he did just about everything wrong from a tactical standpoint, he simply had too much power for me, and took it by half a bike length. Witness, the above photo now just shows his rear wheel and a nice shot of my whole self... .

UPDATE, 2/20/12: Just found video of our ride, courtesy of Nick's wife's blog, "The Cyclists Wife" (http://thecyclistswife.blogspot.com):




Though I had one more ride to go, we decided to pack up as it was getting late and Aaron and I needed to get cheeseburgers in us as soon as possible. Much to the chagrin of the assembled committed trackies, the final was down to the two Cat 2 road racers. For shame! I gave Nick a final post-ride briefing.

I missed it while changing in the bathroom, but apparently Nick did everything right in the final. He let the other guy do the dumb stuff, capitalized on that, and used the banking to his advantage. Nice! His conclusion on the day: "This shit is fun". Uh-huh! I think we may have a convert... .

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Race of the Year

A bit fat, definitely slow and weak, and warm-up hurt as much as the racing, but that's what the first race of the year is supposed to be like, right? It was the Novice Track Racing Cat 3/4/5 Presented by NorthCal Water, a low-key early season race intended primarily for beginners. And yes, by USA Cycling's definition I am a beginner. A Cat 5 to be exact, the lowliest of categories.

Yes indeed, I was riding at a fairly high level for an old guy in Japan, having won the equivalent of my elite state kilo championships two years running and coming 7th at the national level, among a few other nice results. That doesn't matter over here, apparently. Here you have to do mass-start endurance-type racing (scratch, points, etc.) if you want to upgrade. Having done all that my first year racing in Japan and having no interest in it now, it seems I'm doomed to forever being a Cat 5. No worries, I can still do most of the sprint racing I want to do as a 5, so while it's cramping my style a little, it's largely irrelevant.



The high-point of the day was my buddy Aaron's re-baptism by fire into track racing. [He's fourth wheel in the scratch race, above] Much the same situation I was in a couple of years ago, he's not new to racing, but it has been a while. Like me, he did the USCF road racing thing as a youngster, and now as an old codger finds himself shaving his legs and lining up once again.


He did all the races on the day-- a flying 200m TT, scratch race, standing 500m TT, and an unknown distance. Tired he most certainly was! I did just the 200 and 500, setting times that were encouraging but not amazing for an early season race, a 12.6 in the 200 and a 36.7 in the 500 which ended up being the top times of the day. Far from my best but not bad for the time of the year. Plus I'm still getting used to fatherhood. It's not easy to find the time to train! Ok, those are my excuses...

Aaron had a blast, he is hooked and will now be a regular down at Hellyer, I'm sure. Welcome, Aaron!


Here's my hot new MR Berkeley/White Oak team kit, yeah! It always feels great pinning on that first number of the year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter Training/First Track Day

Winter training-- It means trying to become good friends with two implements of tourture well known to all track riders:

#1 The Rack

-and-

#2 The Rollers

I've not been doing too badly, posting my own small P.B.'s in the squat, deadlift and overhead press. And while it would be a stretch to ever call the gym "fun", it is gratifying in it's own way as progress is so easily demonstrated-- 'Before, I couldn't lift this, now I can'. Progress on the bike is a lot more complicated sometimes, and while on the track we do deal with numbers, 200 and 1km times, etc., sometimes it's a lot fuzzier. "Well, I didn't win, but I FELT pretty good...". None of that in the gym. Either you can lift this or you can't. That's kinda nice in a weird way.

The rollers- well, I've been pretty lazy with them. Sometimes religiously riding them, sometimes religiously avoiding them. I'm on them again recently, and it feels good. There's nothing like rollers for smoothing out your pedal stroke, that's a fact. And the off-season is the time to work these skills. Ok, I'm writing myself a little motivational note... .


And few things are more motivational to the gear-obsessed bike rider than NEW GEAR, and I'm no exception to this description. Not a lot of disposable cash these days as a new father, but a couple shiny things recently came my way:


Pretty, pretty Dura Ace NJS headset. Hey, the old one was notchy, so it was time.


Light, stiff and ultra cool Easton EC90 track bars! Ok, these might seem pretty extravagant, but I paid for these well over a year ago-- team discount deal back in Japan through Shonan Airinkai. Yes, they took a year to show up, but they were worth it. After the steel Nitto's the bike seems ten pounds lighter.


A couple of weeks ago the weather was nice enough, there was enough money in the bank for the rental car, and everything just came together so we headed down for the first Sunday training session of the year at Hellyer.


This was Henry's first extra-uterine visit to a velodrome. He seemed to like it just fine.



I worked on some over-geared (48X13) rolling 500's with new MRBerkeley/White Oak team captain, Mark Altamirano. It felt surprisingly good! I thought that 100 inch gear would feel like towing a boulder, but it felt alright, and I never once came close to puking. Yeah!


Afterwards Tomo and I took our traditional rewards at In & Out, of course.


Henry hard at work training for his future as a millionaire keirin professional.

Obviously a natural.