Sunday, 29 March 2015

Falling for Spring Series.

The Spring Series is almost over now, though it seems just yesterday it had only first begun. I joined the multitude of Fast Freds racing in Langley and Aldergrove throughout the month of March as often as possible, though if every race didn't require the devotion of a whole day's time, I would have raced two days per weekend instead of one. But between the travel to and from, the registration, and the race itself, you can count on being away from home for the better part of a day. Big, big big kudos to the race organisers and volunteers, who put enormous time and energy into making these days possible.


Spring Series is made up of what might best be described as super sized criteriums. "What is a criterium?" you might ask. Global Cycling Network sums it up nicely:



GCN says that a criterium is typically a couple of kilometers long and can be held in the middle of a city. Spring series is a closed circuit course, too, though most of them are seven to nine kilometers long. I love the Gastown Grand Prix for all of the reasons they describe, the speed, the technicality, and the excitement of seeing the riders pass you by over and over again. Wouldn't it be sweet to compete in BC Superweek?



This is a video of a 20 year old Lance Armstrong, who was racing for Subaru Montgomery at the time. He won the 1991 Grand Prix, but it was a surprise win. He wasn't even a contender mentioned amongst the favourites before the race began, and the color commentators certainly didn't focus on his performance throughout the race, except for when he was pulling up front. How quickly that would change.  And the little bit at about forty four minutes explaining why cyclists shave their legs is good for a chuckle, too. "It looks and feels good!" Heh heh. And that's what matters, right?

Tell you what really feels good: winning a race, that's what. In the first race of the Series, I was the thrid placed woman, though it was a little hilly a course for my liking. I led out the peloton, and ended up pulling hard for a few kilometers until we got to a steep section, where I was promptly dropped. I rode on my lonesome for a bit, until a couple of my team-mates came from behind (dunno exactly how that happened) and we worked together for the next several laps. 


Teamwork is everything, y'know. We eventually caught up with a couple of other riders and became a chase group to be reconed with. I finished third amongst the women on that day, though I regretted not soft pedalling for the first few km, until someone else took a pull, and thus saving my legs for that hill. The second race I signed up for was more to my liking, as it had gentler hills to contend with. I made almost the same rookie mistake that time round. I was trying to be a good team-mate, and again spent too much time pulling on the front. The person I was working with is a guy who is faster than I, and while he was able to pull for half of the race and still have the legs left to sprint, I regretted putting so much energy into the wind at the end of the race, when a few people passed me in the final 100 meters, including a woman on my team who raced a lot smarter than I did, and sprinted for the first place finish. (That's her in the photo up there... good girl.) So I finished second in my second race.

I missed the next weekend, but raced the Thunderbird course on the Saturday following that. It was definitely a wet start to the day.


I had an allergic reaction to something that sprayed up at me from the road at some point during our warm up. My legs were red, and the skin swollen and itchy where it was wet from the road. I expect I rode through a patch of something spilled on the road, because despite being sprayed all over by the end of the race, the reaction didn't spread. But it became quite disconcerting, as my lungs felt very tight, and I was wheezing and fighting for a lung full of air when I was riding at my upper end. (When I got home and took a shower, I was surprised to find hives all over my torso.) Anyway, the wheezing meant I had to back off, and so again I was dropped from the lead group. I did still finish first among the girls, though, and was shocked and amazed at how good it felt to carry that lovely orange jersey home! I do sort of understand why people like Lance up there have been inspired to do whatever it takes, especially keeping in mind the magnitude of the prizes and prestige associated with the pro races. But that's a whole nother topic of conversation, isn't it?

Still. As I have only just begun racing, I need two wins or five top five finishes in one season in order to move up from a Cat 4 rider to a Cat 3, which is where I would have to be in  order to register for the most interesting races. Not that I am anywhere near at the place in my training where I could actually do well in those super cool events, but one step at a time is the only way to achieve anything worthwhile, right? I headed into the next race with a little tiny bit of hope and  a fair whack of determination. It was a course just made for me, without any hills worth mentioning, but it just wasn't meant to be. It was the most frustrating racing experience I have ever known, with an absolute lack of cooperation. Most of us girls were working well together, and one or two of the guys, too, but the rest of the guys were just off the wall. They would come up from behind, but then instead of taking a pull they would try to nose into the paceline at the second or third positon. We would try again and again to set up a rotating paceline, but again and again, it would be a guy's turn and he would take off way out front and just sit out there, leaving the person in the front of the paceline hanging out to dry. Bizarre. Still. We were getting through it when the guy in front of me (one of my teammates who was actually playing fair) had a mechanical issue with his shifter. He slowed a little and swerved suddenly and that was it for me.


Next thing I knew I was covered in a blanket and saying hello to the paramedics. They were surprised that I really wasn't interested in taking a ride in the white van with the flashing lights, and they were careful to warn me that the sudden swelling in my backside might well be an indication of a fracture, but I figured that if it was really bad, I could always go to a hospital closer to home. And my teammate, who felt pretty bad about the crash, offered to take me to the hospital of my choice, but at that point I just wanted to go home. I have had enough radiation for one year, and as much of a pain in the ass as this is, at least I am moving.

another one bites the dust
I was fully conscious as my head whiplashed into the pavement, and I heard my helmet crack even as it absorbed the impact which protected my already well addled brain. But it wasn't my brain which suffered this time round, nor my shoulder, which is swollen, bruised and bleeding. They say that your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, and I am here to testify that when you bruise it, you certainly know it. This is a good week for a standing desk.

Early moments... before the bruise's true colours came shining through.
A few people have asked why I continue to race, and certainly the question did cross my mind. It's true, that pretty much everything happens at speed, making mistakes costly. But I saw something today that gave me a little hope. 



See that? Lucas Paolini won the Gent Wevelgem after TWO crashes. He's a little bruised up, but he's still racing. He's even winning. It's addictive, this sport, because it isn't all about strength, nor speed. There's racecraft involved, and something to be learned with every mistake. Ha! You'd think I'd know it all by now! Never mind, it was just a big-ass bruise, and another good story for facebook.

PS - Actually, Cosmos does an excellent job of explaining how the race was won right here. Er, and just to be graphically accurate, here's the bruise a couple of days on:


And on:


The colour is spreading down my thigh! My doctor figured he should give me antibiotics, just in case all of those dead blood cells turn septic, but I prefer to stay away from them unless it is absolutely necessary. Here's hoping they behave. You can't quite tell in this photo, because Vancouver is uncharacteristically sunny, but the colour is very dark and intense, even down the side of my leg.


The bruise is abating, the swelling remains. Apparently, that is going to take a while yet... :-/




43 comments:

  1. Thanks for the report, Babs.
    I'm still thinking some Babble Wrap would be a good investment for you.

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    1. Lol! Methinks you might be right. I just hope I have finally reached a place on the learning curve that hurts less. :) XX

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  2. Babble Podes !!

    I even read it first!
    Ms. Babble, I hope you get to sit again soon!!!!

    I have to see whether my bikes will even support my weight first!

    vsk

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    1. Thanks! I tried a short ride yesterday and was surprised at how much vibration actually transfers from the road through a saddle.

      Um, and don't worry, you're not alone. I am wearing my winter tires this year!! But never fear. Yer bike can hack it. It will be the very thing that takes the pounds off... just give it a chance. You know you wanna. :) xo

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  3. Yow! Glad to hear you are doing ok after that crash.

    From a racecraft perspective, you mention there was a paceline, apparently at the front of the peloton? Was there an attack off the front, or was your group off the front of the pack at the time?

    The reason I ask is because the classic Cat 4/5 mistakes are unnecessary work and insufficient aggression.

    Insufficient aggression: in a Cat 1/2 race, the start of the event is nothing but attacks trying to get clear, then getting reeled in, then the next attack goes. It's pretty much continuous attacking until something gets clear.

    Unnecessary work: if there is nothing off the front, or your teammate is the break, or you don't believe the break is dangerous, why are you chasing and pacing?

    If there is no attack off the front, the only reason you would be pacelining would be to control the race for your sprinter. If you are not negating the race for the benefit of your sprinter, you should either be attacking or wheelsucking (ideally in preparation for your next attack).

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    1. Thanks, Ryan.

      We usually at least try to work together as a club during the races, though I will agree that unnecessary work is definitely my nemesis. In that last race, the frustrating one, we were chasing a group that got away on the second lap, and were trying to bridge the distance. To that end, we tried again and again to get a rotating paceline set up so that we could mazimixe our speed and close the gap. Otherwise, I would have tried harder to stay in the front, but not on it, having seen how easy it is to burn out when you're working too hard throughout the race.

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    2. Joe said that he divides a race into threes. He said to do nothing in the first third, except to figure out what the competition's strengths and weaknesses are. Then he said that you should chase attacks in the second third and go on the attack in the final third. (Or something like that.)

      I was behind someone who didn't chase when that group went off the front early on, and so didn't stick with the leaders. As the gap got bigger, and so early on in the race, I regretted not bridging it immediately, and that's why it seemed to be important to do whatever we could to give a solid, fast as possible effort, though by the time I crashed it was probably too late to make any real difference in the results, anyway.

      But at least my training has a solid goal: I need to work on my upper end power, so that I have lots of gusto when it comes time to be agressive in that third part of the race, and so that I would have felt confident bridging that gap when I could see that they were getting away. It wasn't like an individual attack, because there were a few of them to work through the wind. There was only one woman amongst them, but I should have been there, and would have, too, if I weren't so concerned with not over expending myself early on, as I had done in previous races. Sigh... I have so much to learn!

      Ps. Thank you kindly for all of the incredibly hard work you put into the Spring Series. It really wouldn't happen without you. And I love that you always manage to carry the day with humour. You rock. :)

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  4. My dog asked me if I heard about your spill.
    He described it as "darn near disaster."
    At least it sounded like "disaster."
    "Dis-assed-her" wouldn't make sense would it?

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    1. He's so cheeky, yer dog.
      After the accident I was pretty bummed out, least 'till I noticed how suddenly I've a glutenous maximus.
      It's all good, though, just so long as my racing license isn't in a-rears. After all, I don't want them to be giving me the bum's rush!

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  5. Crikey ! I'm glad you only got a crack in your helmet and a bruise next to your crack. It's a nice bruise too. Better take some Assprin for the pain :)
    That stuff that sprayed on you is a worry. What sort of of shit is on your roads over there?
    I've lost my nerve riding in a close pack. It doesn't take much for it to end in tears.
    Keep your ass safe and fine, and keep riding and writing.

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    1. I did wonder about my sanity for a moment there...

      And re: that whole nother kind of road rash: I know, right?! What could possibly have caused such an odd reaction? Can't be simple road salt, since we humans are made up of the stuff. Must have been something else on the road, though given how wet it was, I had no idea I was riding through anything, at least not till my legs went all red and swollen where it hit me. Allergies are such a nasty stress reaction, and races have enough stress in and of themselves, so it was a tough go, that one. But I knew that even though the lead group had dropped me, there weren't any women ahead of me, and so I just kept on.

      Heh heh. Asspirin indeed. I am definitely gonna use that one. Thanks, Harry! :) xo

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    2. If I had to have a stab in the dark, I'd say some sort of agricultural chemical overspray or spill.

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    3. They put stuff in road salt besides salt. Also, there are many types of salt, not just NaCL that we put on our food. KCl, CaCl, etc.

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    4. Interesting. And undoubtedly they are not equally benign. I figured it couldn't have been the road salt because of how specific the original hives were to the parts of my legs wet from road spray at during the warm up, and yet at the end of the race, when I was wet all over from the spray combined with rain, the redness on my legs hadn't really spread.Though maybe the rain diluted it? I was thinking along the same lines as Harry, but I had no idea road salt wasn't just salt. A mystery. Whatever it was, my body figured it was noxious.

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    5. You and Harry are probably right, but I just wanted to point out there are different salts (2 semesters of Chemistry!) and the road salt around here (Midwest US) often has an unnatural color (red, blue) to it. The color could be added just to differentiate between the different types of salt. I know NaCL doesn't work below X degrees, so they have to use the potassium chloride, etc.

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    6. Hmm... very odd. I thought maybe it would have something to do with the potassium, but apparently that can't possibly be, given that it is so central to our neural functions, and indeed to the heart's sinus node. Stranger and stranger. Maybe it's just an overall sensitivity, given that all of the allergens are out and about this time of year.

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  7. il Priata est Mort31 March 2015 at 11:21

    Arnica will reduce the bruising Ms Babs. My ex was a masseuse and used it by the gallon. Get the gel. Arnica Montana.

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    1. I have the tablets and the cream. Smart cookie, yer ex.

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  8. bad boy of the north31 March 2015 at 11:36

    wow!ms.babble.take care of that body of yours.you only have one in this life.hope you're feeling better each day.:)>

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    1. It's true, and it's a gift, this human form. It's time I looked carefully at reducing risk. Harm reduction. A friend of mine sat me down and gave me a list of things to do which will reduce risks whilst racing, though another just suggested I stop altogether. Because you just can't control what the rest of the field might do. I was hoping that I was nearing the top of what appears to be a steep learning curve, but that Wevelgem race over the weekend is proof positive that it never really ends...

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  9. Ouch ! I love how you keep getting back up. I think I see a bulldog in the white area of your bruise, seems like a fitting masscot.

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    1. Thank you, David! It's true, I bounce. (Well, except when I fell from a mighty height. That was a total kersplatski!) I've been told that I am highly resilient, and it's a good think, isn't it? If I weren't, I'd not get very far.

      I love bulldogs. Unfortunately, the white is shrinking, and the purple and black spreading, so today the dog is gone. I prolly lost a litre of blood to my arse when I landed. It certainly grew by the size of a litre or two of fluid within a few minutes of bouncing...

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  10. I can commiserate with you on that bruise, had the identical article a few years back. Was flying down the road and the bolt holding my saddle snapped, off the back of the bike I went. Bruise turned all of the colors of the rainbow.

    Get better and get back out there. Hey, you win races now a days, the peloton will take advantage of your absence.

    P.S. Do you find it strange that you're now on a first name basis with the paramedics?

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    2. Yes. Absolutely. it bothers me to no end. I asked them not to call an ambulance, but the RCMP make up their own minds about what they feel is appropriate for the situation, and she was convinced that I should go to hospital. In fact, they were all rather persistent, the lot of them. I am so so so lucky to live in Canada, and not to have been born American. Don't know how I would have survived if I had to deal with the American health care system.

      Lol! I know, right? I did go for a good training ride with one of the Cat 2 girls on the team, and she kicked my arse up the many hills over on the North Shore. I am still quite new to this sport, though, and am just coming to realise how very much I have to learn. Despite my power and strength, I need to work on my high end sprinting, high intensity intervals, accelerating, and on general racecraft. But I love it dearly, this sport. I feel so very alive when I am riding as hard and fast as I possibly can, even though it hurts like nothing else.

      And I love the community we cyclists create for ourselves. Snobbers and the internet community is strong, but it's true in the real world, too. Everywhere I go I run into (not literally, thank goodness!) people I've met through the sport, and even strangers offer a wave and a smile, a sense of comraderie. It's a beautiful thing. :)

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    3. Um, and that would have totally sucked. What a terrible way to wipe out! Did you take photos? How long did it take to clear up?

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    4. No photos (I don't have your legs). Took weeks to recover, felt like I had been kicked by a mule.

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  11. That bruise almost looks like a nebula or something. Infact if you look real close you can almost see Uranus.

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  12. I feel this is somewhat tangential to all the racing excitement in this post, but I want you to know after a couple years bike commuting on my lovely, fleet, flat bar commuter , you have inspired me to get a Dutchie bike as well after all those pictures of your white bike. Have been out riding today, really enjoying the complete change in riding mode! And as we move into Winter here in Australia, I am really, really going to enjoy the full fenders and chain guard.
    Unfortunately I was too excited to remember to buy a basket so I could go the full (Arnie Schwartzenegger voice) Girly-bike!
    Hope your wounds heal soon.

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    1. Wooot! Sweet! That's great news! Now you can wear your favourite clothes and be styling wherever you go. Got photos? I would love to see it.

      And baskets don't seem to have the same longevity as a bike, though hopefully yours will last longer than all of mine did. The one I have on Bea bike now is my least favourite of them all, and so of course it has lasted the longest. Sod's law. :-/

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  13. http://i206.photobucket.com/albums/bb275/Castironbalcony/DSC_0643.jpg

    Her name is Dutchie.
    Fast Eddie the flat bar commuter is sulking behind. Never mind Eddie, you're up tomorrow as I also forgot to buy lights :D Honestly I was so excited my brain went AWOL. :D They're both made by Allegro bikes of Melbourne. I did try others, but I'm a bit of an Allegro tragic.

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    2. Beautiful! Nice choice, Helen. Allegro makes a great bike - you do see them round these parts every so often. They are rather innovative. And once you find a brand that works for you, it's good to stick with it. I have a new pair of road shoes, but am regretting not shelling out the extra dosh for Sidis, cause they are so much more comfortable than the new pair

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  14. il Pirata est Mort7 April 2015 at 09:55

    Are my own lying eyes deceiving me or does that cat have a long tongue?

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    1. Don't they all? And a cat's tongue is likely rather muscular, too, given the workout it gets.

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  15. The cat sneezing .gif is also a flashing panty .gif. Thanks!

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  16. Cat silva, the secret healing balm. Although the cat seems to be a little lost geographically speaking, but I'm sure he's working his way on down. Il Pirata est Mort @ 9:55: "Are my own lying eyes deceiving me or does that cat have a long tongue?" The cat's name is Cipo.

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  17. It would take more than a few scars to detract from *your* appeal, but be careful out there, dammit! =P

    -- L.

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  18. bad boy of the north18 April 2015 at 20:10

    here's to you feeling better......we were shocked when we visited Toronto 6 yrs, ago.it reminded me somewhat of nyc 1980's,,,1990s.really unfortunate.

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  19. bad boy of the north19 April 2015 at 07:54

    meaning the homeless issue...meant to comment on your other post

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