Monday, May 14, 2007

Track to Track

Track to Track

It is the month of May in Indianapolis and the whole world thinks of “The Track”. With cars hitting 226 mph anyone with a “need for speed” will focus on the Indianapolis 500. I too focused on this track albeit at a vastly slower speed.

34,999 other athletes attended my “need for speed” as we lined up for the OneAmerica Mini-Marathon. Three Nebo Ridge riders, as far as I know, participated in the Mini Jim Marcero, Chris Hancock and myself. Looking around at all the athletes was inspiring to know I was a part of something so large. Now it was time to run. After Courtney and I trained with the Running Company in Broad Ripple, it all came down to this moment. The wheelchair athletes were on their way and three minutes later, Courtney and I started.

The miles started ticking off as I checked my times, holding a 7:45 pace, 170 heart rate and feeling good. My new strategy this year was to hit most if not all the water/Gatorade stops. Seems to be working, time for a Clif shot Mocha Mocha with caffeine, just before entering the track.

When you see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on television it seems, well, rather small. Now run on it! All of a sudden, this track is very large! To most runners and trainers the track is known as “Death Valley”. Something about it just zaps your will to run. Maybe it is the lack of shade or breeze. Maybe it never seems to end. If you make it through the track without major issues, the last four miles seem much easier.

On the way back to downtown I start to notice my left foot feels hot. Well it is too late to stop now; this race will not break me. The last mile of the Mini, if you can hold your head up long enough, you can see the finish. It is inspiring and deceptive to know you are in the home stretch. There is the ¾ mile to go marker, come on I can make it. There is the ½ mile to go marker, man will this race ever end. Thirteen-mile marker, ok only 0.1 mile to go, I can do this. Have you ever notice how long 0.1 of a mile can be? Forever seems like an appropriate amount of time. So I finish the Mini in one hour and forty-five minutes. Not as fast as I would have liked to run but I am done running until next January when Mini training starts again. Jim Marcero, our superhuman runner, finished at one hour and twenty-six minutes and congratulations to Chris Hancock coming in at one hour and fifty-six minutes.

Now, what about that other track in Indianapolis that comes to life in May? Major Taylor Velodrome is located just south of 38th street near Marian College. Built in 1982, it is one of only 18 Velodromes in the United States. The Major Taylor Velodrome has been host to many national and international competitions, including the 1987 Pan American Games. It is a 333 1/3 meter track of smooth concrete with 28 degree banking in the turns.

The morning after the Mini I was sitting in a small classroom listening to, I kid you not, a guy who reminds me of Bill Murray. His name is Ken Nowakowski. He has a great memory because he remembered that I rode the velodrome once last year. After some instruction and minor track bike assembly, the class and I headed to out to take a few laps.

Looking at the velodrome from 38th Street it seems small compared to IMS from the previous day. Now, walking down the seven degree banked front stretch it seemed to be growing and the twenty-eight degree banking in the turns was monstrous!

Velodrome racing is not your typical criterium or road race. You have all the same stuff; a bike, helmet, cycling shoes and uniforms but the similarity stops there. The bike for example has one gear and chain ring, no brakes or shift levers and you cannot coast. To slow this beast you must “back pedal” which is a nice way of saying, “try to pedal backwards while moving forward at 25 mph without throwing yourself over the handlebars”. Good luck with that one.

Ken directs us through six balance exercises on the bike. First, ride while hanging off the right side of saddle for one lap then the left side. Then ride a lap alternating hanging off the right and left sides. Next stand and ride while holding your rear about an inch off the saddle without moving up and down and ride a lap in the saddle with only your fingertips touching the drops on the bar. Finally stand an inch off the saddle and ride with your fingertips on the drops. We take to the track with our new skills.

Riding the front stretch is not bad at all. The turns are unnerving! Are these 700 by 23 tires big enough to hold the track? Will I slide down the banking like a kid sledding down hill after the first snow? The Laws of Nature and Ken held true! I did not slide off the track. After a few laps, it became comfortable. This could actually be fun!

Back to the classroom for lunch and lecture. Ken instructed us on everything from gearing to how early to arrive on race day. Lunch is over and back out to the track for bumping practice.

What can I say about bumping practice? It is exactly what the name implies. We paired up and rode the apron slowly. Then we leaned on each other, pushed off and continued riding. That was cool! To think you can actually lean on someone so hard and not crash. Then it happened. I hear Ken coming up from behind me. “Fouts, lean into me!” great called out by the boss. I lean on him, easy at first. “Push on me!” ok I think. So I lean on him hard. Amazing, we both stayed up. There must really be something to this.

We went back out on the track to warm-up while Ken got the motor. The motor is a motorcycle, mid 80’s vintage, I think. Everyone falls into a pace line behind the motor. An easy twenty miles per hour pace then twenty-two. As with most pace lines it starts out ragged then begins to take shape. The speed increases again and a few riders pull out. We continue to rotate through the pace line as the speed increases. Only four of us left in the line now. How much longer will Ken continue this pain? Just then, Ken’s left hand comes out holding up two fingers, “Two to go”. Yes, only two more laps but the speed is increasing. One more lap, done and we cross the start/finish line. Ken pulls ahead of us and we pull up above the blue line. What a day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Ceraland 2007

Alright, I guess I'll start the writing.

I raced Ceraland about 2 weeks ago. My first race, so I arrived too early (but was rewarded with the first IRS #900), but the day was perfect for sitting outside and enjoying not having anything to do but sit outside and think about sitting outside.

Citizen's race was first, with five staunch Nebo riders and a robust field of about 30 others. The race started sedately on the 1.4 mile loop, with just a few rolling hills and a minor headwind on the backstretch to break things up. And the occasional close encounter of the curb kind for an unlucky rider or two. A few pushes here and there, some by our team, but nothing organized enough to stay off the front. The pack came into the last lap intact, with a sprint over the last 90 seconds to sort out placement. A good time, and the Nebo Riders finished in the main group.

An enjoyable first race, all told.

Chris Hancock, Jason Pope, and I decided to hang around and try our hand at the cat 4 race with Anthony and Jim. The race took off a few steps quicker than the citizen's race, and unfortunately Chris H. found himself trapped behind someone who just couldn't keep the pace, and suddenly with a gap he couldn't quite close. Jim went off the front at some point, and while he didn't catch up with leaders (I don't think, anyway - correct me if I'm wrong), he did spend some time with a few chasers, and dispite having to solo a large portion of the race he finished fairly well ahead of the main pack. He wasn't listed in the final results, but he must have been in the top 7 or 8, I would think.

Jason managed a surge off the front of the ever-dwindling group later in the race, but wasn't quite able to seperate himself. With about a half mile to go he had a close encounter of the pedal-spoke kind, bending a spoke (and I think stripping the rim at its insertion). His wheel stayed true enough and he was able to finish with Anthony and myself in the main group. My goal from the gun was to stay with the group, and I'm satisfied that I accomplished that.My legs were spent, but I'm glad I did both races. I'll take all the race experience I can get, and hopefully be able to do more than hang with the group at some point in the near future.

See you all at Eagle Creek traditional on saturday. Hope those of you from the group ride yesterday have managed to dry out.

Chris J.