Tag Archives: track cycling

Updating images

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Yesterday I came across this picture, taken 2 weeks before my wreck at the velodrome. When I look at it now, I get the strangest feeling — like I’m looking at a different person, with a different life. That person is doing something I can’t, something that seems so far off at the moment.

Three months is not really all that long, but it seems like another lifetime.

I’ve been wondering what it was going to feel like to go back to the velodrome for the first time. Would it bring back traumatic memories? It’s been hard to picture myself riding on the track again. Would this make it worse?

We drove out there Friday night, in part to watch the racing, in part just to see people, and in part to bring my bike back home, finally. All good things.

Surprisingly, seeing people riding and racing on the track actually made it easier to imagine riding on it again. Maybe it was seeing that people do in fact ride there and not wreck. Of course I knew that already, having done it many times myself, but that’s not the last — and lasting — image that I had.

I’m thinking that is part of the whole process here — updating images.

I did have one small flashback. One of the riders inexplicably crashed at the end of a 3-lap time trial. He seemed OK, but a short time later a paramedic squad and ambulance showed up. I have to say, it felt a bit surreal to be standing there, on crutches, moving out of the way for the guys to take a stretcher down to the infield.

Fortunately the stretcher came back up without a person on it. Another image updated.

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A Sunday in Hell

I distinctly recall talking with Joe Huth about the possibility of sliding down from up high on the velodrome banking. Joe said it had never happened to him (knock wood), but from what he was told, “you don’t have any warning. It just happens.”

That conversation flashed in my head as I felt my tires let go. It was a shock. I was just turning laps above the stayers line and then I was sliding.

I didn’t hit a pedal. I don’t know what happened really. The best explanation seems to be that the gusty winds that day slowed me up just enough in turn 1 that I went below the ‘safe speed’ and then physics took care of the rest.

When I hit the apron at the bottom I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. Usually after a wreck you get the bike off you and get up. Only I couldn’t. I looked at my right leg and thought “Marcus Lattimore” (S. Carolina running back injured last year. Video too gruesome to include here).

Next came the cascade of thoughts on all the training and then missing all the upcoming races. Same thing you would think when you realize you broke a collarbone.

But it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a whole lot worse. Screw the bike racing, I just wanted an ambulance, and wanted to get my leg fixed.

One of the things the EMTs and doctors ask (repeatedly) is your pain level on a scale of 0-10. I can say with certainty that I have a new definition of what “10” is. The EMT said I was getting the “Saving Private Ryan dose” of pain killer, and I have to say I would not have known it. He told me, “yeah, it usually doesn’t do much in these cases.”

I count that I was moved 6 times from the infield at the track to when I went down to the OR. Each one of those moves rated a “10”. But the worst was when they tried to put my leg in traction for the night since surgery couldn’t happen until the next day. Pretty sure the entire ER heard it.

The diagnosis was broken femur, and “not a clean break”. I had made a few calls while in the ER, waiting for the X-Ray results, and I had said, “I can tell by the faces on the ER people that this is not good.”

When the doctor said they couldn’t do the surgery until the next morning, I was tempted to ask if they could take me across the street (i.e., the Clinic) but even if that was an option I knew I couldn’t tolerate being moved again.

Perhaps the most surreal part of the day came while laying in the ER waiting for my room to be prepared. For some distraction I flipped on the TV. There was some kind of news report flashing the names of “Amanda Berry” and “Gina DeJesus”. I knew the names, and was thoroughly confused. Were the pain killers making me disoriented? I fell asleep and didn’t learn until the next day what I had been watching.

This was my version of A Sunday in Hell, thankfully not captured on film.

***

I want to profusely thank Gary Burkholder, the other rider who was at the track, and the firemen from the firehouse down the street, who helped me out in those first minutes after the accident. Not sure I would have held it together without them.

***

Hat tip to John Lowry for this:

I have exclusive use of “10”

***

Reading the physician’s report of my ER visit, found this:

“… EMS gave him 4mg of morphine for pain that he stated was the worst in his life when they attempted to move him”

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As long as I don’t have to get a tattoo

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I can’t begin to count the number of times people have asked me the questions: why do bike racers shave their legs? Why do you wear those funny outfits when riding? Why are you all so skinny?

For the leg shaving, I’ve heard people offer up explanations about massage, road rash, etc. But I’ve always said: it shows that you’re part of the club.

That thought occurred to me while driving down to South Carolina to race, first on the track and then on the road. For a trip like this, I often save up podcasts of This American Life, which tends to make the drive seem to much faster.

While listening to the recent episode titled “Tribes”, I thought, “yeah, this could be about bike racers too”.

And then I pulled up at the Giordana Velodrome, where I was going to race that evening. I unloaded my bike, wheels, other gear, and went down to the infield. I sat and watched the other racers filter in, start changing cogs and chainrings, adjust chains, pin numbers on skinsuits. And it further occurred to me: this is a tribe within a tribe.

In pre-modern times, being able to identify who is “in” your tribe would help to determine who you can trust.

I hadn’t been on a track since November and was a little nervous getting started. I rode by myself for a while before jumping on to the back of a group that came by. Riding close, with no brakes, I was again reminded that you need to have a large amount of trust in the riders around you. So all those little quirky things that races do might actually serve a function.

The track racers at Rock Hill were super friendly. I asked about gearing and not only got advice but also offers to use cogs and chainrings if I needed. Then after the race I was offered a place to stay if I came down to race again.

I’m thinking that means I am “in”.

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Cleveland, you’ve got to be tough

Cleveland tends to be known for some rather unfortunate things: burning river, The Drive, LeBron jilting, things like that. But we take those things in stride. If you live in Cleveland, you’ve got to have a thick skin.

Last week I made a trip down south, in part to do a clinic at the velodrome in Rock Hill, SC. I mentioned that I had driven down from Cleveland, and that we had a track that opened in August. Someone said, “oh yeah, I saw that video where the guy came off the track before the apron was built. That was awesome!”.

After the clinic they had scheduled racing. I was talking with someone, and they asked where I was from. I said Cleveland.

He said, “Shaun Wallace sent me a video of the guy coming off the track when it was being built. That was hilarious”

I didn’t ask, but I assumed he meant Shaun Wallace, the former Olympic track racer from Great Britain.

So even former Olympians have seen the “less than graceful exit”.

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Trust thy neighbor


I figure I’ve ridden a couple thousand laps at the velodrome in the last 6 weeks. I’m pretty comfortable riding by myself, or riding in front with someone on my wheel.

But staying tight on the wheel in front of me? Not as much.

I don’t yet have a good feel for modulating my speed without brakes. I know this is largely a mental thing. They keep telling me: the good thing about “no brakes” is that no one is going to grab a handful. Overall it’s more smooth and predictable. I know that’s true, but it’s hard to undo the wiring of all those years of relying on brakes.

The other aspect is trusting the others you’re riding with. When you’re following a wheel at 25mph+ and you have no brakes, you have to trust that the others around you are going to ride in a predictable manner. That’s a big reason why everyone has to learn the track etiquette and have the basic skill of being able to ride in a straight line.

The trust aspect is there when we race on the road too, but it seems more critical on the track. If you’re in a criterium and there’s a rider who’s making everyone nervous, it’s usually not a problem to just avoid them. But on the track everything seems more compressed.

Thursday night we had 4-5 guys in a paceline (see video above). We started out with 2 laps pulls. Then from the infield Brett called for 1 lap pulls. Then 1/2 lap pulls. So we had someone pulling off frequently, combined with passing some other riders below. This is when it registered: I just have to trust that the other guys are going to do the right thing. They’re going to keep a steady speed, hold their line when they pull off, see the other slower riders that we’re passing.

I still wasn’t holding the wheel in front of me as tight as I’d like. But it was progress.

***

Before doing the paceline, Brett showed off by riding no-handed:

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A $300k new toy

On one of the online forums that I follow, someone started a thread asking “what is your favorite new toy that gets you excited to train?”

Predictable answers included things like new bike, new trainer, power meter.

My answer? We got a brand new velodrome. A new $300k toy.

That’s what it feels like. How could we in the NE Ohio cycling community have gotten so lucky? We got lucky because a group of people did the hard work to make it happen.

I have to admit that when I first heard about the project, I was skeptical. Great idea, but no way could anyone pull that off, around here anyway. Even when they announced that they would start building, my thought was that I’d believe it when I saw it.

Sadly, I think that we in this area have been conditioned to be skeptical and cynical. We believe it only when it happens.

The big lesson is that things only happen when people commit to making them happen. They may not always succeed, but they’ll never succeed if they aren’t willing to try and to possibly fail.

So. We in the cycling community have this new toy. Only this new toy needs ongoing support if it’s going to last, and if it’s going to progress to the next phase.

I rode the track a handful of times, and it was enough to get me thinking about making a donation to join the Founders Club ($1000). Then seeing local neighborhood kids riding the track convinced me. The kids have been there just about every time I’ve been there riding.

If the goal of 120 Founders Club members is met by end of the season, members get a season pass through 2015. That’s a pretty good deal. Of course you can donate whatever amount you are able.

Now that we have this, it is up to us to support it.

For more info on donating:
http://clevelandvelodrome.org/

***

… and a couple of video clips from my “new toy to go with the $300k new toy”:

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Ride the Black Line

“Stay on the black!”

I still hear the echoes of Brett Davis yelling that at me the first few days I rode on the track.

The black line is the lowest line on the track — and the shortest (and therefore fastest) way around. The really good guys, he said, will even ride a bit under the black line.

Most of the new track riders — like me — tend to drift up higher in the turns. Like here:

So I’ve been practicing. The tricky thing is, if you’re looking down at the line, you’re going to have a hard time riding a nice, steady line. So I don’t look down. But then I see a picture of myself riding, and I see, nope, I’m not really all that close.

Trying to ride right on the black line to me feels like trying to ride right on the edge of the road, to the right of the white line. I feel like I’m going to fall off the edge.

This is one of those examples that makes it clear that there is a large mental component to physical activity. You can practice and practice but if your brain isn’t cooperating it’s going to be difficult.

So I try a few mental tricks — looking where I want to go instead of where I am, aiming for the blue apron instead of the black line. I try it, then let myself peek down at my wheel. Close but not quite yet.

Then tonight I ‘got it’. Well, for a few laps at least. Riding pretty close to the black line the whole way around. I don’t know that I can do it over and over, consistently, at race speed. But it’s a start.

And as a bonus, in the process of writing this, I discovered that there is actually a cool web site called “Ride the Black Line“.

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