Monday, July 27, 2009

Lanterne Rouge Rookie Race Report: Up, Up, and Off the Back

Well, an international, jet-setting bike/rockstar I am not!!! A 1+30 car ride to the airport at 0400, a flight from Frankfurt to Paris, a mad dash through the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for connection in order to arrive at Washington Dulles at 1300 on a Thursday does not really give one time to prep for an intense road race on Saturday. Especially one that has 1000 ft of climbing on each lap of a 10 mile loop. Thankful that I am a CAT 5 and only had to suffer two laps at the Lost River Classic (!!!

However, I am getting ahead of myself and not really telling the whole painful, confidence crushing, lung loosing, confidence returning, only to get crushed again story. So here it goes . . .

My plans were tight. I would fly to Europe for two weeks, see My Monsters, and train (I had a training schedule in hard and soft copy--I was prepared to make it happen!!!). Well, I flew to Europe, I saw My Monsters but training? That word was lost in translation.

Would not call renovating an apartment training. Unless I was trying out for a remake of the Karate Kid as I painted walls. And of course I added insult to it all with 0.5l after 0.5l of Paulaner Hefe-Weizen. A great refreshing "Bier" after a hard day of work. Also great calories. I gained 10lbs during the two weeks I was gone!!!

The little time on the legs (one 75K (ZONE 2) road ride and a 25K MTB ride with My Monsters) did not discourage my mouth or fingers from talking trash via email on how with 7 cats racing, the Evolution Cycling Club would serve up justice at The Lost River Classic. We had a plan and we would execute it . . .

I think the plan was going well for about 6K into the race. I was near the front and riding strong. I felt a bit "chunky monkey" but great. Jet-lag? Nope, I was wired to race and fueled on espresso and RedBull. Chris Carlson and the rest of the brothers were just behind me. I would make it happen this race and bring him to a strong finish. It was all about returning the favor to Chris for a strong ride on Stage 1 of the Tour of Washington Co.

As the terrain started up, I responded. A smarter cyclist (of which TURTLE is not) would have realized that TEAM SNAPPLE was not the group to try and follow. A bunch of elite Tri-athletes that climb like gazelles. Chris had already put out great words on what not to do in the very situation I found myself in. Somehow, I was on the road of denial.

As my heart rate soared over 200 bpm I began to fall apart. Chris mentioned seeing puffs of smoke. I think it was like that scene inThe Fast and The Furious when car parts started falling off after too much nitrous. The espresso with a RedBull chaser impaired my judgement. What my mind believed and my heart (pre-explosion) desired, my legs failed to provide. Pieces of TURTLE shell began to litter the road. The slide backwards began and seemed no to want to end.

Before the race I feared the decent more than anything else. Add the recent Jens Voight crash in the Tour and a similar crash of my own when I first started cycling in 1998, I was not looking forward to it at all.

It was a pure unknown and words of loose gravel placed fear on my rather small chest that seem to cover the entire part of my jersey. However, after reaching the top of the climb I let my bike go. Fear? Lots of it. However, did I not say my judgment was clouded and impaired. I was able to catch three guys on the decent and get within sight of a group w/ 3 EVO jerseys. Kevin had joined me and two others. I yelled for the group to work together w/ short pulls, we could make this work. There was that TURTLE Uber Positive (TUP) confidence again.

I began to dig deep but came up short. There was nothing left. I tried to stand to close the gap as the terrain started up. If the first effort did not claim a lung, this attempt sure did. At some point my legs just said no and my mind said OK. Followed by, what in the world were you thinking? You should be on the sofa recovering from jet-lag with a martini!!!

I then dropped my chain and added salt to my wounds. For the first time in the 18 races I have done this year, I wanted to wait on the sag wagon. Yet I pressed on to the finish with my entire team of CAT 5 Brothers and a great friend that came to see the carnage cheering me up the last 100 m of climb to the finish. So glad I did not quit. So glad it was over. With judgment still impaired I vowed to do it again (and better as a CAT 4) next year . . .

Arriving home and feeling a bit discouraged I began to slowly prep my rig for the 540Cycling Development Series Crit on Sunday. It took an email from Chris Carlson (yeah Bro, I'm calling you out) to snap me out of my little slump and pity-party. Add a number of positive FaceBook posts from the team as well as a few Brothers from my high school dayz, I started to regain my confidence. The TURTLE Uber Positive (TUP) index was gaining ground . . .

I arrived at Warrenton to preview the course and get an hour long warm up on the trainer. While warming up I saw SPONGE in the CAT 5 event and was looking forward to the skinny before the CAT 5 35+ (old-guy CAT 5 racing--YES!!!) race. And SPONGE deliver the goods. I was eager to do well.

Racing with a bunch of cats near your age is KOOL 'n da GANG. Maturity at it's best!!! No young bucks making you wish for Motrin stronger than 800mg as your post race recovery chewables. Again, this was awesome. The course was sweet and the pace was fast but not too furious. I sat no less than 3 or 5 deep for most of the race.

I let others do the work and jumped from wheel to wheel. I was a wheel sucking slug!!! I began to believe in myself and although my sprint is rather poor, I could and would hang in for a top 10. Today was going to be my day!!!

NCVC had two guys in the race and they had done most of the work all day. Half way through the 3rd to last lap with one guy on the front an attack came from the other guy just behind me in 5th or 6th position. This was the move. I had to go with it. I jumped for the NCVC wheel but could not match the acceleration. I blew up again as a swarm of ridders went around me. I found myself 10 deep within a few painful pedal strokes. I then fell off the back.

I fought to get back into the group and was surprised that I made it back in with one lap to go. However, as the bell rang the pressure came and I failed to respond. Dropped on the backside of the last lap I rolled across the line 12th. OUCH!!!

Reflecting back, I question if I should have tried to close the gap w/ the stronger rider. Perhaps I should have waited for someone else to make the move but not sure if that would have happened. I believe it was the move that one had to make and these are the moves I need to cover down on next year. The season is far from over but I already know it's going to be a long hard winter.

BTW . . . 2 days of racing is indeed the best way to loose 5lbs!!! I'll commute this week and be back to my race weight for this weekend for 540Cycling #2 and the PLT TT. Both are on my list and I will get 'em done. Oh yeah, TUP is once again up . . .

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lanterne Rouge Rookie Race Report: Racing Backwards

Brothers and Sisters . . .

With the Evolution Cycling Club making it happen and moving out with the likes of RYAN ( snatching the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association (MABRA) Senior Criterium CAT 3 Championships and MA leading the Proteus/MABRA Women's Cat 4 Series and EMMA right on her wheel, I feel almost compelled to walk away from my keyboard.  However, my inability to ride fast has never (well almost never) impacted my ability to misuse the English language.  So on w/ my rookie race report I go . . .

Having emotionally healed my confidence through a martini shaker following the crushing at the Reston Town Center Grand Prix (RTCGP) and one "brief" ride w/ the Reston Bike Club (RBC) Group ...I believed my good week of commuting set me up well for the Hagerstown Criterium Challenge/MABRA Senior Criterium Championships.  W/in the CAT4/5 EVO list group I went from talking about getting a top 10 to putting an EVO jersey on the podium of victory!!!

With 7 Brothers starting the race I was certain we could make it happen.  I was prepared to ride smart and hard through any and all carnage.  If my legs began to fall off, I would hold them on w/ GU or something.  I wanted this one!!!

I would chant "suck it up Buttercup" every time I thought about the race.  My little TURTLE brain knew SPONGE, Willson, and Andrew were our best hopefuls and I would do what ever it took to get them to the finish.  Again, confidence was all over the place as I posted our "strategy" on the net leading up to the race.

Dan Bailey provided a lift and enough time for a good warm up.  I also knew if Dan got a good warm up, he would ride strong and could lead the group into the finish.  He truly is a DIESEL on the road and should be named so.  Then agin in EVO blue, we can start calling him "TANK" which is short for Thomas the Tank Engine . . . just a thought.

By I digress . . . so having a great warm up and a preview of the course, I was ready at the line as off we went.  The first few laps were quick but not very crazy with most of us sitting near the front.  Willson pushed off the front w/ another guy in a great move.  SPONGE sat at the front of the group and I was about 2 wheels back.  The gap was huge!!!  I moved closer to SPONGE and actually thought Willison could pull off the break but my Brother pushed a bit too hard and could not keep the distance.

As we caught him, a Bike Rack guy started a move off the front w/ SPONGE on his wheel and Me right behind him.  I let them pull away until a NCVC guy decided he was not going to let that happen and I went w/ him.  I can hear VIC screaming right now as I know we should have countered w/ another EVO guy.  The EVO Elders are perhaps not happy right now.

However, this is about when the wheels started to come off the bus as the tempo increased and my HR hit about 200!!!  Carnage, lots of carnage began as we began to lap a few guys.  It was RTCGP all over again.  A race of attrition was on . . .

I lasted until about 6 laps to go and started racing backwards, pedaling in Lego squares, and loosing situational awareness as the break had 11 seconds on us.  I tried to grab Dan's wheel as out the back of a group of about 12-15 guys I went.  I was joined by 2 others and we worked together to try to get back on the lead group.  At this point my pedaling Legos were starting to build a house and I rolled off the back of this little effort to cross the line in another TURTLE last.  Consistent I am for sure . . .

A last that was 18th from the field of over 30 that either DNF or were pulled by the judges.  I thought I was a lot further back than that.  I'll take that math as I am now consistently in the top 20 of my last few races.  However, my desire remains a to finish in the top 10!

Another race of attrition completed and my lust for a top 10 finish postponed yet again.  So off to Germany I go and will build a bit of liquid courage w/ a few Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Dunkels.  They are already in the fridge at the house and will help me get over the jet lag and train so I can get ready for The Lost River Classic ( on 25 Jul.  Time to get the climbing legs on.  Any one want to loan me a pair (or at least one) . . .