Well, I’m a few days late and behind the pack but words are needed to clear the brain and make room for much needed self-talk on my quest for bike(ROCK)star status...
Last weekend I broke the winter seal on my still rather thin legs and attempted two training races over two days. SNOWCONE CRIT#1 in Richmond, VA and SNOWBALL CRIT#1 in Chesapeake, VA. Felt it was time to test my winter training effort . . .
You would think that in my 3rd year of racing and after 20+ years of military service, I would have race prep locked in to a science. NOT!!! I failed to loosen the legs Friday night and had to get up early to weed-wack the hair of my sticks...I know, a waste of time to some but I needed to feel like a bike racer and this was part of the mental game. I wanted to be pretty as much as I wanted to be fast . . .
The wind was howling all night and into the early morning as Susanne and I headed out the door. She was determined to support me on this first effort. However, after 2+ hrs in the car to an industrial park in the middle of nowhere Henrico County, VA she made the comment, “...I hope you don’t expect me to hang out in industrial parks every Saturday morning.” Well, that answers that lingering question . . .
Anyway , although we were early, I had no pump, no tires, no tools, or anything extra. The year off the bike has taken me back to being a rookie racer boy. I executed another poor judgement call and found a local bike shop to get a pump and some other crap I did not really need. Bad planning leads to bad results . . . I should have put my still chucky-TURTLE self on the bike and started to warm up instead of “shopping” . . .
Temps for SNOWCONE #1 were great. The sun was out and I even got my tan lines started . . . YES!!! But did I mention the wind was howling? I got 25 min of warmup time and the gusts were almost pushing me off the trainer. Falling off the trainer in a public parking lot will not score any KOOL ‘n da GANG points . . .
I knew I had to find some wheel (READ: Some big massive dude) to hang on and stay out of the wind if I was going to survive the day. It looked like a few cats made multiple trips to the feed line this winter (I was no different) so the pickings were ripe. I would have multiple places to hide . . . or so I thought.
With about 30-40 cats on the line, we had a neutral start and that was indeed KOOL ‘n da GANG. Race would go 40min + 5 laps. So off we went . . .
The first 20 - 30 min were intense. Great short tail wind sections but they were short. One turn through a parking lot placed you in a wind so strong that you felt like our brakes were on. I worked hard to get into position at every turn and away from cats hitting their brakes to turn. However, after 30 min the painted over and spackled cracks in my shell began to show and I started to slip through the pack . . .
Got gapped on a wind-tunnel section and I felt like a drag shoot opened on my back. Perhaps it was the rather large portion of my backside catching just the right amount of wind. Regardless, I was not the first to get popped and most certainly not the last. At this point we had a few stragglers limping around the course. I tried to get us organized and it seem to work until a wind gust just about took all of us down. The little group of orphans splintered and I was in no man’s land . . . one again, alone and unafraid as the pack caught me.
I attempted to hang on as a sea of multi-color madness rolled by. The attempt was futile. The tank was dry and hamsters on a habit trail put out more power than my little TURTLE sticks. I was putting everything into my legs and it was just not enough....200 Watts of TURTLE <>
However, I was determined to finish and slay this wind-tunnel demon. I continued to push through and when I heard 5 to go, I dug as deep as I could. I did not hit rock bottom but I was close. I could see China in the hole I was in. I pedaled harder but the lightbulb continued to fade . . . finished one lap down on the pack.
I hung my cranium low, packed up the truck, and faded out of the industrial park to SNOWBALL CRIT#1 I went seeking redemption at everry mile marker . . .
The next day in Chesapeake I was met by a number of Brothers from Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster. NICE!!! Mental support was on deck. And after watching Kent Lee finish 10th in his first CAT 5 race, I knew I had to up my game . . .
We had 5 cats in the CAT 3/4 race and should have developed a plan. My plan was simple, survive to finish with the group. I needed this so I could stop my therapy sessions. I was paying out the nose for them and I could put that cash into more bike stuff. Or something else as laying on the couch in “mamby pamby land” as a “crybaby” was not making me faster . . .
I had a great warm-up on the trainer next to my Coastie Brother and Teammate Brian Meadowcroft and pre-rode the course for a few laps before the start. At the word “GO” I felt my confidence returning. I marked a few cats in the pack and stayed with them for about 15 - 20 min. We were averaging over 40kph. The TURTLE legs had an average power output of 225 Watts and I felt great. The key there is “felt” . . .
At the 20 min mark I started to drift back in the pack. It only took a few laps and I found myself at the very back with my teammate Tods telling (yelling at) me to get back up in there. Tods made it look so easy hanging on...youth in action. I was not as fortunate and after turing to head toward the line at the back of the pack during a sprint for a prime, the wheels came off the bus again and out the back I went . . .
Once I was able to pick up a few stragglers and work fairly well together. I actually dropped a few of them . . . HONEST!!! It did happen. However, the pack was in heat and on the short course I was lapped more than once. I tried to get on the back after each passing and once again failed. Either the tank was running on fumes or I mentally checked out of class . . . I think it was more the latter. However, like Saturday, I kept pushing.
I finished about 2 or three laps down (it was hard to keep count with my chest exploding) I also saw one of my teammates get caught up in a crash . . . which sucks BIG TIME!!! I was so happy to finish and get off the course. I wanted to run and hide but opted for Mexican food and a beer with my teammates. It was the camaraderie I needed. The cracks in the TURTLE shell have already been repaired . . .
I will repeat this epic trip the first week of March to get four races in before I head to Afghanistan for 3 months. I am out for a little SNOWCONE / SNOWBALL payback. I know others will come hungry after this season opener, I will just have to be hungrier . . .
The Rabid TURTLE will be a bike(ROCK)star some day . . .