Fresh off October’s Folks Fest, I set my eyes on the 124 km of the ŠKODA VELODOM 100. Starting in a hail storm last year crushed me. I failed to finish and wore the scarlet letter of DNF (Did Not Finish) on my chest for over a year. Much of my focus during the winter training months was with eyes on this race. The 98th running of Rund um Köln was the first official race of the 15 event German Cycling Cup. I had to finish. I had to make it happen without excuses. Failure was not an option I was willing to entertain . . .
Most knew the war I waged in my pain cave all winter. I watched YouTube videos of the race as I pushed myself through My SIT ’n SPIN HELL intervals. I mentally prepared myself for every climb, every turn. I even prepared for another run at bad weather. I was focused and driven. Claudia summed it up stating, “this is your Waterloo” and a battle I had to win . . .
All those KOOL ’n da GANG words of dedication and a purpose driven life aside . . . I was a nervous wreck the days leading up to Köln. Doubt continued to creep in under my TURTLE Shell. I tried to spin the uncertainty from my mind and chase the butterflies from my core. I repeated the positive self talk I got from my teammate Hans Schenk in an attempt to keep it together. Yet I would also recalled every missed training event, each “bad” meal I ate (they were yummy though), and even the now sparse alcohol consumption. I did math in public and counted and recounted my training hours, remeasured my weight and weight of my bike, my body fat, and sleep. I looked for every advantage I could legally get. I was a walking obsession as I tried to beat back the fear of failure.
|The EVO Euro Clan|
I even tried to work an execution plan with three other riders that would deliver me to the line under the time limit. Again, I was such a nut case that I was getting on my own nerves . . . it was sad. I’m certain my circle of friends and my Coach (DragonQuest Coaching) saw this and could not wait for the race to come and go. I was getting on all their nerves too . . .
With the race on Easter Monday, Claudia and I rolled North to Köln looking forward to an Easter Service in the Dome of a great city. And to that we were not disappointed. Easter Mass in Latin and German was simply spectacular. The service set my mind and heart at ease. Dinner that night with our ragtag Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster - European Division was also just what I needed for my last bit of prep. We laughed, joked, and and had great time. There was nothing left to do but ride now . . .
Our plan for a group of 4 under 4 hours fell apart. We were only 2 deep at the start as DAPS (Jim Dapper) and DIESEL (Matt Arant) were registered for the shorter distance. By pure magic HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) and I were in the first start block with all the big teams. We were at the front of the bus with the fastest wheels in the German Cycling Cup surrounding us. The opportunity to excel was just in front of our wheels. This was starting out spic . . .
|EVO Euro at the Front of the Bus|
With great weather and no “hail” at the start and off we went. I immediately lost sight of my teammate in the crowd and started to panic. The revised plan was already falling apart. This was going to be a long morning . . .
HAMMER soon rolled up on my right and we started working our way through the field. It pace was fast, furious, and above my threshold as surges and slowing for turns was the norm. I was running hot the first 30 min of a 4 hour effort. I did the complex algorithm of time, distance, TURTLE power, and choleric burn and concluded at this rate the TURTLE Shell would explode into pieces sending fragments into the peloton well before the first climb. I had to get myself under control . . .
HAMMER on the other hand was crushing it. We were sitting in a pace line at 40 kph and he mentioned the group was too slow. I almost threw up a PowerBar at this comment. WOW!!! That is what it feels like to be a ROCKSTAR . . . RESPECT!!!
We hit the first series of climbs and HAMMER danced up the road. I remain amazed that a 220 lbs he climbs like he does. I certainly need some of that. I could not hold his wheel and away he would go. He would pull back a bit at the top and I would get back on his wheel and back to work we would go.
|Far from a flat course . . .|
Somewhere at the 1.5 hr mark my full water bottle of PERPETUM (read FOOD) decided to depart my bike on the rough terrain. This had happened once in training. I was not stopping for it so gone was gone. However if I was a wreck riding at my limit, this put me over the edge. I was really starting to panic now. There went the nutrition plan I practiced and perfected all Winter. This was not looking good as redoing my mental math gymnastics showed a high probability of a bonk and defeat . . .
After 2.5 hours HAMMER said we were on pace to break 4 hours and now the question was by how much. I told him to go do his thang as I could not match his accelerations. I was burring matches each time we bridged up to a faster group. HAMMER had finished right at the 4 hour mark last year so he too had a goal and off he went up the road . . .
|Crushing the last set of cobbles!|
I played in “no man’s land” for a short time as rain entered the mix. I soon found myself caught by a pretty strong group and even through the rain we kept the pace high. We rocketed through the flats but as soon as the terrain went up, I was off the front of my little band and unable to bridge to the group up the road. I will need to work on that somehow as this was perhaps more mental than physical. But here I was also saved as folks along the side of the road handed out water bottles. I grabbed one and with it a bit of confidence that I would not bonk . . . YES!!!
As we completed our last climb over the cobbles the pace went viral. I saw I was going to be under 4 hrs and started pushing the pace as best I could without blowing my final gasket. The longer field joined the short field and fresher legs sounded us. This was the group I needed to carry me to the finish. I sat in near the front and refused to let up.
At the 1K banner I drilled it to the line. When you are sitting 500 deep there is no mass sprint or glory just you and the clock. So a hard pedal to the end was the plan the name of the game and what I did . . .
I crossed the line over 50 min better than my DNF last year at 3:52:00. I was stoked! This was a significant improvement and a testament to consistent training. If I could do a back flip I would have as Claudia handed me food and a much needed Coke and the finish. I ended up 204th for my age group and 584th over all. The winning time of 3:08 and change was pure heat and over 20 minutes faster than last year. All had improved and I have a new target . . .
My time in the pain cave and sacrifices to train (and obsessions) had paid off. My season had officially started and I was more than happy with my result. With over 20 more races on my flight path, I am on track for my best season since I started racing in 2009.
Although I was almost 45 min of the leaders, I crushed a demon and declared victory of my “Waterloo.” I have also set my eyes forward to the next objective and continuing to move forward. I will finish in the top 100 of my age group this year . . . no excuses!!!