Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What can you say about a race where you're in so many different breaks, you can't really recall which was which and how it all went down? I'll do the best I can here.

Today was the third and final installment of the Mason Lake road race series, which are Washington's first road races of the season. It's a 20 km flattish loop around the race's eponymous lake, with my group doing 5 laps of it. It's sort of an odd series, as I'm finding out. In one sense, no one REALLY cares, since it is a "racing for racing's sake" early season tune-up race, but in another sense everyone has been pedalling circles in the pouring rain all g.d. winter, and is pretty excited just to get their legs RACING again, so it's more competitive than you might think.

It's forty-seven degrees, gray, and drizzly. Hello, Pacific Northwest March! The race rolls out pretty easily, and one thing I notice is that there looks to be more of my teammates in the race than any other team. I'm happy about this, because the course itself isn't challenge enough to make a selection -- it'll all be up to the riders. Early in the first lap, a couple of solo flyers take off the front and get quickly pulled back, and then I notice one more attack that's immediately marked by a teammate of mine. I can jump across without dragging the field with me, so, I do. We of us rotate a few turns through, but the gap doesn't really grow. I go hard for a few moments, but this is mostly to jump-start the legs, convince 'em that there's hard work to be done. Caught in a couple k.

Back in the pack, I continually remind myself to stay in the first dozen riders or so, when one of my teammates doesn't really attack, but just rolls off the front. Scotty does this every g.d. group ride, too. (Yes guys, people call him "scotty," it's hard not to think of him as scotty2hotty. But he doesn't spend $2500 on coats.) He gets a bit more of a gap than I'd expect, but the pack isn't really too excited on the first lap, and another rider jumps across to join him. I see two more riders jump pretty aggressively, and mark that move. A little expected confusion as the rider in front of me flicks his elbow for me to come through, and I have to decline -- I'm not chasing my teammate down. The two riders with me sort themselves out, get across to Scotty and companion, but a glance over the shoulder shows the field is right on us all. Scotty drops back a hair, the break sits up, and the pack has that bit of confusion that always happens when a move is caught.

It's got to be now, then. I haven't been much of an attacker in the past, and I'm trying to improve on that score. I jump as hard as I can, throwing it in to the pain zone, out of the saddle for a couple hundred meters, click down a gear, put my head down, and dig, counting my pedal revs. One hundred strokes later, I look under my arm and am a bit suprised to see nothing. That wasn't quite what I wanted to happen. Well, I can't sit up now. I settle into time-trial mode and keep kicking the pedals over, turning the slightly bigger gear that seems to be working better for me on this sort of effort lately. Around the next bend I take a longer look over the shoulder and see two riders trying to bridge across, a gap, three more riders, a gap, and I can just make out the head of the field. I hope the chase catches me and that we can make this stick, but I decide I can't just let them catch me; I'm too commited and I want anyone with me to be just as tired as I am.

So I keep pedalling. The lap ends, the finish-line crowd cheers a bit, and I pedal some more. Another 10km down the road, and I think, where the hell IS this chase? Will SOMEONE please bridge up here? But a look over the shoulder shows they've given up, and so I keep it rolling. I can't hold this on my own. Can I?

Finally, towards the end of this third lap, it's clear that I can't. The field is only ten seconds behind me at this point, but I keep my head down and hope someone will come across. At last, I see two riders motoring on over, and am struck again by the fanciness of Cat 3 bikes. Carbon tubulars? Check. SRMs? Of course! The three of us work together for a few minutes, but number 2 gets dropped in short order. We reel the gap back out to thirty seconds or so, and then get hauled back. I settle back in the pack, and one of my teammates comes up beside me. "Stay on number 360, there, he looks pretty eager." Garth is always observant like that. I nod, move through the pack, and no sooner do I find three-six-zero's wheel then he jumps, HARD. I mean, this guy is hauling, embrocation gleaming on his massive calves. I'm in the red staying with this move, and he keeps his infernal pace for about 500 meters, at which point I somehow have the gas to come through. I pull for thirty seconds or so and flick my elbow, just praying that SOMEONE gets the hint.

Superman comes through again, but this time there are a couple of other riders in tow, and we're all working together at a pretty serious pace. I count the jerseys in the break, and find that out of 6 fairly strong teams, we've got 4 of them represented, and we're hauling. This might be it. After a couple of K we settle in to a hard, but sustainable pace, with 3 of us doing most of the work. I can't pull as hard as superman, but hey, I've been off on my own for a bunch of the race, right?

That doesn't matter now. Time to dig. I have NOT done all this work today just to get caught, and there is no way in hell I'm getting dropped from this break. So I keep taking pulls, somehow. That's the thing that's magic about bike racing, that's why I do it, I think. It makes you learn you are tougher than you thought; you die a thousand deaths out there, you think there is no way you can continue, this is too hard, but you do it anyway. One of the escapees gets dropped from the pace, another can't even come through to do a turn. Then, an unfamiliar jersey comes through the rotation: one more rider has bridged the gap, and he's riding strongly.

As we cross the line for the bell lap, we're told we've got forty-five seconds. That might JUST be enough, with a couple of strong teams policing the front, if we keep it rolling, and thankfully, we do. I'm sort of suprised no one tries to attack out of the break, I don't know if I could go with superman again but I know at least 2 could not. At about 2K to go, I look over my shoulder and think, we're going to make it. By 1K to go I'm sure of it. The last guy across goes early, and I let him fly, then open up what sprint I can manage at 200 to go and beat everyone else. That'll do.

Sunday: Ravensdale. There is even LESS to say about this race, other than this: it's raining a little, muddy a lot. The Cat 4's coming in after their race look like hell -- I mean, these guys are dirtier than 'cross racers. I race around for a couple hours in the mud, mostly just sitting in and having a training day. Most of the field seems to feel the same way, until I see a break of three go up the road with two people on the same team involed. I get to the front, and chuckle when I hear a few folks shouting "hey, hey, watch that First Rate guy, don't let him get away!" I do a big turn at the front, just opening the legs up and reeling the break back, when something feels ... wrong. My bike feels like it's wobbling a bit, the same kind of loss of control that happens with a rear flat. Hrm. It doesn't LOOK flat, but the feeling is unmistakable. I put my hand in the air, let the pack roll past me, and hop off my bike. The service car pulls over too, but I quickly realize that it's not my tire. Hrm again. Maybe my rear brake was rubbing? I re-straighten the brake, open the quick release, remount, and chase. My legs inform me that yesterday was a HARD day, and that I really shouldn't be doing this. Shouldn't you just abandon? Surely there is no shame in that! Yeah, whatever, I tell the legs, stuff it.

I catch back on, but clearly something is still wrong. What could this be? I narrow it down to my left pedal. Is my cleat loose? I unclip, fidget with the cleat a bit. No, not the cleat. Clip back in, pedal a bit more, but it's still the pedal. Is the PEDAL okay? Just as I'm trying to decide what to do about this, I start to get out of my saddle and my crankarm hits me in the calf. Because it has come off of the bike, and is now attached only to my pedal, attached to my foot. Yikes!

I'm not that far from the finish area, at least, and hey, I didn't crash. Day over. Now I am horrendously muddy and have a crankarm in my hand. I just laugh, but if this was the finishing sprint yesterday? Yikes again. That would have been bad.


  • At 10:30 PM , Blogger josh said...

    congrats, saturday seems like it was really, really well deserved and you really earned it. inspirational stuff to just keep digging and keep trying

    as for sunday - um, what cranks was you running? rival it sort of looks like from the pics? it sucks, but as you said, you got somewhat lucky

    both pics look sweet, and you have to be rather close to cat2 now, no?

  • At 4:08 PM , Blogger Miriam said...

    That does not make me happy to know you pulled your crank off. What the hell happened?

    Way to kick some Washington Cat 3 ass! You gonna race down here at all?

  • At 5:48 PM , Blogger Kenji said...

    Superman would be none other than our favorite Ivan Meadors. He's probably more than twice your age to boot. He'll probably be racing in the 1-2's now.


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