Monday, September 12, 2005

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

LOTOJA Classic - 208 Miles - Road Race
To quote Demi Moore form "GI Jane": "Do you know what day it is?"
"Yeah, it's I'm-Fucking-Cold-Day."

The day started off innocuous enough. Clear skies, temp around 55°. As I stood in the start group I decided my light arm warmers would be warm enough; and for a while, they were. The rain started about 10 minutes later and the temperature began to drop. being in the Cat 5 group I never felt safe enough to take my hands off the bars and after about 20 miles decided to just ride off the fron with a few other guys. In Cat 5, there is certainly NOT safety in numbers. At the first feed zone I got my thick arm warmers from my crew, as well as a vest. They offered more clothes, I didn't think it was that bad, so I didn't take them.

The rain got harder, the temperature got lower. I was told 40°. At the foot of the first big climb, a small group attacked and I went with them more out of a desire to stay warm than anything. By this time I was soaked to the bone. I reached back to put on my thick arm warmers only to discover that I'd lost one somewhere long the way. One arm bare, I continued along and was surprised to find myself dropping everyone but 2 others by 5K from the summit. The three of us continued through the weather. Rain turned to sleet which then turned to snow. Big heavy flakes began to accumulate and not melt off my arms and legs. I couldn't move my hands. Couldn't shift. Couldn't brake, couldn't hold a water bottle. Peeing on the bike felt warm and comforting. At the summit I was alone and thought, "I'm going to win my group!" Ten minutes later, I was wondering if I'd be taken to the hospital.

I went over the summit alone and started to notice people walking there bike down the descent. I wondered why, and then realized I couldn't really squeeze the brake levers. One guy from my group caught me and we coasted downhill together, unable to talk to each other. A little further and the descent eased off and we were able to slow down. We then saw the ambulances and police cars. race officials were pulling people out of the race that they didn't think were safe. They pulled us, and soon pulled some of the other guys in our group as they came by. At first we protested, "We're in the lead!" After 30 seconds of sitting in the police car, we were quite grateful.

I couldn't get off the bike by myself. I couldn't take my wet clothes off by myself. I was shivering and convulsing uncontrollably. the paramedics came around and were checking everyone's pupils and some peoples temperature. Ten minutes later, the 2 guys were taken away in ambulances. After half an hour, they let me continue on. At the next Feed Zone, it was total carnage. People in space blankets, people in sleeping bags, people in firemen's coats laying on cots, ambulances everywhere. I got some dryer clothes, drank some hot chocolate, sat on the ground and had my crew rub my body until the medics let me continue on.

The snow abated, but the rain did not. It continued the entire race. It just rained harder. I continued on, lamenting all the cars I recognized as my friends' pass me, offering encouragement and continue on...with their bikes on top. I had a crash at some point, but didn't really feel it. I had a flat about 5K from a Feed Zone, but rode it in and had to wait until my hands worked to be able to change it. I got hot soup 60 miles from the was heaven and truly welcome. I finished at dusk. many, many people finished after dark, and well after dark.

When all was said and done, 645 of the 1000 racers did not finish. I still have no feeling in two fingers on my left hand.
It wasn't a bike race. It was simply a matter of survival and finishing.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

First Stage Race: Lessons Learned

Three stage race this weekend. Against better judgement I went down with a group. While acting to defray gas costs and lodging costs, the annoyance inflicted by both questionable music taste and an excessive affinity for smoking weed far outweighed any benefits. In addition to feeling like an infant strapped in my car seat while my redneck mother chain smoked Camels with the windows up, it should be noted that pot smoking does not foster a sense of punctuality.

WARM UP: Five minutes of warm up before the TT is not good for one's performance...physically. Knowiing you blew the warmup becuase the group was smoking out in the hotel room instead of getting their shit together...bad mentally.

FOOD: When in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere, one does not have a lot of food choices. There was a Denny's, a place called the Old Mill, which was neither as cool nor as promising as the name would suggest. Add to that a Mexican restaurant with questionable hygiene and what do you have? A belly full of grease, cheese and burnt meat.

BIKES: Don't think you need to strap down that rear wheel on your bike rack? Think again. High winds and a decidely un-aerodynamic seat conspired to scare the shit out of everyone when my carbon beauty decided to take a pitch off the top of the van. Luckily, it stayed on the fork mount. maybe super light, isn't super good?

DOWNTIME: What better distraction than to go to Walmart and people-watch. Three bike races with shaved legs walking around Walmart, talk about standing out. Every single person that worked there weighed at least twice as much as I do. Among the depressing sites and sounds was a mom heard to say, "Put that back, we're going to Mconald's later!" and a man wearing a shirt that read, "Women want me, fish fear me". I'm not sure he was right on either front.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Birds are Stupid

40°F and a steady rain. That's right! Time for the Tuesday Night Group Ride! As I stood in the parkinglot, shedding my gore-tex jacket in anticipation of the coming suffering I realized something. Not only was it 40° and raining, but it was 6:10 and no one was showing up. The problem with riding with a group of people who have loads of talent is this: They don't have to try that hard, and therefore they were all sitting at home watching Everyone Loves Raymond while I was freezing my ass off. Fuck them...that's what an IPOD is for. Riding off on my 50 mile loop, alone and in the freezing rain I was comforted not only by my IPOD keeping me company but also with the knowledge that any training in the rain and cold counts doubly towards your fitness level, and with all the slackers sitting inside, I was gaining fitness on them.

All went well until 3/4 of the way up the red Top climb the rain turned to gropple, then sleet, then snow. Oh what fun, wet roads and snow! I took comfort in knowing that soon I would be thawing my feet in my hot tub. Then things started to go wrong. First my PowerTap's battery died. This was quite concerning since we all know that without data, you gain no fitness. Then the battery in my IPOD died. Grim. Cold, rain, snow, no tunes. Then of course, I flatted. How hard is it to change a flat in the freezing cold rain? Half as hard as changiing a flat in the freezing rain WITH NUMB HANDS. I had a moment of thinking I'd need to call for a rescue, but with aid of a stick, finally got it changed out.

When I was 5 miles from home it went flat again. Of course. Fuck it. I'm riding the flat home. Think it couldn't get any worse? The bike path to my home is lined with lovely little birdhouses the school kids have made and put up. One of said birds flew out of its house and hit me in the helmet. Birds are stupid.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mass Hysteria: The Psychology of Crowds

Ever read the book “Mass Hysteria: The Psychology of Crowds” ?

So we get to the start of the "60 mile race", there’s about 20 people, it’s a little wet cold, dreary. Everyone is griping about the weather being shitty and not wanting to race. It’s suggested we ride “Around the Block”. (120 miles)

Too cold and wet to ride race pace for 3 hrs, so let’s do a group ride Around the Block instead.

Ever read the book “Mass Hysteria: The Psychology of Crowds” ?

Weather is too cold to ride 3 hrs...So let’s ride 6 hrs over two 9000ft passes.

Ever read the book “Mass Hysteria: The Psychology of Crowds” ?

Excerpt: "1% of any given population can affect the other 99%, given that 1% has the respect of the other 99%"

So here we go Around the Block with no money, no food except for 2 water bottles and a hammer gel. Why didn’t I have more? ‘Cause I’m just supposed to be doing 60 miles hard!

And of course, Around the Block turns into a race. I’m going pretty hard to the top of the Pass, we wait for people in Victor. Continue up Pine Creek, people are strewn to the Four Corners all over the road, I’m in the front group with Stinky, Good Doctor, Bike Shop and Hitler. We get to Swan Valley, those guys want to stop and regroup again. Shit....we can’t even see the following group. Bike Shop, Good Doctor and I go off and are never caught again.

So now I’m riding with Good Dr. and Bike Shop through all the rollers between Swan Valley and Alpine. The sun comes out, it’s warm. Too warm, I can’t sit up long enough to get my jacket off, because they are hammering and if I get dropped I’ll never get back on and I'll be lunch for the turkey vultures that seem to be circling overhead. I’m dying. Every one of the rollers, I’m sitting in at 250-280 watts, I’m starting to feel not so well. At one point they surged and I couldn’t stay with them on the climb even when I looked down and saw 380 watts.

Nice tailwind all the way up the Canyon.....good for speed, bad because Podium Boy ain’t getting too much draft. Note to self...the Canyon is really, really, really, long. Finally make it back to the bike path and I start getting dropped on all the “climbs” on the path. Get to High School Rd...shattered...Good Dr. says “Let’s do a loop on South Park”....I say ok.

Ever read the book “Mass Hysteria: The Psychology of Crowds” ?

I get back into town, get into my car, seriously contemplate taking a nap in the front seat, drive to Abuelitos, eat and go home to fall asleep on my couch watching Paycheck, starrng Bird Woman and Ben "Thank god Matt Damon is my friend 'cause I'd be working at McD's without Goodwill Hunting" Affleck.