Monthly Archives: July 2011

Dreaming at Superweek

Every so often I have a dream where I miss the start of a race. It has that same distressed-helpless feeling as that dream most every college student has had: the one where you show up for the final and realize you haven’t been to the class all semester.

In the dream I’m always at the race in time, but for some reason I don’t make it to the start before the field takes off. I think that’s one reason why I’m a bit paranoid warming up, making sure I don’t get too far away. I had an anxious moment at Superweek, where I lost my bearings. But I made it with plenty of time. I was thinking that despite all the anxiety I’ve never missed a start.

My plan was to drive home after Friday’s race in Kenosha since it was already an hour towards home. The week’s heat wave was finally broken … unfortunately by thunderstorms. When I got there, they said the racing was delayed because of lightning.

I debated whether to stay.

I sat in my car and waited to see how late the first race started (we were the second race). I called Tris for a read on the radar. As our start time approached, the first race still hadn’t started. I turned the key and was about to drive away. Then I turned it off. I didn’t want to drive away not having raced, rain or no rain. I waited some more. Finally the rain started to let up. I moved my car and was about to go register.

I saw the pace car go by. They had started. Then realized it was MY race. At some point, while I sat in the car, they had decided to scratch the first race (or move it to a different slot) and start the masters first. I stood there for a moment. There was a junior nearby getting ready for her race, so I had to choke back the F-bomb that was starting to force its way out.

It was one of those moments where you realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do to fix the situation.

So I set out for home, more than a bit PO’d at myself. Finally I reminded myself that I:
a. didn’t get wet
b. didn’t have to wash my bike
c. would make it through the Chicago traffic without any hassles
d. would make it home in time to catch the day’s Tour de France stage

But I still would have preferred to race.

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Baking in Milwaukee

I told someone today, “I don’t tolerate the heat like I used to. If that makes me sound old, well, I am.”

I was sitting at the Superweek registration table, dripping sweat while some young guys were signing up, looking perfectly comfortable. One guy had compression tights on. I wanted to rip them off. Aside from the dork factor, they were making me hotter just looking at them.

It’s not supposed to be this hot in Wisconsin. I recall wearing arm warmers at more than one of the Lakefront races in years past.

The past 3 days have seen race-time temperatures of 98, 97, 102. I’ve been wearing the same clothes to and from the races because I didn’t pack enough to sweat through clean clothes every day.

Today was the worst. As soon as the race ended I pulled up behind the support truck, got bottle of cold water and dumped it over my head as I gasped from the cold shock. After laying in the shade for 15 minutes and drinking everything in my cooler, I had to ride down to a gas station for more.

There I fund the new ultimate post-race-in-the-heat recovery drink: a 32 oz frozen coke slushie. If you can avoid the brain-freeze it not only gives you a sugar boost but immediately lowers your core body temp.

After drinking that I felt human enough to go pick up my $40 check for 8th place. That should about cover the week’s hydration bill.

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Random Superweek Thoughts

When you have 7 hours to yourself in a car, you can think about a lot of different stuff …

EZ-Pass (or I-Pass, I-Zoom, etc.) is a great. It feels like cheating when you can blow through the toll stations while there are lines of cars waiting. I don’t know how anyone could live in Illinois and drive on I-294 without having one.

Cops should be able to ticket someone for driving under the speed limit in the left lane while talking on a cell phone.

It used to be that truckers were good drivers (or it least it seemed that way). It doesn’t seem that way anymore.

Donna Godchaux has made a lot Grateful Dead songs cringe-worthy and not listenable.

Soccer on the radio (even the World Cup finals) just does not work.

Someone needs to invent the equivalent of Pandora streamed to your car stereo.

I don’t understand why anyone would transport their bike outside their car on a rack when they have plenty of room inside.

Related thought: I would never have a car that required me to transport my bike on a rack.

Another related thought: I’m further convinced that the VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI is the ideal bike racing car.

One downside: every single diesel pump I’ve used has left my hand smelling like diesel fuel.

It will be nice to race against guys my own age for the first time all year.

Wait. I’ll still be racing against guys who will be up to 15 years younger. D’OH!

When it’s this hot out you can’t have too much Gatorade (or some kind of sports drink).

Related thought: drinking sports drinks gets old after like 2 days.

If nothing else, it will be an interesting week.

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Nails on a chalkboard

At least once or twice a year I have one of those races where I feel like I’m just staring at the wheel in front of me, hanging on until the race is over. After one of those races I tell people, “yeah I was in the race, but I can’t say that I was racing.”

What makes those races worse is how the riders around you — who you normally wouldn’t pay much attention to — can become so incredibly annoying. The guy with the shorts worn thin enough to see through. The guy who insists on moving in front of you on every turn even though he has no intention of going any farther. The jersey that smells like it hasn’t been washed for 3 races. The number that was pinned on crookedly.

The worst is the noisy equipment. At the Tour of the Valley road race I kept finding myself near this guy whose chain was rubbing on his front derailleur when in the big ring. After a while it was like nails on a chalkboard. I wanted to yell, “Dude! Trim the effing derailleur!” I couldn’t understand how it was not bugging him either.

The next day in the crit, I found myself next to Mr. Derailleur again. Still making noise. You couldn’t fix that after yesterday’s race? My only explanation is that he couldn’t tell the difference between that and a noisy Red cassette (which is another annoying sound).

After that race I as happy to get in the car, roll up the windows, turn on the air, turn off the radio and drive home. In silence.

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If we were pros we’d have podium girls

No need to sugar-coat it: bike racers can be whiners.

I know this, because I’ve done my own share of whining. The race was too hard, too easy, too negative, not enough prize money, stupid officials, etc. etc. etc.

Some triathletes at least have a sense of humor about it. On the Slowtwitch forum there is a standing thread with the title: “Cry like a little biatch here”.

At times we take ourselves so seriously, forgetting, I think, that ultimately we’re indulging ourselves in a hobby. I’m reminded of the incident at Superweek a couple years ago, when a bunch of 40-plus racers decided to “protest” the late start of a race by sitting on the line and not starting.

What bothered me about that incident was how it was directed — unfairly I thought — at the race promoter. It’s easy to forget that promoters don’t *have* to put on races. Any money they might make is more than offset by the amount of work and aggravation. If not for the race promoters we’d all be racing each other for city limit sprints.

Bike racing has this curious custom of paying out prize money to most all categories of even amateur racers. Non-racers usually seem surprised when I tell them this. “Isn’t that just for professionals?”, they ask.

I think this custom — while raising the competitive stakes — has an unfortunate side effect of making amateurs act as, and want to be treated as, professionals. Which doesn’t mean that we always conduct ourselves in a professional manner.

I was always impressed with how my teammate Tris would go out of his way after a race to thank the race promoter and officials. Regardless of whether he got a good result or not. I’m thinking that we all need to try to do that. Then maybe next year, when the promoter is wondering whether all that work was worth it, he or she will remember that time when a racer said ‘thanks’ for putting on the race.

***
Addendum

The race officials shouldn’t be left off the list of those deserving thanks. I’m sure most of them can find other (less aggravating) things to do with their weekends. Though I have to admit, during the Tour of the Valley road race at one point I was thinking I’d rather be an official on the moto than on a bike climbing those ******* hills.

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“Have fun”, she said

“I’m going to do the Leroy TT tonight”, I said in my email.

“OK, have fun”, my wife wrote back.

Have fun. It hit me. This is not really “fun”. Fun is a nice Saturday afternoon in September, with no more races and nothing to do except go for a nice ride.

Races (and training) aren’t usually fun. They can be challenging, intense, miserable, frustrating, satisfying, but not usually classified as fun.

If it’s not really fun, then why do it?

That same day someone at work, who plays tennis, was talking to me about Roger Federer losing at Wimbledon.

“I think he should stop when he is on top, like Sampras.” How can it be fun for him after being number one for so long.

There’s that word again.

I said that I imagined he was still hooked on the competition. For me, that’s what it is about racing. There’s something about the competitive nature — even if it’s just competing to see your own PR on a stick at the Leroy TT — that keeps me racing. There’s something addictive about it. That wouldn’t be the case if it were “just fun”.

I clearly remember the start of the first race I ever did. I’d never been in a pack of riders that big before. The sound of the wheels, chains, and gears shifting was sensory overload. And so very cool. It made me jump out of the pack after a rider who had taken off. I caught him, then not long after touched wheels, over-corrected, and went down.

Not fun.

But I was back again the next week (and every season since).

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