Tag Archives: racing

Race crashing

photo (1)
Yesterday I finally pinned on a number and raced again. My number said 224, but the real number was 364: it was that many days since breaking my femur. One day shy of the anniversary.

After the race quite a few people asked, “how did you feel”? They didn’t ask about the result. They knew: the result wasn’t important.

So, how did I feel? At first it felt as though I’d crashed a party that’s been going on without me for a year. It was a very strange feeling — like I didn’t belong. That’s one of the things about bike racing. You could show up to run in the local 5k after not doing so for a year, and no one would notice. But in bike racing, you race with the same people week after week, ride shoulder-to-shoulder and put a large amount of trust in them.

It didn’t take too long to get over that though. And then the breakaway went up the road, containing my former teammate, Tris. And then it felt like ‘old times’ again.

But I think the people asking how I felt were really asking how my leg felt. And the answer to that is not as good as I’d hoped, but better than I had feared. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the race.

A couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to race, period. I give my new physical therapist most of the credit for getting me to this point.

I’m not assuming that I’m back on the “race 2x per week” plan. But it’s a start.

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Ten years after


If you were following bike racing 10 years ago, you undoubtedly have a lasting image of the dramatic Joseba Beloki crash on the melted-tar descent, with Lance Armstrong going off-road to avoid him.

Today the Tour de France finished in Gap — the same destination as that day in 2003. I still remember the pictures of Beloki laying at the side of the road, his face showing the agony.

beloki
What I hadn’t remembered was that he broke his femur in two places. It looked like a bad crash (well, most crashes look do look bad). But I now have a real appreciation for the suffering that is evident in those pictures. I know that look.

I also know that he did recover, and came back to race again, although he wasn’t ever quite the same.

Wonder if he’s available for rehab consultation. He would surely understand.

beloki2

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My own personal time trial

mastropietro
I had my eye on July 12 for several weeks: the Tour of the Valley time trial at Mastropietro Winery.

Not to race it of course, but to finally make a little field trip and be out among people again. I was increasingly feeling like I needed to do that.

So I had it in my head that July 12 was going to be the day. It then the turned out that nobody would be home to take me. I resigned myself to not being able to go. Until that morning, when I pictured the scene at the winery, with everyone getting ready to suffer in the TT, then hanging around afterward, eating and drinking. It’s a great setting for a race.

So I sent out a few emails to see if anyone nearby might be willing and able to give me a ride. It was not looking good initially.

My heroes for the day were Mark Gori (Spin Bike Shop) and his girlfriend Eleanor. Many thanks to both of them for being willing to get me safely to and from the race. I think it’s rare that a couple of high school seniors would be willing to inconvenience themselves to help out an old guy. Chapeau.

I have to say, I wasn’t fully prepared for how difficult it was going to be to negotiate the winery for roughly 5 hours. I didn’t consider that I’d need to do things like use the public restroom while on crutches for the first time. Today I feel like I did my own version of a time trial — only I’m sore in different places.

It felt amazingly good to see bike-racing people again — one more little piece of normalcy restored.

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No fun, just hot


Right now is one of my two favorite times of the year to ride.

The other is in fall, after the racing season has ended, and it feels good to Just Ride Around.

I like right now because all the cold, wet training days are over, and it’s just racing. And also because there is something special about being able to ride until 9pm. In some ways it’s like that feeling I had as a kid, at this same time of year. We could stay outside and play (pick-up baseball usually), until dark, coming home all sweaty and bug-bitten. Sometimes I think we ride our bikes because we still want that kind of experience.

Which always reminds me of the song shown up above.

The last two few weeks I’ve found myself looking out the window between 8 and 9pm and feeling a bit bummed that I’m missing it. And then wondering whether I’ll miss the entire fall also.

Then I start thinking about how it turns to the cold training rides. I have no idea how I’m going to approach those rides this time around. They’re generally not enjoyable, but they beat riding the trainer.

But this time, depending on how all of this goes, those cold rides might end up being my first taste of freedom.

***
PS to Ray H: That vinyl is for you.

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Today is that day

I knew it was going to happen at some point. Beautiful weather on a weekend day, and I would be sitting and looking out the window, thinking about the race that I was not racing.

Today is that day.

It will be the first Memorial Day weekend since 1995 or so that I will not be doing a race. When I stop and consider this, I’m again struck with how racing can take over your life. For many years now, the decision wasn’t about “what should we do for Memorial Day weekend?” but rather “what race am I doing?” It wasn’t always an entire weekend of racing, but there was always at least one race.

Right now I’m looking at the clock and thinking it’s 90 minutes into the Tour de Frankenmuth, where my teammates are racing. I’m remembering the course and where they should be at this point, and imagining how they might be racing it.

I’m coming to realize that what I like as much as the racing itself is the post-race feeling I get from “having raced”. The tiredness that comes from having ridden hard and then the enjoyment of eating as much as I want afterward. I think Gwenn might say those are the endorphins talking.

This year I would have been doing the Killington Stage Race — a race I won last year and that I was looking forward to doing again. There is perhaps a small consolation prize: out of curiosity I checked the Killington weather forecast. Maybe the only thing good you can say about this is that it will make for an “epic race”:

KSR

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Under the circumstances, I’ll take 2nd

One of the cruel things about endurance sports is that you can train and prepare to the best of your ability, and then on race day your body can simply decide to betray you.

When you’re asking it to ride as hard as possible in sauna-like conditions, can you blame it?

Think about setting up your bike on a trainer in an actual sauna — not a dry one, but one with lots of steam — and then riding a time trial. That would be pretty crazy. But that’s what we essentially did at the state time trial.

The temperature was 105 degrees when I previewed the course Friday afternoon. And it was not a “dry heat”. It felt like I had a blow drier in my face the whole time. Even though I rode it easy I was still sweat-soaked when I finished. But my start time the next day was at 10 AM so it wouldn’t be so bad, right?

That’s what I was telling myself. And for the first 10k of the race it seemed to be going OK. But then my breathing became labored. So I backed off the intensity. Then had to back off some more. It was a struggle to the finish. The only thing keeping me going was the thought that others had to be suffering too.

I had been looking to win, but knew that wasn’t going to happen. But any disappointment was overshadowed by how horrible I started feeling. I’ve raced and trained in the heat, but never had a reaction as severe as this. 20 minutes after the race I still could not cool down. Ultimately it got to the point where I was about to faint in the parking lot.

Fortunately the racer parked next to me (and to whom I’m indebted) helped me out and got a towel and some ice and helped me to lay down on the ground in the shade. My glutes were so cramped that I couldn’t bend my legs. The paramedics came over and thought I should get an IV … and a trip to the local hospital.

Really?

So there I was, in an ambulance, getting stuck with a needle on the way to the hospital. 2 IV bags and a couple hours later, I felt much better and was able to make the 4-hour drive home. Not sure I would have been able to do that otherwise. The hospital staff in essence said, “you did a bike race in this weather”?

During the whole episode I felt pretty foolish. None of the other racers seemed to have such a problem. And I was supposed be one of those at the “pointy end” of the field. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I’m thinking that perhaps I started the day still dehydrated from the previous day’s ride.

One day later, I feel like I was out all night drinking.

A small consolation: on the way to the hospital my teammate sent me a text saying I’d finished second in the Cat 1/2 field. Under the circumstances, I’ll take that result.

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Make it so

Preface: A couple of people have asked me: how come you haven’t been writing? The simple answer: same reason I’ve been having a decent racing season so far: I’ve been training. Maybe I shouldn’t reveal that little secret.

***

Late Thursday afternoon, I sent an email to Tris: “I’m going for a Leroy record attempt tonight. I’ve learned that it’s short enough that you have to go out pretty hard … so I may crack on the way back in.”

[Note: “Leroy” is the informal Thursday night TT that I’ve written about previously]

I don’t announce stuff like that ahead of time. Normally I would just try to ride as best I can and let the final result fall where it may. But I figured that posting a new record time would require some intention to do just that. If I didn’t go out hard enough, there would be no way to make up the time. If I went too hard and blew up, well, as Tris said in his reply, “no guts, no glory”.

The interesting thing about this is that once I explicitly stated that I was out to set the course record, it changed my mental outlook towards the effort. I was going to go hard, then go harder.

I’ve done the course enough times now that I know what is a fast time at different points. When I hit the turn at 8:30 I knew I had a chance. The last 2 miles were into a headwind though, which was going to make it difficult. But that intention provided just enough motivation to suffer those last 2 miles.


Looking back at the original post I wrote about Leroy, I see that in 4 years I’ve managed to take 29 seconds off the record. I guess it is possible to get faster as you get older. At least for one particular event.

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