Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm not really into racing....'

About a year and half ago, Matt London, Mark Hasbani, and I were headed out for a quick ride down 218. For whatever reason, we altered our normal course and rode a little out of our way to hit 218 from a different access point. In the process, we bumped into another rider who was just coming back from a ride. We unclipped and chatted a few minutes, and it turns out it was Chris Clark, whom I had gone to high school with many years ago. We caught up and shared a few cycling stories. He was primarily a mountain biker but also logged a few road miles on his Specialized Langster. He mentioned something about some Thursday Night Pedal For Pints ride he liked to do in Morgantown, and while the idea seemed to be a fun one, I informed Chris that "I'm not really into racing, I really just ride for the recreational aspect." We made plans to ride together later in the week, exchanged phone numbers, and headed off in separate directions.

Three days later, Matt, Mark, Chris and I were standing in front of my house getting ready to go for a ride together. We decided to try one of my favorite routes (Waynesburg to Oak Forest to Brave to Blacksville back to Waynesburg). The 2 hour ride was filled with alot of catching up, more story swapping, and a lot of cycling talk. He again brought up the Pedal for Pints concept but I tactfully declined. He started asking us if we planned to do any of the cyclocross races and I reminded him that while I had done a couple road races the previous year, I really only rode for fun. But Chris kept going on and on about how much fun it was and I kept giving him excuse after excuse why I couldn't do it or wouldn't do it.

So after finally exhausting my bank of excuses, this self professed roadie found himself headed to White Park to ride mountain bikes.  I talked my good friend, Joel Morris, into going down with me and sharing in the newbie experience.  Joel had a background in BMX was definitely more confident than I was but I put on a happy face and pretended I was going to have fun.  We arrived to a parking lot full of decked out mountain bikers with some of the latest in mountain biking technology. We unloaded our rigs, found Chris and got his input about his recommendations on tire pressure, took a couple laps of the parking lot and with a few last minute adjustments and we were rolling.

I started in the back of the pack and pedaled my tail off. I figured as long as I kept Chris and Joel behind me, I had bragging rights for eternity. I put in my best effort keeping the wheel in front of me and even managed  swapping a few positions with a few riders but basically stayed  in the back where I belonged. With Chris and Joel close but behind me, I finally rounded a turn and found all the other riders gathered around talking about the course and what they liked, what they didn't like, where they almost lost it, and what big obstacle the schooled. I would have loved to offer my opinion, but I was breathing way too hard to utter more than a few grunts or groans. Plus, given the fact that I had sweat in my eyes and couldn't see anything more than shapes I decided to just keep my mouth shut. That's when I found out that we were only on a parade lap and that we were going back to the starting line to get ready to do two laps, but this time at race pace. I couldn't help but think "What did I get myself into??"

Turns out, Chris beat me by a spot or two and Joel crashed hard but still didn't finish last. As we drove home, Joel and I couldn't help ourselves as we talked about how much fun it was and how we looked forward to next week. We had pretty much the same experience the following Thursday, and every Thursday from there on out. So much fun that in early October I found myself in field next to Chris and 45 other riders preparing for the first cyclocross race of my life.  It went well (I beat JR and Chris) and before I knew it, I was watching the Cat 4 series point standings for the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association. In Mid December 2010, as I was busting Chris's chops for not doing the last local cross race of the season with me, Chris turned my own words back against me... He texted me "sorry, but I'm not really into racing, I really just do it for fun".....

Cat 5 Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association Crit Podium
So I just closed out my cycling journal for 2011 and by quick count, I realized that I logged almost 60 races last calendar year: 28 cx, 9 road races, 9 ovals, 7 Criteriums, 2 time trials, 2 mountain bike races and a stage race. I won 2 of the road races, 1 Crit, and had a bunch of podium finishes which helped me win my 2 ABRA Championship Jerseys (Cat 5 Road & Cat 5 Crit). So much for "I'm not really into racing, I really just ride for the recreational aspect."  While all the prizes, medals and trophies were nice, what I liked winning the most was an invitation to join the Dynamic Physical Therapy p/b Pathfinder of West Virginia team for 2012.

Last year, the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling team had impressive results with wins in seemingly every field at every race.  I accepted my position on the team with great pride and also with great a deal of pressure to try to continue the performance tradition that has been established by the team.  And since we've been blessed with an uncharacteristically warm Saturday this first weekend of January, I feel obligated to push away from the desk and head out and log a few miles. The first race of the year is only 72 days away and I need to be ready to to do my part on the team. See you then.