For each of the last 5 years, I have had the priviledge of being a presenter during the Progressive Ag Safety Day at Waynesburg Central Elementary School. Its always a day that I enjoy because I went to school in Central Greene School District growing up and my dad was a history teacher and my mom was basically a full time sub. And add to it that for 3 of the 5 years I've had the pleasure of either one of my nephews or step daughter being a student in class. This was one of the "off" years but thanks to Jordan's invovlement in sports, I had lots of kids who recognized me and were very comfortable opening up and sharing their stories. I often have to bite my lip to keep from busting out with laughter when they start telling some of their stories. Its true what they say, kids say the darndest things.
Arts and Craft Time
So after 6 hours in class, I loaded up the I got to pick the girls up and take them home. I guess if you have kids you know the feeling that comes over you when you get to steal an extra 15 minutes away with them. If you don't have kids, its kind of like drinking mulled wine, cause it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy for a little while. And it was with that warm and fuzzy feeling that I headed to our meet and greet for new team members of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder of West Virginia. We got to know each other, got to learn about the awesome care our title sponsor provides to their patients (something I hope I never have to benefit from but they are the only place I will go if need be), and got to learn about the direction the new team is headed. We also got to take home a variety of free products from all of our sponsors. It was like Christmas in March for me. Heck, continuing the thrid grade theme from earlier in the day, we even got to do an art project as we slapped the decals on our new Bell Volt helmets. Then it was off to dinner and a couple beverages that kept that warm and fuzzy feeling going.
Saturday we had a team breakfast and then met in Mount Morris, PA for a preview ride of the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association's Morgantown Road Race. It was the first time that many of us got to ride with each other since we are often racing in different classes or live in different areas and cant get together to train together. Since I live in Waynesburg and the old course went within 400 yards of my house, I consider this course to be my home race. And when JR and I were discussing some of the issues he had with it because PennDOT was building a new bridge, I was able to share my local knowledge and make a few changes that still gets him the mileage he wanted but eliminates some of the headaches. As much as I love the old loop, I really love the newest version. there is still lots of climbing but the two brutal climbs are replaced with two more palatable stretches.
The Chase is on.....
The final day of our training camp was at the ABRA Training Race #2, the same course I won my first race on last year and I was really looking forward to backing up my 2nd place finish the week prior with a solid performance. The only questionable spot on the course is at the bottom of the long down hill where you have to make a 90* turn and power up the hill. In the 2 previous races I've done there, I can recall 5 or 6 instances where people took it too hot and either went off road or ended up on the road. Both of those end results are something I really wished to avoid. And I wish I had payed better attention the the "telling time" curriculum in Mrs. Moore's classroom because either I can't recognize what 5 minutes means or someone started the race 3 minutes early. (I'm banking on the latter, but ultimately I guess it is my responsibility to be at the starting line like everyone else). Instead, my teammates Mike and Jonathan were visiting the porta john and were informed that the race was already well under way. We chased together for 2 laps before Jonathan finally cracked under the torrid pace we were setting. My dad was timing the gap for us and on lap 2 we were at 2 minutes... 1:50.... 1:44.... 1:40.... 1:36.... and so on. Thank goodness for my new Kenda Kaliente Pro tires I had received on Friday night because I could rail that turn and not once did I ever question whether I was making it stick or not. Simply put, the best tire I have raced on... PERIOD.
Mike and I digging deep into the power supply
I knew that our tactics going into the race were to keep attacking and force the other riders to chase and hopefully wear themselves out, leaving the 8 DPT riders in the field feeling a little fresher than the rest for the sprint. But the tactics that were aimed at punishing everyone else was in fact punishing Mike and I as we pounded the biggest gears we could to try to get back into the fray. We caught lots of dropped riders but could never bridge all the way back to the lead group. On the last lap, we did manage to catch a group of 6 riders, including teammates Gerry, Chris, and James, and sprung a surprise attack on them on the final climb. I took the bunch sprint but that bright spot couldn't begin to compare to the anger I was feeling about letting my teammates down. Even 48 hours later it is still burning in the pit of my stomach. I owe the guys who kept attacking (because they thought they were setting mike and I up for a win but didn't know we missed the start) and will find a way to repay them for their efforts.
I also signed up for the Masters race and when I got on the bike to warm up, it dawned on me that I probably shouldn't have chased as hard as we did for as long as we did, especially at 3 to go and we were starting to give time back to the leaders. My legs weren't as sore as I thought they would be but they were alot less responsive than I'd counted on, so I figured I take the start and see if I could find my legs on the course. After the pre-race meeting, I made a bee line to the starting line and was patiently awaiting all the other riders to join me. Like any good 3rd grader should, I payed attention to the lesson I was taught earlier in the day, and put it into practice at first opportunity.
And with that, we were under way. The combined Masters and Women's fields were alot smaller than the other fields and the pace was very comfortable for the first couple of laps. I just stayed towards the back, enjoying the draft but being vigilant to watch out for any of the attacks I knew were coming. Several individuals went up the road one at a time but they were all slowly reeled in when they either realized it was futile or as the pace was pushed a little at the front. Finally, 6 laps in was Shawn Geiger's coveted banana bread prime. I asked Gunnar Shogren if he wanted it and he said he didn't know so when he moved to the front, I jumped out around him and ramped up the pace in an effort to lead him out. About 100 yards from the line I sat up expecting him to cruise through but only Ted McPherson was there and he graciously took the win. we soft pedalled for about a quarter mile and all of a sudden we were joined by Dan Schar so without delay we jumped on it and started to attack off the front. I was really feeling the effects of ther first race but I almost felt obligated to ride up front becuase I spent so much time off the back earlier in the day. Soon we were joined by Gunnar and Gary Rodosta and they pushed the pace when they got there. I hung on for dear life but somewhere along the line Ted and Dan got dropped and they rolled back to the pack. I helped when I could as we just kept working , trying to open up a bigger gap. with about 5 laps to go, I was tanked and ready to bonk. I skipped my turn on the front and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle and an Honey Stinger Energy Gel and started taking my turns again. with 2 to go, I ate my last waffle and drained my Camelbak water bottle and was happy with just being in the top 3. I led Gunnar and Gary down the hill for the first time and as we made that left hand turn onto the little kicker for the last time they rolled on past me. I grabbed their wheel and ignored the blackness burring my vision and pushed hard to the top of the hill with them. I pulled back infront of them at the top, hoping to give them the leadout they deserved, and I knew a 3rd place finish for me was way better than anyone imagined. But as I railed the final turn onto the finishing straight, I caught a glimpse of the gap that had opened and I just dug as deep as I ever have on a bike before. I was so tired, much to Keith Hower's disappointment, I couldn't do anything but hold onto the bars to keep from falling off. No salute, no wave, not even a smile as I crossed the line in first place.
While not in a 3rd grade class room, I was taught a lesson by two of the cyclists I respect the most. I was taught what it takes to stay off the front and what it takes push yourself beyond your own limits. We are blessed with some great cycling talent in the West Pennsylginia region but few have earned my respect more than the 2 men I had just spent the last 45 mintues racing with. I was exstatic that I was in a break with them and is still unbelivable that I somehow managed to take the win. The 2 lessons I learned this day will stay with me for a long, long time but you'll have to excuse me, because I'm going to go line up for the Morgantown Road Race, its only 11 days a way and I don't want to be late again. ;-)