Thursday, October 31, 2013

Late Season Suprise

     They say all good things must come to an end, but apparently all bad things get to come to and end eventually too.  So it was with the 2013 road racing season for me.   Compared to last season’s 61 starts, my 18 starts this year make it seem like I hardly raced at all.  Of course, if you race 3 times as many races in a season, you have 3 times as many chances for podium finishes, so the fact that I hadn’t found my way into a podium spot this year wasn’t terribly depressing to me.  I thought about it, but after suffering through the first few events of the season, I was well aware of the fact that I was best suited to try to just survive races this year.  And being in less than desirable shape, I rode each race with the mindset of doing whatever I could do to help my teammates early in the race because I didn’t figure I would be around to help them in the end.

     Up until September, the highlight of my racing season was the McKeesport Criterium. With 2 laps to go, the pace slowed down a little bit as people tried to jockey for the right wheel or to set themselves up in an ideal position.  So I made a split second decision and  I went to the front and lifted the pace going into turn 3 and dug deep and buried myself for as long as I could.  I wasn’t trying to breakaway form the field but  rather just string the field out, thereby making it difficult for anybody to advance, if they had made the mistake of staying in the back to draft their way to a podium finish.  I knew Jerry was in the top 5 spots so I just went as long as I could with a solid pull. When I finally flicked my elbow  coming out of  turn 2 on the final lap,  Jerry was sitting in 3rd spot  and the field was a 20+ rider long string. I tried to stay on and finish with the field but I was seeing stars and unable to grab the last wheel  and just had to watch them ride away to the finish.  Jerry had attacked the next corner, separated himself from the front and carried it home to the finish for his first ever win on the road. While Jerry had to be in good enough shape to win, I took a certain amount of pride just thinking that I had increased his odds by putting some of the strong riders out of contention because they chose the wrong strategy for THAT race on that day.  m
Stringing it out for Jerry (sitting second wheel)

     And although I tried on several attempts during the rest of the year to have an impact on the outcome of the race, it just never worked out.  I was out of shape and was usually off the back before we got to the halfway point, and almost always by the time they got to the deciding moment of the race. I spent a lot of time riding to the finish by myself.  And given my competitive personality, I refused to ever quit or even take it easy during a race. Even being in DFL and minutes behind the peloton, I always pushed myself to continue on at my maximum sustainable effort.  I always figured that even if I wasn’t able to race with the leaders, there was no reason I shouldn’t  feel like I had raced with the leaders. 

     So when I signed up for the Appalachian Bicycle RacingAssociation’s Appalachian Time Trial in Rowlesburg WV, I did so with a desire to just finish the 16 miles and not get passed by my 1 minute man. As it turned out, JR was short volunteers so I told him if he moved me to the last rider, I would volunteer in the start area by being the holder of the bikes.  So, as soon as he accepted my offer to help, I had effectively guaranteed that I wouldn’t get caught.  Yay me! And after the last individual rode off, I changed my shoes, grabbed a drink of water, donned my helmet, and got ready to ride.   Without a proper warmup, I decided to take the first mile or two easy and then pour whatever I had in the tank into the last 14 miles.  I got a new Garmin since the last time I had ridden the TT bike and had forgotten to update the mount, so I couldn’t even watch the miles tick off, monitor my heart rate, or even watch my average and current speed. I was just going to have to listen to my body and let it tell me what I needed to know.  I pushed it when I felt like I was going too easy and let up when my eyesight started to blur. I rolled across the finish line and went for a short cooldown spin.  I got changed and headed over to the podium area to help Gina keep things running smoothly. When results go posted, I went to check out how far down I was and started from the bottom up.  I was starting to think that they had missed me until I saw my name in first place, one spot above teammate JR Petsko.  Woot Woot! My first podium of the year.

     Two weekends later, I headed out to Canton, OH to spend the weekend with Teammate Billy Bearclaw.  We rode the singlespeeds on Saturday and headed up to Deerfield, OH to take part in the final Eastern Ohio Time Trial Series event. I was competing in the 40+ and Billy was in the 30+. He was also signed up to do the stoker category with his daughter Addie Girl. After the recent success, I knew better than to expect a miracle to happen twice. I warmed up but put the Garmin in my pocket and decided to approach the race with the same frame of mind from the previous race.  I took it easy out of the block and then ramped it up in the final 10 miles. I felt happy with my performance, especially when I caught my 1 and 2 minute men by the turnaround.  Upon finishing, Billy met me and begged me to ride with a girl he knew who had planned on doing the 2 man team but couldn’t because her boyfriend had snapped his crank off when he started.  I was already tapped out but because she needed her fourth and final start to wrap up the series championship. I agreed if she promised not to be mad at me if I just let her ride off if I couldn’t hang on. As it was, we were matched really well. It took a few rotations but soon we were chewing up the real estate between us and our minute markers.  th fastest time overall.  I also had the pleasure of watching Billy standing on the top step in his age division as well. He swept the series and was crowned champion of the series. Then, he and Addie claimed the top time in the stoker division and secured the series championship as well.  But the highlight for me may have been when the  results were called and I was called to the podium , tied for third place in the two man teams.  We were the only M/F team to make it on the podium so it was like we won the coed division if it had existed.
By the time we hit the turn, I was feeling  “IT” in a good way and was taking longer and longer pulls at the front. I’d pull off at the bottom of the climbs and follow her to the top but then forced myself around her and hammered down the straightaways.  I kept looking between my legs to make sure I still had her front wheel on my back and I just kept cranking if I did. Next roller, I would let her take her turn because otherwise Id pull off from her without trying to. We rolled across the finish and this time I was completely spent. I made it back to the vehicle and didn’t even bother to cool down.  I started braking the bike down and putting it in the car so Billy couldn’t talk me into riding the 30 miles to his home. NO CHANCE of that happening.  When the awards ceremony came, I surprisingly took the top spot again.  I didn’t know anyone else in my age division so I wasn’t sure how strong they were so I was shocked when they called my name. I grabbed my team jacket and smiled for the little birdy. I was even more surprised when the results were posted online that I had the 5

     I guess all those miles of pushing myself to keep chasing the peloton during the rest of the road races helped me finish the season on a positive note.  It probably didn’t hurt that cross season was under way and maybe a lot of those tough guys were already off playing in the mud. That time would come soon enough for me but Im glad I held off a few more weeks on the road and finished the season 2 for 2 in time trials this season.  Maybe the season wasn't as bad as I first thought, and I guess in the end it turned out pretty good, but unfortunately, it too must come to an end as well.