Monday, January 19, 2015

The End of This Road

In the beginning of December I was slotted in the second row of the grid, bouncing around based on everyone’s result by a spot or two.  Come New Year’s I was first call up in the third row and finally landing in spot number 21 by the morning of January 9th – good enough to be the fifth call up in the third row.  I assumed I would get the middle as the right side (my preferred side for this start) was full, but nope I slotted in at one in from the left.  I kept reminding myself this was just another race, like any other weekend in Colorado, except this time we had mud and it would only be for 45 minutes.
I arrived in Austin late afternoon on Wednesday with just enough time to pick up my bike from Pro Bike Express – something I will always do now for big races such as this; I never worried about a thing and was just able to focus on the task at hand.  I pedaled some easy circles on a stationary bike at the hotel for 30 minutes to flush the travel from my legs, I was feeling quite fresh.  Got back to the room that night and did a once over on the bike and laid out enough clothes for the morning ride.
Up with the sun on Thursday to make the 15 minute ride to the course – tubulars feel interesting at 40 pounds – dropped the bag, let out some air, and I was off for the recon.  Course was pretty dry with not a lot of lines burned in on the grass yet.  I caught up with some Iowa folk just as I was beginning to push into tempo on the second lap.  I think I went a little too far into my sweet spot during recon and kept having to consciously hold myself back.  I knew I was feeling good and had to remember to keep myself in check to have enough reserves for Friday.  Picked up the parents and had a relaxing night putting sixteen pins and four numbers on my skin suit.Low PSI
9 am      Carly dropped me off at the course around for a couple preview laps.  It had rained a little over night and looked to do some more during the day.  Course conditions were vastly different than the previous day and I could lean a whole lot further in the turns – down to 18 pounds front and rear. The rain started to pick up and I quickly ducked into the nice warm tent to relax.  I was getting jittery and just wanting to start my warm up; I sat down and visualized waiting for 11 am to come around.
11 am   Finally it was time to kit up and get on the trainer – yes I use a trainer to warm up.  I have a very specific workout that takes less than 20 minutes and if I don’t I can feel it in my legs after the first lap.
11:30     Switch wheels and last minute instructions for my pit crew – yes I had a real pit crew, just another perk of Wesley’s service.  Everything was ready, I was calm and focused, head to staging.
11:40     All players appear to be present and there is talk of course changes; you can smell the nerves and tension wafting in the air.
11:45     Chief referee is making announcements and updating us on course changes – barrier section is gone, replace by a swooping right hander into a quick left and onto the pavement.  That was the section I liked the least – race is getting even better.
11:50     The first row is called up – William Iaia, Kevin McConnell and Caleb Thompson are in there, the rest I don’t know.  I road with Kevin yesterday on course and used to race against him in Iowa, William and Caleb both from Colorado, I have a feeling Kevin is taking the hole shot.Start Line Stare
11:58     Two minute warning and I am beginning to ditch my pants and coat, last minute Garmin auto pause adjustment, a deep breath.
11:59     One minute warning, I start my Garmin, and hear Carly giving me encouragement on the other side of the cattle fence.  I’m in the right gear, left pedal is level, hands off the brakes, ring finger gracing the right shift lever.  I look ahead and remain focused, intent and sticking with my plan.
12:00     The whistle and Kevin surges to the front, seconds later both my feet are in, my head up, looking for space.  I keep the throttle low and maintain position until the rise halfway through the chute; road tilts up and I give a few clicks down and open it up.  I surge enough to put me well within the top 10, everyone is slowing and I keep pedaling up the ramp, through the sweeping left hander, and the first road crossing.  I feel someone lean on my left side, I lean back – doing what I can to stay vertical – and shake my partner.  I hear something that resembles a crash and thud accompanied by swearing – I click it down again, rise out of the saddle and try to recover the spots lost.  We are wheel to wheel a gasping train winding through the first set of turns.  I settle in and collect: 11th and I realize I had my old reaction to a crash – GO – my head is back in the game and this is my race.  The first lap is for sorting things out and we do just that for the remaining six minutes.  One dab on an off camber turn between stair cases with my knee and quick decisions to run past people during slow traffic in the grease.  The course is much different than my pre-ride.
12:09     I’ve crossed the line once and realize we have 5 more to go and the 4 leaders have taken off.  I worry about what I need to do, my goal is top 10 and I need to focus.  I consider backing off but have decided to only use the pavement for a brief break and to maintain places on the limestone stairs (you can’t win on the stairs but you can fall down and mess yourself up on that jagged rise from hell).  I get into a groove and start having fun. From now until the penultimate lap not much happens except racing.  I find myself passing people and then getting passed, so the cycle goes on but I keep coming through the line in 11th – I still can’t crack the top 10. Tripod_Nats
12:34     Two to go and an Austin rider and I have been trading 11th spot for a couple laps.  I form a gap as we dive into turn one and keep on the gas and make it stick.  It sticks, until it doesn't, and he catches me, pauses only briefly and moves right around.  I’m unable to hold on and I just keep the pace where I know I can for two more laps – it is really hurting by this point.  In the off camber I see Caleb Thompson off his bike getting all aggressive with his chain – bad luck but I’m back in 11th at this point.  He remounts and I hear his gears really arguing as he tries to pedal up small inclines, I give it a little gas just so I’m no longer in his sites.  Around the pits for the second time of the lap and onto the pavement – little slick and I drift a bit more than I had been, the mud has finally slickened up the pavement sections (note taken).  The second turn of the series of three and Brad Cole is down – I’m in 10th.
12:42     The bell – 8 more minutes of the season – I’m in 10th – I wanted 10th – I need to burry myself in case I can get 9th – leave it all on the course.  I do just that, out of every corner, in every straight, I race up the stairs as fast as my abused legs can carry me.  During this lap I remember one thing – hitting myself in the face with my stem while shouldering my bike up the first set of stairs.  Aside from that moment I can only recall that I was forcing myself to push past limits and remain smooth and focused while driving around the course.
12:50:59  I’m done, the season is over, I’m exhausted with a smile on my face, and my wife is running towards me.  While I was happy with myself I have never seen Carly so happy at a race – then and there I knew I accomplished everything I wanted to and all the work, training, and sacrifices by myself and family were justified.  My parents were right there with her and heard them both praising me for a job well done – something I have missed at the finish line.
The Data:
2015 CX Masters Men 30-34 Lap Times                Training Peaks
It was a long season – just over 4 months – of cross with lots of highs and lows I was able to share with a new team.  I was able to raise my hands in victory more times than any other season, climb the podium at least twice that many times, persevere in races I so wanted to quit, get upgraded to a Cat 2, get horrible results in the Open, quit one race, and cap it all off with my goal which sometimes I felt was going to be out of reach.  I came into Austin with a maybe on the trip to Asheville in a year – now I have to find a reason to not go.  One week of now schedule and I already have the plan nearly filled in completely.  2014 was an awesome season and I’m going to do my best to ride that momentum and push the pace through the 2015 season.

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