Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IT'S FUNNY, BUT THIS IS BIKE RACING.

The last time I had been in shape like this, in May, was approximately never.  Never.  In my life, I had not been stronger at this point in the year going into Crank The Kanc.  I had been running, riding, lifting weights for months.  And riding.  Just wringing myself out.  Whether it was lunch rides with Ryan (he is fast you guys!), or burying myself at NHMS on Thursday nights.  In fact NHMS in particular, prior to CTK, I had raced up there four times since April.  I usually don't even get up there four times in an entire season.

As I tend to do, I am so mentally focused on kicking this race's ass.  For the months leading up to it in the cold hell of winter, when I am bored out of my mind in the gym, this is what I divert my attention to.  Last year I held off Doug Reid for an hour until he smoked me on the final 4.5 mile climb, and this was the year I would have my revenge.  Except I wouldn't, because I showed up and threw down the slowest time I've had in five years!

I can't explain to you why, for the weeks leading up to the race, I felt fantastic - only for it to completely fall apart just days before the race.  On Monday, we had a fantastic 2+ hour lunch ride, I was on top of the world, riding so well.  I was very impressed with myself.  Tuesday, I took a rest day, and then later that night I felt a wave of exhaustion come over me.  In addition, out of nowhere, I developed a pain in my right lung.  I was in bed earlier than I've been that night in a really long time.  And in the morning, I wasn't feeling much better.  As Kristen and I both know someone who has survived pulmonary embolism, our minds went to the same place.  And I'll be perfectly honest with you.  When you've lost your 13 year old cousin to cancer, and your life revolves around a little girl of your own, sometimes it feels like all you're trying to do in life is just not die.  And look at this equation - if we're right, and it's something serious, it's caught in time.  If I blow it off as just a random infection or some kind of spontaneous (?) muscle pull, and I'm wrong, I lose.  So what do you do.

You take Stella to school the next morning and then head directly to Urgent Care.  Negative X-rays and a negative D-dimer mean there's no embolism.  It's chalked up to some unknown muscular issue.  Maybe allergies.  No one knows, and I win, but I still lose, because I'm sure this just cost a thousand dollars.


The rest of the week, I am totally spent.  Can't even ride.  Thursday arrives and I'm doing community service work all day at a farm in Maine, building a roof.  The day started overcast and I thought little of the sun, but it cleared in the afternoon and by quitting time, I was absolutely cooked.  It was bad enough that I ran a fever that night, and was lying on the floor with chills until it was time for bed.  This was not really setting up well for a race on Saturday morning, where I would need to wake up at 5am and drive 2 hours north.


So Saturday morning I wake up at 5am and drive 2 hours north.  I really don't know if I was feeling better or not.  The day before I thought I might be, but the bottom started to fall out in the afternoon.  And then the morning of any race, you're just running on adrenaline and bad decisions at that point.

We had a healthy singlespeed group this year.  I counted seven at the start.  It could not have been more perfect.  We're starting 15 seconds apart and I'm going last of the riders with podium aspirations.  All I have to do is bear down and reel in what I see ahead of me.  My gearing, while way too hard last year, was tweaked to just a little easier and right where I wanted it.  Super happy with my music selection.  My nutrition wasn't as super complicated as last year, but absolutely fine for a 90min all-out effort.  The torrential rain that morning even stopped a half an hour before I left the start line.

The thing is, I never really felt bad.  My glutes were very sore, but I knew it was because the saddle on this bike was too high.  Otherwise, it seemed like a perfectly normal early morning torture fest.  The gearing seemed just fine, where last year I could tell right out of the gate that it was all wrong.  While I wasn't seeing anyone in my group ahead of me, it didn't really bother me given that I started 30 seconds back.  I'd see them on the final 4.5 mile climb.  But as I approached the base of that climb, I noted my time.  I could tell I was way off today.  

Looking at the Strava, I was three minutes slower than last year, all of it lost in the first 16 miles.  I rode the final 4.5 mile climb in the same exact time as last year.  If that sounds like something that's hard to visualize, here's a slightly different perspective.  Last year (riding a singlespeed of course), I was 30 seconds faster than my friend Charles who rode a geared bike.  This year, both of us on singlespeeds, riding essentially the same exact Specialized Langsters with Zipp 404 front wheels, he beat me by seven minutes.  Holy shit.

Insult to injury, in spite of being positively shelled, it still looked like I finished third.  Until we discovered that a geared bike rider changed his registration at the last moment to singlespeed.  He went off probably ten minutes before any of us, cleaned house, won the category, and consequently pushed me to 4th out of 8.  That was kind of bitter.

A few days removed from the race, I was still pretty active and feeling back to normal.  Mid-week though my legs were positively shot.  I knew it was time to take break, so as I write this I'm nearly a week into doing absolutely nothing.  I'll regroup in a few days and figure out what I want to do for the rest of this year.  I bought a suuuuuuper great mountain bike last fall and I am supposed to be racing that bike, so I should probably get on it.  No Mt. Wash this year; I still feel like that's the right decision, and that next year will be the year that Stella will really enjoy making the trip up there.  My hillclimb bike was pillaged to build up the Serotta, so that will take a small amount of effort before I go signing up for the mountains.

The Maggie Kit really worked out.  As you might know, I had serious interest in this project from Primal, but we couldn't gather enough interest to make the minimums.  So this went back to where it started in my head, a one-off customized high-end cycling kit from one of the few manufacturers that make such a garment.  Brad from Velocio reached out with an exceptionally generous discount on his stunning signature kit.  Ryan from Metro Sports here in Manchester took it from there and perfectly added the small touches I was looking for.  Impressive work, considering how light the material is in this kit.  Ryan is truly a master, and anyone with lesser knowledge could have easily ruined a very expensive jersey.

We tested the heat transfer on the inside first with my initials, and then placed Maggie's initials on one sleeve, and "roar" on the other.  "roar" a tongue-in-cheek homage to the viral CHaD video she appeared in, which landed her on Piers Morgan late one night in October.