Copperas Cove Redux, 2009 version

You know that poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, titled “Success”? Sometimes you have to rethink things a couple of times to see what the good was that you got out of an experience…

Two weeks ago, I was one of four survivors, along with a ‘teammate’ on a ride that had two previous State Champions. One week ago, I was gapping a team in rolling terrain in a monster headwind, and getting yelled at for pulling too hard, too long. This week, knowing that this big, long race was coming up, I tried to make sure that I did everything right… I drove down on Friday, I got 9 hours of sleep, I made sure I ate well. And I also made myself a promise that I would NOT go haywire and try to win the race in the first 2 miles, which I’m kind of famous for. I kept telling myself “90 minutes – don’t do ANYTHING serious, for 90 minutes!” And honestly, I held to it pretty well.

These types of races are completely vexing, however, and I’m really tempted to tell the promoter, whom I consider a friend, that I won’t support his events any longer if he continues to do what he did. What was the crime? He mixed categories. Specifically, he mixed the 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. There were well over 130 people out on a 10′ wide lane, in a 15-20kt wind, and IT WAS RISKY. Furthermore, 3’s in these types of conditions, with all these hot dog 1-2’s are just pack fodder. It’s a race – but you’re going up against people who are just simply MUCH too talented, younger, and stronger. You also have situations where less experienced riders end up taking mondo risks to try and hold wheels or affect the race, and they usually end up in trouble. You may remember that last June, I raced the “Age Category” event, and ended up having a personal conversation with a purple deity as I became delusional from the heat stroke. Then, as now, a ‘teammate’ sucked my wheel for hours, only to rocket by me after I had done all the work.

Folks, this ain’t the Euro Peloton. I ain’t gonna support you no more. Go F yourselves if you want to keep taking advantage of me.

So anyway – The race did not become overly animated until this one section of road, this infamous, potholed FM road, that went almost straight in to the wind. A group of maybe 12 got away and went after the first group of maybe 2 or 3… And that left me at the front of a group of maybe 20 good cyclists. We did a pretty darned good job of pacing, pushing, and working together – though there were ‘teammates’ of people that were up the road who did their damnedest to disrupt us. That’s their perogative, but the group of 12 was really only about 1 minute up on us the whole time. But here’s the deal – you had ‘3’s disrupting 1-2’s, and 1-2’s disrupting 3’s, and it just ended up getting chaotic. When the second lap came around, and we hit “Pothole Road”, well, the inevitable happened.

There was a crash. It was bad. I got to watch meat getting scraped off of bone by road. I got to watch my ‘Teammate” who was ahead of the crash, get away. I got to watch myself, braked almost to a full stop, try to bridge, 64 miles in to an 86 mile event, and get popped. And I got to ride alone for, oh, 45 minutes while I watched the scooter and the wheel truck pass me by. I got to watch some fat kid flub my water bottle hand up at the feed zone, I got immeasurable help from a gal at the same feedzone who gave me a PB & J (ANGEL!), and I got to basically turn one long race in to two – a long and a short, where I actually recovered and reeled in about 12 other cyclists, 1’s and 2’s in 1’s and 2’s.

And when it was all over… I got to reflect on another failed attempt at scoring points for an upgrade.

Am I too hard on myself? Yeah, probably.

Am I a dummy tactically? Well, not as bad as I used to be….

Am I not fit enough for this type of racing? Well, maybe not against a bunch of 1-2’s, but 3’s? Hmmmm.

Last sidebar rant for the evening… The 3’s supported the 1-2’s financially, and team-wise. But you know, there’s a reason why categories exist. They exist because they somewhat level the playing field. They exist because you’re supposed to be able to race against similar talent and skill. I don’t care if I finished ahead of a bunch of 1-2’s (I did). I care about the 3’s bankolling the fiscal adventures of a bunch of 1-2 racers, and the promoter. If the promoter can’t or won’t separate the classes, well, I have to believe that I won’t continue to pay for the abuse.

But back to the discussion…

I AM fit enough for this kind of racing. I DID prepare for it. I DID follow through, for the most part, on my deal with myself to avoid going in to warp drive too early. And I DID stay far enough back to avoid taking too many pulls too early. But when the time came, I put the hammer down, pushed myself, and basically rode myself in to the ground.

Mistake #1: Calories. I showed up at the race having eaten 1 bowl of Raisin Bran, and 1 bagel with cream cheese. Let’s assume, oh, 300 kcals of energy. Oh, and I had half a Gatorade… 100Kcals. Total of 400.

It burned up in 50 minutes.

The reserves?

Two of those new EFS Gu-type bottles. Pretty good, all things considered, but they’re only 400 Kcals each! How long did they last? 40 minutes apiece. So, let’s do the math… 48 + 40 + 40 = 128 minutes ( 2hr 8 minutes)… Add in some reserves in the bloodstream, and…

It looks like I bonked at roughly 2 hrs and 42 minutes…. I had roughly 35 minutes, 440Kj’s and 420 Kcals in me. That was mile 64, about 1/2 mile after a wreck about 10m in front of me slowed me down to a crawl as I attempted to avoid it, then recover and chase. After that, it was solo city for 45 minutes. KA BOOM.

One More Sidebar: The woman who gave me a PB & J drove a Boxy Honda thingy. She was an angel. I could hardly swallow it, but it definitely kept me going, and she was very kind to make the offer. Otherwise, I probably would have sagged in or gone off course in delirium.

So – lesson #1… REMEMBER YOUR DARNED ENERGY DRINK AND BRING EXTRA! The gu packs were great, but when you don’t drink enough water with them, it’s really easy to get gut cramps, which is exactly what happened after the crash and chase.  This race burned 2675 Kcals, and if I’d been with the lead groups, it would have definitely broken 3000. So be prepared and keep as much fuel on board as possible, and keep consuming it.

Lesson #2: Earn your trust, and find friends.

In a large pack like this, it’s easy to read the riders and determine early just who is twitchy, who is eager, who is smooth, and who is going to help you, and vice-versa. Sure, I’d love for them to be teammates of mine, but with my club, those clowns don’t have a freakin’ clue about teamwork – it’s still Pirate City Every Man For Himself. Take your pulls, do the work, relax enough to enjoy the ride, and encourage others at every opportunity. I met a friend from Salt Lake City on this ride, and if I’d been quiet, we never would have seen each other. He would have been just another lycra-clad skinny bike geek.

Okay – I’ve been told by management to end this and tidy things up for a good night’s rest. I may post more later, but remember the themes…

Get more energy in to your body, even though you may not think you need it (you do), and Make Friends and Allies in the Peloton.

More later.


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