Monday, June 18, 2007

Housatonic Hills Report

Waking up is hard to do, especially when it's two days in a row of arising pre-dawn, feeling like your eyes are bleeding and you got put to bed with a shovel to the face. I picked up Hannah and Stephanie at 5:20 in Arlington and we struck out for Southington, CT, we made it there in no time, it helped that all the sane people were still asleep not out clogging up the highways at 6Am on a sunday. I always wonder who those people are, the ones that are actually out at that hour, they're not fishermen, those guys are already out in their boats, on their fourth beer. Are they serial killers out looking for a good spot to dump a body? Who knows, but being up driving around at that hour on the weekend without a bicycle on your roof is highly suspect.
The venue was gorgeous, the day was lovely, (this is where David Lynch would pan from an idealic scene of a white picket fenced yard to a subterranean nest of insects swarming beneath it all).
We had arrived so early I felt this overwhelming sense that I had all the time in the world so I went off to warm up by riding straight up the finishing climb. I didn't have a watch and no one I asked knew the 4 Men start time so I went back up registration and asked them, "ya between 9:20 and 9:30...ya you proably want to get down there now". When I got down there my group was on the line, I situated myself in the back to the outside as Cat 3 racer Greg Martin had instructed me to do because "when there's a crash you'll have somewhere to go". Awesome.
I guess I should have prefaced this story by telling you that I don't road race, I've done it a couple times in the past but it's still all new to me and I don't know what the hell I'm doing out there. The inexplicable slow downs, the yelling, the whining, the detonations of over pressurized tires, this stuff is all weird to a mountain biker. Also I don't really know the rules, I knew one rule...the yellow line rule, can't cross the yellow line, right? I thought if I rode the yellow line no one would pass me on the left and I could prevent my slide to the back of the pack, not right. Apparently the yellow line rule is for nancy boys who play jazz flute. So I hovered at the back, trying not to die too much, then I discovered the gutter, roadies aren't afraid of crossing a yellow line around a blind corner on a backroad with monster trucks blazing down it in the opposite direction but they ARE afraid of riding within two feet of a curb, some grass, or the occasional stick. When we hit the first climbs I was able to move right up along the right side, by the time we had finished all the significant climbs the first lap I was in the front group (remember the foreshadowing with the bustling insects?). As we went through the feed zone I flatted, maybe shooting the gutter with XXX lite tubes isn't such a great idea after all, or maybe I should run Stan's sealant in my road tires. The wheel change took a bit, and by a bit I mean that I whipped out my copy of The Icelandic Sagas and had nearly finished it when the Wheel truck pulled up."Let's see here, ten speed, how many speeds does this wheel have? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9...nope. Hmmm, how about his one? 1,2,3..." AAAH! Then dude insisted upon doing the wheel change, eventually I did wrestle it away from him and get going. This was no Todd Downs SRAM race support 18 second job, I lost over two minutes, my race was over, it was time to go a training ride in the beautiful Connecticut hills. Not before I put my head down and hammered away for a while trying to catch back on, all into a headwind, alone, as the the thermostat kept rocketing upwards. Eventually I realized I wasn't going to make it back on my own so I sat up and waited for two guys who turned out to be a breakaway from the 50-55's. I wasn't sure what the rules say regarding mixing with other categories but they seemed to think that it would be alright if I sat on and didn't work. Sounded good to me. Still, they were hauling ass on the flats, the climbs were actually easier for me, go figure.
I did the rest of the first lap with those mean old bastards then we got caught by the break from the 45's, it was maybe a half dozen guys. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my recollection of these events was severely flawed. My memory of it all is similar to flashes of consciousness had while sleeping on a long train ride. It might not have been the 45's, it might have been the junior women or the kid's fun race for all I know. I tried to stay with each passing group but I had shelled myself trying to get back, before long I was in no man's land, still riding hard, running out of water, licking my lips, thinking about coke machines and lime rickies. I saw a group approaching behind, I sat up completely and spun my legs to prepare myself to jump on. It was the Autobus of the 3's, the pace was tolerable, and after sitting in for a bit I was able to pull through. Greg Martin from IF was the bus driver, singing and encouraging decimated riders to hop on and hitch a ride home, good guy. Inevitably things got aggresive toward the end with a CCB rider who wasn't taking pulls at all jumping away on the downhills, we'd bring him back, he'd go again. At that point I decided I was just going to beat that guy, that would be my victory.
I was having such a pleasant time chatting with Greg and chasing down CCB boy that I didn't notice we were almost home, just that 1.8 mile climb to ther finish in the 85 degree heat and we were done, woo-frickin'-hoo. Who went first up the climb? Pink and blue, you know who, a couple guys went for it as well, I just stayed on this 18 year old Cat 3 guy who I knew was the strongest of the bunch. In no time we dropped everyone else and hammmered to the top.

Once across the line I grabbed a couple cold waters, then I looked around, it appeared that the entire 4 field was in, I felt like such a LOSER. It wasn't until the next day that I saw that I was in reality 50th place out of 82 finishers. I have no idea how I passed that many 4s, they must have been ducking into the bushes as I came past. Things didn't go as planned but it was a nice day on the bike, oh well.
Afterward I went to return the neutral support wheel and get mine back, it was nowhere to be found, I sat around for over an hour trying to find out what happened. It turned out the wheel I had belonged to a rider who got hurt and had gone off to the hospital, I didn't have the heart to keep it until my wheel was located and mailed to me. After giving the officials all my info and resigning myself to the fact that I would probably never see my very new American Classic rear wheel, Ultegra cassette, and brand new Michelin R2 again I nearly walked over it. It had been tossed in the middle of a field behind what had been shortly before a large crowd of spectators. The official I'd been dealing with was super apologetic, I told him this was really pretty minor stuff, what counted was the fact that their race was well run, safe, and supported, unlike some other races which were held that weekend (hmm, don't know who I might be slagging there cough!Mike Norton-cough!).
All in all, good day, great race, and later on I was able to defy inertia and sleep deprivation to make my way to Shay's for beers on the patio and a bit of trivia at Charlie's. That is as Adrian Fletcher would say (quoting Black Flag) the way to "Rise Above". Did that sentence make any sense? I don't care, that's it for me.


Adrian said...

Jealous cowards try to control...

Colin R said...

or maybe I should run Stan's sealant in my road tires.


jeff said...

ah, shay's, it's been too long... and oh yeah, good riding out there!