Monday, June 23, 2008

Root 66 Putney


Above: George, During, After, and long enough after to begin looking back and laughing

Not my tire this time…me. I’ve experienced some new highs this season in my training and racing, but I suppose there can’t be highs without lows. This was a low point of the season. I pulled a bonehead move last season, going way too hard and running too much at the EFTA Bradbury race leaving my illiotibial bands torn to shreds for the Wilderness 101 the next weekend. That was the only time all year where I literally could not ride my bike up a hill or around a rock, it wasn’t a matter of suffering more or being a tough guy, it just wasn’t happening. This weekend it was the same deal. Funny because I didn’t feel any more terrible than usual when I woke up Sunday morning, it wasn’t until the pre-ride with Jeff Whittingham that I began to get some negative feedback from my body. My heart rate was high, I think this was due to the fact that I was trying to spin more to ease the load on my bugged out lower appendages. By the end of that warm up lap I was sweating profusely and I felt like crap and felt like I looked like crap, bags under my eyes, maybe a hairy superfluous nipple growing out of the side of my face.

Jorge (Pronounced "George") is a merry prankster. Yes, that's a $12 kickstand on a Pegoretti.

Here a schism began between the cynically realistic back of my mind and the delusionaly optimistic front of my mind. Front says “You just need to lower your gear slightly, you’ll be fine”. Back says “Hey dumb ass, you felt those legs, they are frickin’ wasted, you got nothing today, NOTHING! You think changing one little tooth is going to make a damn bit of difference? Keep smokin’ kid…keep smokin’!”. The back of mind is a Somerville Townie, I think it drives a Grand National. So I sweat and struggle to get my gear swapped as Colin puts the number on my bike, George, picks up the entire tool box worth of tools I dumped on the ground, and Mo tells me to “Remember to keep breathing”. Thanks guys, for real.

Back when I enjoyed riding my bike, seems like yesterday, or the day before yesterday which it was. I'm lucky to have this place in my backyard.

I line up behind Jeff, he tells me “There’s only one guy in this race…YOU! I don’t care if I’m second to last as long as you’re last!”. With friends like that who needs Tobasco Enemas. The start wasn’t too, too bad, then I made up some spots on the first incline, me and Michael Mooradian just dangling off the front group by a few seconds, business as usual. Michael says “C’mon this our race”. Nice of him, but it was more his race than mine as it turned out (think he nabbed fifth). He was behind me as I unclipped my right foot on the super-fast off-camber downhill, all over the bike like a bucking bronco for a few seconds before getting back on the saddle and not dying. I Was standing a lot more than usual, especially for such a low gear, my breathing was out of check, and my heart rate was through the roof. When I came through the start/finish Jill from USA Cycling said “Hang in there Thom” or something like that, but she was laughing when she said it. She could tell this was obviously not my day.

Jeff in recovery mode.

My 32 X 18 was fine for the open sections between the climbs, I wasn’t getting dropped there, but the first time we went up Heartbreak hill it all went to hell. My legs all twingy, my upper body slumping, I was working too hard. The front of my mind was saying “You can work through this, just drink, just eat, you’ll be OK, you’ll bounce back, just ride your bike”. The back was going “Yeah right! What, were you born last night? You could strap two bags of wet linguini to your ass and pedal a bike better ya pickle smoker!”. God, the back of my mind is a dick, but it does help me out when I have to berate drivers on my commute sometimes.
After one lap I was at the back of my group, after two laps I was getting caught by guys from other categories including James Harmon, winner of the Single Speed category, he offered words of encouragement as he passed. His time would have put him in the better half of the Pro/Semi-Pro category, watch out. The downward spiral became more rapid after that. Every pedal stroke where I had to apply any pressure became nearly impossible, I played “just stay on the bike”, but at that point it did no good, my legs had staged a mutiny, my pride was getting keel-hauled and my self-respect was walking the plank.

I damn near ran this little guy over before he woke up from his sun nap and skedaddled.

Before lap four (which would turn out to be the last for the Pros due to a thunder storm, although the Sports including a top ten finishing George Shaw of IBC would ride through an outright deluge just a little while later) I stopped at the feed zone and stood talking with George who was handing me bottles. I felt bad, I could tell I looked worse, the bags under my eyes now as big as luggage. I whined and made excuses: “fifty hour work week, no sleep, stupid training, not enough recovery, blah, blah, blah”. This would mark the first time I’d dropped out of a race because I just couldn’t do it since my ill-fated first attempt at racing a single speed in late 2002. There have been many times when I’ve finished races even though I was sucking horribly just because I like riding my bike. Here I couldn’t even ride my bike to save my life. Seriously, if I were being chased by a charging pack of Three-Toed Sloths I would have been run down and slowly gnawed and clawed and Slothed to death over a period of hours or days for certain.

My recovery drink did me no good this week and Swayze wasn't there when I needed him.

That was it, I dropped out, DNF, I hobbled off the course, took my helmet off, dropped my two wheeled Loser Cruiser in the Poison Ivy and sat down to wait a few minutes to see who wasn’t sucking as bad as me that day. Turned out it was John Foley spinning happily up the finishing climb with Ethan Gilmour breathing down his neck. Seemed like John had kind of a frustrating start to the season, he disappeared for a little while, apparently started riding his bike to work, and now he’s back In the business of ripping people’s legs off and beating them with ‘em. Carpool mates Mo and Colin had good results with a 1st and a 3rd respectively.
It was a rough day, but the sandwiches at the Putney Co-Op were awesome, worth running through a wall of blinding rain to get them, the coffee was killer as well, and I’m going into a rest week. My legs and I aren’t even speaking to each other until maybe Thursday. Ah, the bright side.

Determined to deliver Jeff's clothes to him despite not having a bag to carry them home in...I made one. About as ingenious as my Bottle Stand and as well executed.


Wheels said...

Maybe its time to tap the Ensure keg again. My elixir of choice is BOOST.

GTL said...

I just realized I could comment on this thing. You know, I'm a stickler...

rick is! said...

good reads as usual. keep it up.

Bullitt said...

Good on ya George. ahhh... Almost as funny as when he built me a wheel, uninvited, and two spokes blew out on the first ride!! This convinced me I could build a dam wheel!