Alarm goes off. The incessant noise of my cell phone's shrill tone, screaming at me to get out of bed. It's 5:15 AM. Not college time.
I look out of the window. Damn. Rain. Terrible weather for a technical criterium. The whaling city cyclone they call it.
For some reason, I head downstairs, get ready and grab some breakfast, then head back upstairs to lazy up in front of the computer. I end up eating breakfast and deciding to go back to sleep again. Everything seems to be off: the weather, my sluggishness, but the legs are there. I reset my alarm to wake me up at 6. I figure I should head out at 6:15.
I'm up again, and I can't find the address. After 20 minutes of trying, I give up. It's 6:45. It'll be 7 before I hit the road.
I eat a poptart or two on my way to New London, CT in the pouring rain. This is going to be terrible, I think. I hate racing crits in the rain...
I call my mom at 7:40 to get the address as I near New London. She answers and checks on the computer, dazed at my wake up call. She understands though, she was watching me at nutmeg yesterday. I get the address, and she goes back to sleep. Thanks mom.
I reach the course and pull in at 7:50. My start time is at for the 4/5 race. It's still pouring...
"This isn't going to happen," I think to myself as I park and get out. I decide to forfeit the 4/5 race. I listen to my parents sometimes, and this was one of those times. My mom had heard the rain when I was stopped asking her for an address and she told me not to race if it was pouring. I willingly oblige. I hate crits in the rain. Did I mention that already?
I go and hang out at the start finish line for a bit, chatting with the neutral support crew. I pick up my number. 619. Awesome. I'm going to pin this on upside down just because I can. I love when things like this happen: palindrome numbers, 13's, 7's, numbers that are the same upside down. They excite me for some strange reason.
I find some reason to like my number before every race. Whether I add up the digits and like the total or one of the above reasons, I like my numbers. It's my number. Besides, thinking about my number helps to ease my pre-race jitters.
The 4/5 race finishes in the pouring rain. I watch the finish from the neutral support area, glad to not be part of the suffering. "I'll make my race in the 4's count," I think to myself. Out of the blue, the sun starts to emerge. Less 2 hours later, it's dry and sunny. I have 30 minutes to my race. I head down to warm up.
I set up my trainer, putting on my wind booties for good measure, they call them 'aero'. I say, why not? I chat with a few racers, telling one dismayed new guy to keep at it because you get better as you suffer more. There's gotta be a special place in hell for bike racers. We encourage each other to suffer more, suffer longer, suffer harder, and that can't be kosher. That's bike racing. I suppose the devil wouldn't want us, we like to suffer too much. I think about the weirdest things when I warm up. Before I realize, it's time to line up.
I haven't seen the course yet as the organizers are starting the next race the second the previous one finishes. I don't appreciate that...
I help a racer pin on his number because it somehow ripped. The second I finish, the whistle blows. Great timing...
I'm at the back right from the start, hanging on for dear life. I realize that my rear brake quick release is still open from when I swapped to my race wheels from my trainer wheel. I quickly close it down some so I have full use of both brakes.
An early break is making my life miserable. I struggle to hold on for over 10 minutes, enjoying my stay in the pain cave. I'm well above threshold, breathing hard, and contemplating giving up. "But I drove over an hour to get here, and if I give up in front of Kim, I'll never hear the end of it," I think to myself as my vision starts getting blurry. I contemplate throwing the 'rock on' sign or aiming my hand like a pistol at my head, as I cross the start finish line dangling off the back time and time again. I would have loved to, but I don't have the energy.
My vision starts to narrow, and the corners seem to start making sense. I can pedal through the entire course without slowing much. I cut the inside through a few corners, slowly starting to move up. I push hard and fill up the gaps that start to open up as racers get tired. I yell at a few guys, and do the work myself. I'm not giving up now, there's no going back. They'd brought back the break, I was safe.
The course is incredible. The start/finish line is atop a little hill with a 90 degree left turn, followed by a 90 degree right turn, and another 90 degree left turn in rapid succession. The last turn leads to a short roundabout with another 90 degree right turn. Then a short straightaway, a 90 degree left, short straight, and a 90 degree left. It's up the little hill to the start/finish, repeat ad nauseum.
I can pedal through everything, and dive into the inside before the roundabout and pedal through the entire thing. I gain 3-5 spots here every lap.
I find myself next to a rider from threshold who yelled at me on saturday. He later apologized, so I ride next to him and say hello. I go backwards again as the pace picks up to chase down another break. This time, I have real shelter.
We have about 10 laps to go. I should start moving up since the laps are short. Time is of the essence. 2 riders from a team right in front of me gesture to each other. One tells the other to get on his wheel so he can tow him up. Don't mind if I do. I latch on and get a tow to the front row seats. I'm now in the top 15 of about 30 guys. Good position for the next few laps.
With 5 to go, I start moving up. The rider from threshold is in the top 10 and is looking strong. I get behind him with 3 to go and fight for his wheel. "This is my wheel, there are many others like it, but this one is mine," I think to myself as I start sticking my elbows out, dissuading other racers from trying to push me out of a gap.
The pace picks up again. A rider from central wheel thins out the herd, and everything is single file. He wants to give his sprinter a better shot at the win. It's harder to get boxed in when things are strung out. I feel no pain, no exhaustion. Things are perfect. Two to go.
The rider's pull is good, and the field is stretched out. Threshold rider moves up, and I follow. We do a lap at breakneck speed, and I stick to him like glue. I know I can outsprint him, so I take his wheel into the last corner. He's been going on the inside so I sweep wide and stand up. My gearing is good.
I tuck down, rip at my bars, and push down with everything I'm worth. I see a few others start going backwards, and I keep pushing. I see the line in front of me and I throw my bike. Good for 5th. Not where I want to be, but I'll take it since I was off the back for a good bit of the race. Turns out, it was my best sprint in a race as far as power goes. It was right up there with my bests in training. Awesome.
I was still gaining on everyone at the line. I need to jump harder, strong, better, faster. And keep up the pressure till I finish the line. Then again, don't we all? Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Time for a rest week. I can't wait. I took off tuesday after doing a recovery spin down on monday. I'm not quite ready to dive into training again, but I hate finishing poorly more than I dislike training. Heh.