Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Race

So first, an apology. I had aspirations of keeping this up on a daily basis. Turns out I just don't deal with enough dumbasses to have something to write about every day. HA! How I wish that were true. The truth is, between the job, school, and riding, I'm having a little trouble with daily updates. Fear not. This thing is cathartic enough I couldn't give up writing completely even if I wanted to. So check back every few days and you should be rewarded with writing of such profundity as to boggle the mind.
Yes, I raced weekend before last. I started penning this the day of but only just finished. Enjoy.
So, I raced today. But, before I get ahead of myself, I’ll inform you I’m a glorified commuter. I’ve got the competitive spirit, maybe too much, but I’ve never dedicated myself to any sort of a training schedule. I ride when the weather is nice and I feel like it, and sometimes when the weather is shitty and I don’t feel like. That’s usually for an hour or two a few days a week. When I lived farther away from work, my riding consisted almost exclusively of commuting, with the occasional shop ride on the day off. I still think of myself as exclusively a commuter. But, every now and again, I think it’s healthy to turn the pedals in anger, and my shop happens to sponsor a race every year. So, by sheer coincidence, we had coverage today and I was able to race.
Oh, how quickly we forget the pain of racing.
I ride by myself most days, and I’ve pushed myself to the point of vomiting by myself before, but that’s a rare day, when I’ve got a lot of shit on my mind and I just want the pain of the ride to make it go away. When racing, as I rediscovered today, I am nearly always nudging the red line. On our course, there is a moderately long and steep climb where the field has a chance to work itself out. I made it in the middle ring the first two laps and the granny on the last. Every time, I left everything I had on the trail and was in serious danger of leaving a little more than that. It doesn’t feel good at the time, but it feels good after, when you consider the wisdom of the cliché that pain is weakness leaving the body.
I quickly figured out that, while climbing was not my strong suit (go figure at six foot two and 185), my familiarity with the trail and technical skill were. As I slogged up the big climb, guys would surge past me and I’d lose in the ballpark of fifteen or twenty places. At the top where it flattens out and opens up, I’d push it into the big ring and drop the hammer, regain a couple of spots, and then it was into the singletrack. I’d consistently find myself in the back of a group of five or six, urging the guys ahead of me to keep the pace up and passing when I could, making up a few more places just in time to lose them on the big climb.
On the second lap, I noticed a pattern: I was always behind the same guy on the singletrack. I’d follow him, not worried about passing because we were fairly closely matched in the technical department and the two of us were making pretty good headway. On the open flats, I’d pass him, and he’d pass me going back up the big hill. It happened that way the first two laps. On the final flat, open stretch on the second lap, just before the big climb, I pulled next to him, intent on passing, saw who it was and said, “Ah fuck it, you’re just gonna pass me on the climb.” Well, I passed him anyway, and about thirty seconds later and twenty yards up the climb, I see him out of my peripheral vision and hear him say, “Yup, you were right.”

Well, it took me most of the third lap to get back to him, but I did. As I tucked into his wheel on one of the last singletrack sections, I said, “Well, if it isn’t my favorite view.” He replied, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I stuck with him until that same section of flat and open, the last before the finish. I didn’t have the gas in the tank to take him there. After that open section is an S-turn that takes you back into the final section of singletrack before the finish. As we rounded the second turn of the S, he figured out too late he was carrying too much speed. His front tire washed out, he wound up in the tape, I scooted neatly around on the inside and never looked back. I guess racing isn’t just about the gas in the tank. I tried to congratulate him on a great race after, but he was pretty pissed. I guess if I was him, I would be too. You just got schooled by a commuter wearing a Camelbak.

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