When we walked out of the house, there were snow flakes fluttering down from on high. They sparkled like diamonds in the rays of early morning light, but they did not even last long enough for us to get to the car before winter ceded the day back to fall. The temperatures climbed into the 40s as we headed south along Randall Rd, stopping for breakfast at a place called Burnt Toast.
Part of our “night-before-a-race” ritual is to plan out our morning together. Morleigh usually opens the discussion by asking me what time I want to arrive at the venue, and we work backwards allotting time for all the things we need to do in the morning. We account for travel time, loading the car, packing our stuff so we can load it in the car, any bike maintenance that needs to happen, breakfast, getting dressed, and the ever foreboding actually getting out of bed. We’ve done this so many times together in the last 10 months that it’s become a science. If we want to get to the venue between 9:10am and 9:15am, we arrive at the venue between 9:10am and 9:15am.
So we arrived at the park at about 9:13 AM, and coming over the hill we could see the Master’s 40+ racers winding their way about the course. We made our way into the parking lot, and then I loaded with our gear and we made our way to the team tent. I pulled out my camera first thing and snapped some photos of the master’s riders. As I watched the field go by, I became really confused. I couldn’t figure out who was leading because this man:
was absent. I found out later that he had a mechanical and DNF’d his race, so being the badass that he is, he got his bike fixed and just hopped into the next race with the young guns.
I took a pre-ride lap between races, and was feeling marginally better than the week before, but still a long way from where I felt at Jackson Park. During the 30+ race I went to registration, picked up my number, and started to get ready for my race. The last few races I have taken lots of pictures during the 30+ race, and waited until the Women’s 123s to start getting ready for my race. While this has provided an abundance of great photos of Matt Silva, John Gotto, and company, I wanted to push for greater gender equity in my photo library. So I front-loaded my prep in the early race. Thankfully I have a wonderful and capable assistant, and together we captured some fine moments from the 30+ race despite my desire to focus on the women’s races.
After the 30+ finished it was time for another pre-lap with my Cat 3 teammates. Alas, I remember a time when I could keep up with them and not get dropped pre-riding.
After returning to the tent, it was time for the mish-mash race. I headed over to the starting area to try and capture some of the women’s 1-2-3, Master’s Men 50+, and Single Speed category race. The women definitely brought their A game when it came to costumes. There were a handful of men who were willing to dress up, but it was mostly skin-suits and race cut jerseys.
Before I knew it, the bell was ringing for their final lap, and I was scrambling to get ready for my race. Don’t forget to take off those commuter lights! As we were circling the soccer field, I would be lying if I said I did not contemplate trading my number and 45 minutes of suffering in for another 45 minutes of taking pictures. But I was there to race, I had a number pinned on, and I was on my bike. My three early season points were still enough to get me in a decent place in the starting grid, and while waiting for our race to start we were treated to a wonderful monologue by Jostein Alvestad dressed as Thor.
The whistle blew, and we were off. I had enough gas in the tank to move up in the starting grid, to avoid the charlie foxtrot at the railroad ties, but as the course continued to wind up hill, the rest of the field accelerated and I stood still. I could not push my pedals hard enough, spin my legs fast enough, to hold onto my early gains.
It felt like the entire field swam by on my first two laps. It was hard to keep riding, but I kept telling myself the only way to get back to where I wanted to be was to keep riding. There is no other way, so I pressed forward.
I had no mechanicals, took my corners clean, had good remounts, kept my heart rate above 160, and just got destroyed on the hill climb and the straight aways. To paraphrase a line from a Python movie: I sailed as fast I as could without any sails.
The bell lap was the most exciting lap of my race. I had a lead of about 50 yds on another rider, and watched helplessly as he chewed away the gap on the hill climb and the long power straight away. I was standing up, in my big-ring, and could not preserve the gap. He closed in before we hit the double barriers. He passed me going in to the double barriers, and I passed him again on the remount, he passed me back on the straight away, and I passed him back climbing the hill after the end of the off-camber chicane. I was able to hold him off as we wound back down the hill, and back up around the rock piles where Katie was throwing out twizzlers like they were going out of style. As we neared the top of the hill my body started to warn me that if I kept it up, I was going to start puking. I tried to keep pushing but it didn’t matter, he passed me just at the top again. I fought to maintain contact on the way down the hill, and around the 180 degree corner as we went through the woods. I closed the gap on the final off-camber S-turns by the tent, but as we hit the final two straight aways he had the lead and I was out of chips. He looked back, and started to stand up. I waved him off. I told him that he had it. I wasn’t going to kill myself to try and out sprint him at the line for whatever place we were at in the race. There was no one behind us, everyone else had been pulled.
We didn’t stop riding by any means, we kept on at about the same pace. He looked back at one more time at final corner, and I waved him off again. I had made my move, and I couldn’t hold onto it. He beat me fair and square, and I wasn’t going to puke over what turned out to be 56th place. I was kind of happy that I didn’t get pulled. I was really happy that my back did not cramp up or otherwise give out. I had some side-stitches during the middle, but nothing like the suffering that I was dealing with during mid-late September. I was actually able to enjoy the rest of the day hanging out with my friends and girlfriend.
I changed into warm dry clothes, took more photos (450+ on the day), ate a pulled rib sandwich, and had a great time hanging out. I am blessed to be a part of a creative vibrant community of people, and I promise next year I will try my best to come up with a good idea for a costume far enough in advance to actually race in said costume.