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Wednesday, August 27th 2008

Bicycle racing is Hard, Eh. No shit, you don’t say there sherlock. Well, yea to all those cyclists who are in the know! But if you don’t have the experience or an appreciation of just what it takes to push your body to its physical/aerobic limits then let me reiterate. Bicycle is racing is hard, no wait, make that really, really f*cking hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a local club- Century Road Club of America. Basically, a bunch of guys and girls who participate in a variety of club races, both road and off-road. I recently joined and took a shot at the Thursday night Road Race event which happens to take place near my apartment. First let me set the stage. I have not ridden much this year, due to a host of crap and what not. So, between some solo and group rides I had logged only about 800 mediocre miles before attempting my first race of 2008.

Not exactly a great idea…but I threw caution to the proverbial wind anyway! The 21 mile race is a three lap event that runs on a 7.2 mile circuit through Readington and Hillsborough NJ.

Thursday, August 21.
We set off at a blistering pace, about 25-26 mph out of the gate.  I’m going faster than I wanto to, but I have got to stay in touch with the draft. The group bends through the winding roads and the pace is mad- 28 mph. Now if this were 1/2/3 pro level race it would be fine, but we’re talking club guys here! Then there is me, the newbie, and slow as shit! Nearing the end of the first lap I’m barely hanging on and starting to fade- as I watch my speed fall from 27, to 25, to 21 and finally down around 19-20 mph.

It’s no use- I’m losing the draft but I’ve got to keep pedaling, got to keep going. By the end of lap two I’m done, and about to be lapped by the fast guys (who, by the way race in sanctioned events) So I give them plenty of room and slow it down letting them all pass. I’m not going to be the guy who took out the fast riders, or balked a move for the lead…that’s for damn sure.

I cruised in with a two lap average of 20.8 mph, lungs sucking hard for air, and my leg muscles on fire- no doubt filled with lactic acid. It was humbling to say the least, as I thought maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t get lapped…so much for that notion!

Wednesday August 27.
Ok, so I know that road racing is tough, so maybe I’ll try my hand or in this case legs at a Time Trial or as we two-wheeled blokes like to refer to as TT’s. The Wednesday night TT runs the same course as the road race, but it is only one lap- 7.21 miles of rolling terrain. It’s all out for one lap, right then, as quick as you like sunshine…Super.

I planned and prepared since Monday for this run, stretching properly, eating properly, hydrating, and so on, and I felt good on Tuesday with a short easy spin. Wednesday arrives and I feel a bit tired, but I figure it will pass as the day goes on and I get amped up for the TT. I roll out and decide to ride my bike to the start which is only 3 miles away from my door. So far so good.

I get to the start line of the course and sort out all my stuff, I take off my backpack, and set off to do about 45 minutes of warm-up riding. I get no more than 2 miles into my warm-up and BAM! My right quad cramps though not viciously, but enough to make the eyeballs a bit wide and my breath a bit shorter. My first reaction is anger, yup, I’m fucking pissed off, and cursing into the wind.

I cannot believe what is happening, I am utterly dismayed and disqusted at the same time. I turn around and head back to retrieve my stuff, and head home. I pedal easy spinning a low gear so as not to lock up the confounded muscle. I get off the bike and have a sit down, and good talking to myself as well!

I’m all like, wtf? what is going on here? Not that I was really expecting any answers, but I was frustrated and needed to vent. I stretched ever so gently, walked around a bit, drank a lot of water and powerbar mix drink, and tried to massage the knot out. I mean I didn’t want to throw the towel in, I wanted to run that damn TT – as it would be the last of the season.

I talked with a few guys and their words of encouragement gave me enough incentive to stay and give it a whirl. Eddie, the guy who runs the TT calls out our starting positions- based on previous times, but since I didn’t have one, I had to make a guess. I told him probably in the 22-23 minute range.

Slowly, my quad is feeling slightly better, as it has loosened up a bit. I feel better, mentally too. I pop an aspirin and a potassium pill, down some more water and get ready to roll off third in line. The only down side is that my warm-up was fairly slow and short, about 8 miles and not nearly at the pace it should have been.

I rotate leg and foot over and over, putting human force into my machine gradually building my speed. I try to quickly settle into a rhythm of around 21-22 mph, and get ready for the first set of rollers, where I know I will scrub off a bit of momentum. I’m down to 17-18 mph through the section of rolling terrain, but it soon levels out again and I’m back on the gas.

A hard right hander with scattered gravel in the road means hauling it down fairly well to negotiate the tricky turn, I keep my eyes up and keep off the brakes- and I’m through ok. On to the chipped stone road – which sucks balls btw, because it leads to the only short, but very steep hill.

I managed to pass both riders who went off ahead of me, and now I’m telling myself maybe only one or two of the real fast guys will come steaming by. Maybe it will be the guy on his P3 Cervelo- decked out in skin suit and aero helmet, or the gent on his beautiful Orbea TT bike, at least I could marvel at that their power and machinery as they go blowing past me eh? Well I just kept pushing, and hoping to make it to the end with no incidents, and as I approached mile 6, I could not believe that no one has yet to come past. Could it be that I won’t be lapped?

I didn’t want to get too confident just yet, so I put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could for the finish. The last 1/2 mile is a false flat and really burns the legs, so I held back a hair to have some reserve in the last few yards or so.

As the finish line came into view, I glanced under my arm to see if I was going to be passed in the waning seconds…and to my surprise there was no one there! I spun up the rpm’s then shifted to a higher gear, as high as my legs could bare, then I threw every last bit of energy and force I had left into those cranks and pedals- breathing extremely heavy as my legs burned- so much more than I have ever experienced this year.

25 yards to go…10 yards to go…now 5…whooshing across line I flew- it’s over man, it’s done. I began to slow my effort, shifting into an easier cog, but I’m breathing so heavy I can barely get the breaths in and out. That was suffering! That was Hard, but fun.

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