March 2nd was an utter and total collapse of all of my expectations for the coming year. Let's recap my preparation for the race.
First, I swore I'd train more in late 2007. Because of this, I felt comfortable committing to purchase all sort of equipment that will help me race, train, and track my riding.
Since I had Reynolds DV46 tubulars, I decided to buy matching clinchers for training. Same handling characteristics (especially the brakes), same feel, great back up race wheels, etc.
More training meant less reliance on long cranks to get me over the hills. So the 175s went out to be replaced with the 170s SRMs - lighter, stiffer, and they record power data (and the associated computer tracks heart rate, speed, cadence, etc.)
I bought an enormous gym thing so I could lift more regularly.
I bought a new bike (actually, the way it turned out, I bought an SI SRM and got the bike for free), a Cannondale SystemSix, to replace my mushy Giant. In the process I cut two pounds off of my bike's weight.
I lost my job in December and start training somewhat fanatically.
I did a two week training camp in California and rode much more strongly than I ever did before, even after a 4 day battle with a terrible stomach bug, one that seemed to affect the Tour of California pros.
I'm within a few weeks of matching my entire 2007 year's worth of riding - and it's the first week of March. And that's not counting the riding I did in December as part of my 2008 year.
I brought food and coffee to the race so I could eat during the morning. I had hot food, nuked in a microwave, and eat plenty of it.
Then I raced.
The start was a little frantic as I'd miscalculated how long it would take to get the helmet cam working. As it was, I forgot a homemade piece which protects buttons from being pushed (like the stop one). I taped things gently and hoped it would all work out.
I started having heart palpitations about 5 or 7 laps into the race. I don't remember exactly when it was but those around me would remember - it's when I went shooting through the field backwards like my wheels just rolled into wet concrete. This went on for much of the race. Although disconcerting, it's a familiar feeling, one checked out by doctors (I carry a copy of my EKG on his recommendation), but whatever the "non-effects", they make it hard for me to race hard when they pop up. I haven't had them pop up in a while but they happened to make an appearance Sunday.
Fortunately they subsided with about 7 laps to go, and after catching my breath, I started spending a lot of bike racing money to move up.
In California I'd ridden a bit with Julie and we talked about things like metering out efforts. I likened the immediate efforts (anaerobic and thereabouts) like spending money. The bigger the effort, the more money you're spending. You can only spend $400 at a time because that's what the cash machine limits you when you make withdrawals.
You can return to the well though and keep making withdrawals. At some point your fitness (your bank account) runs empty and BAM, that's it. End of the line. No more cash machine, nothing.
You have no bike racing money left.
I heard Julie mumbling about "$400, $400, $400" when describing one of the hills on our big ride. Obviously she was digging deep into her reserves.
I'd spent quite of bit of cash moving up, following a guy who'd eventually rock both the 3-4 and P-1-2-3 races, a familiar face in the field who I'll call... Bryan.
He had looked over at me on one of my cash poor laps, dangling at or off the back, and said jokingly, "Man, you're such a liar."
"You know, California, all that crap. You didn't go there. Training. Right."
And here I was thinking he was accusing me of faking my suffering as I laid out another $400 of racing cash to stay on the back of the field.
Well, when he got around to pedaling up to the front, I promptly got on his wheel. He brought me smartly to the front part of the field. On the way we approached a guy busy wiggling his way down one of the straights, drinking from his bottle. Bryan made it by him fine and I followed his razor straight path. BottleDrinker looked down to put his bottle back in his cage and promptly wiggled right.
"Hey!! Watch your line!!"
That was from him, not me. I did a quick sanity check. Yep, still about 5 inches left of Bryan's rear wheel. His wheel is about 18 inches from the curb. No wiggling here.
I guess it was one of those little early season "Oh, I forgot how to race my bike" moves. Little bumps, wiggles, squiggles, i.e. not straight line stuff. Ironically, as that incident illustrated, it's usually the guys protesting that are causing the problems. I'd actually watched this exact guy wiggle around before and thought about saying something to him. But then I decided that might be construed as Obnoxious. And I try not to be Obnoxious. So I refrained.
Next time I'll say something.
Later, as if to prove this point about the complainers being the wiggly ones, in the P-1-2-3 race a guy spontaneously moved right about 8-10 inches, bumping into the guy to his right. He yelled at the guy to the right to hold his line. It seemed so wrong that I had to make the call and I yelled (from behind the two of them) that the swervy guy seemed to be the one swerving, not the other guy.
The other guy looked back sheepishly and raised a "Thanks" hand.
Anyway, with 2 laps to go in the 3-4 race, I had maybe two big withdrawals left. I was a bit afraid of using them up and metered my efforts, looking for the big opening, the miraculous Moses-like "parting of the peloton". I inevitably find something, and even if I don't, I can blow all my money in the sprint and pass a bunch of people.
That's when one of my teammate came up to me.
"Yo, is it two to go?", he asked as we came up to the start/finish line.
The bell started ringing.
That was about all I could say. He rolled by me and I automatically slotted in right behind. He started pedaling furiously, looking back to see if I was on. I was so he went even faster.
I came off.
$400. Right out the window.
I tucked into the field, probably 20 guys back, and wondered what to do.
The field never slowed down and no openings showed up. We came to the bottom of the hill, up to my favored jump point.
There were riders in front of me.
They started sprinting. Or rather, they stood up. Because sprinting implies going faster but these guys, they slowed down. And I was stuck.
Disgusted with everything about my race, the lack of energy, the heart thing, feeling uninspired, the difficulty, and finally sitting impotently behind these two guys, I sat up near the top of the hill, never having sprinted. One guy in front of me sat up. I yelled at him, uncharacteristically, to keep "effing sprinting" next time. Sorry dude.
The other guy got 13th.
I should have kept pedaling.
I shed the helmet cam, checked the camcorder. It'd stopped after 28 minutes. All that and no tape. Not something I wanted to learn, when my heart was still racing and I had no race result, no sprint, nothing to show for 2 months of intense and solid training.
I mentioned the helmet cam failure to my very fit leadout guy.
"Good. You don't want this race on tape."
We went on to start the P-1-2-3s. We started up and immediately about 5 guys went hammering off the front. The whole field strung out and I thought I was going to make one of my second lap exits. Instead I found myself feeling somewhat comfortable, cruising up the hill, no palpitations. I felt infinitely better with no helmet cam setup, like I could actually breathe. I started making efforts during the lap, closing gaps, moving up on the hill, burning up cash. Maybe this was the way it should have been.
Suddenly my body started protesting. I was running out of funds.
One final effort about a third of the way into the P-1-2-3 race and I closed a 20 foot gap to the field that I'd let open for 100 meters.
My funds ran dry.
I sat up, waited for the field to catch me, did a lap or two at the back, and then called it a day.
My leadout guy finished in the top 20.
Next week I'll rest more before my race. Eat more.
And not carry a helmet cam.