Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Racing - Circuit de Francis J Clarke, 2010

(Warning: Extremely Long Post. Extremely.)

Pre-Race


Where do I start?

Maybe at work on Friday, on April 16th, when I heard "Boys of Summer" on the radio, a song that makes me feel wistful, a longing for something unknown. It's a song that makes me think of those hot days in August and driving to yet another race back in my halcyon days, the 55+ race-day years. It makes me long for that post-race mental haze, the bright windshield making me squint, the endless stretches of highway between races.

It reminds me of the deep rooted fatigue present by then, the feeling of sinking low into the driver's seat as my body melds into the seat, trying to recover from a yet another hard summer day of racing. At the same time, though, whenever I was on my bike, my legs always responded, countless times after I'd given up on them, with a force that surprised me time and again.

Yet on Friday it was only mid-April, a day after Tax Day.

Even so, I felt bathed in that summer fatigue, heard the song, and it transported me back to those racing days. My living room shelf back at home didn't help with that feeling. I'd already collected a stack of race numbers this year, the backs filled with handwritten notes of conditions, clothing used, placings, and race "events" (like if I attacked) on the back. The shelf looked like a May shelf, maybe a June shelf, not an April one.

I found myself pacing around at work, telling my boss that I felt nervous. I've claimed not to feel nervous before races, but more and more often, I find myself getting jittery as an important race approaches. I realized that maybe at the start I don't feel nervous, but in the days prior...

I was pacing because the last Bethel Spring Series race was coming up. I had 18 points to my friendly rival IRSMedic Bryan's 19, and there were 10 points up for grabs for the win. With the next rider at 8 points, the chances of us losing our podium spots were next to nil. Evan Thomas, the Bethel Cycle racer in second, had upgraded, and although he had 19 points, he'd be unable to score points in the last race.

It'd come down to a two man race.

Well, kind of. Because, as you know, cycling is all about teamwork. And we both had strong teams. We each counted on about eight teammates, an impressive number.

So it was an 18 man race.

In 2010-2011 I race for Expo Wheelmen. They're a new team, focused on teamwork, friendship, and community. They showed up, en masse, to help with Sweep Day; another week they trucked down in this huge land yacht, hung out all day (even the Cat 2 - from before 8 AM till after 3 PM), and raced and rode and hung out as a team.

Sunday they showed up again, en masse, sacrificing their own goals for mine.

Our disadvantage is that the team is relatively inexperienced compared to IRSMedic. They're learning in leaps and bounds but that's no substitute for the decades (century?) of experience IRSMedic brings to the table. This means that in tight situations the Expo Boys have a hard time reacting - it's simply a matter of experience. It's hard to learn in, say, a month or twelve, how to fight against battle-hardened veterans with literally decades of racing experience each in the throes of a field sprint.

Lance, for example, was one of the cornerstone teammates of my Cat 3-4 efforts. He was just a 5 when the Series started. He upgraded to 4 and immediately started racing the 3-4 in my support. After races I'd get tons of comments on his tenacious strength, always driving the pace, always willing to take a turn at the front. After the first such race he admitted, a bit sheepishly, that it was a bit of a jump, 5s to 3s. He decided that he'd best serve my needs by using up his immense strength during the race, letting me deal with the more complicated tactical stuff in some other way.

I, of course, lack the strength to drive so hard during the race. My forte is the bunch finish, especially on the course at Bethel. My teammates, like Lance, would try and leverage that.

SOC was another teammate who put in efforts, above and beyond just racing, to help me with my Series aspirations. He, too, is relatively new to the sport, in his second full season as a Cat 3. In the first week's race he spent the last two and a half laps at the front, me glued to his wheel, trying to deliver me to the line. He finally exploded with about half a lap to go, but I was able to translate his efforts into a field sprint win for fourth place. When he had to ride harder than expected in later weeks, he realized that using up his legs before the finish may not be a bad thing for me.

It wasn't just his racing he sacrificed. He got sick, his house took in water in that set of massive rainstorms, his work took unexpected turns, yet he showed up week after week, cajoling his legs into making one more effort, one more pull, to close just one more gap.

All for me, for my overall for Bethel.

Our plan became clear to every racer involved, not that it could have been any other way. The Expo Boys would smash and grind at the front, relentlessly pulling and chasing, setting it up for a field sprint.

Then, with a lap or three to go, when they had used up everything they had, I was to step in and surf the front until the sprint.

This would use the team's strength, its massive raw physical power, without exposing its weakness, the team's growing but still-developing tactical savvy. Most importantly this approach would shelter me from working too much, letting me save all my matches for the finish.

The reality is that this worked some of the time.

But sometimes I found myself coming up short, even after all the team's efforts. My legs fell away at the worst times. In the Criterium de Bethel I made a huge effort just before a prime lap, suffering the consequences when the counter attack for the prime stayed away for the rest of the race.

So, coming into the race, I found myself pacing around at work on Friday, admitting I was nervous, and getting a bit anxious about race day.

Saturday


Set up on Saturday was a bit more relaxed than normal. I got there earlier, had yet another week of experience figuring out what I needed, and made some final touches to registration - I gave all the overall leaders the first number of the race. They'd all start with number x01.

Frank, of Navone Studios, showed me the decal-modded Leader's Helmets, nicely done with the year and the category. As soon as he was done with them he and his boys were about to go training behind the moto. He offered to take me out too but I respectfully declined. I'd already done a short ride, and I felt so good I forced myself to get off the bike. I didn't want to leave the race legs there on the trainer or behind the moto.

With that Frank and his boys kitted up and went out onto the course. I'd hear the moto zipping by every couple minutes as I got absorbed into the work ahead - registration set up, make a few changes to the spreadsheets, check emails and respond.

Funk

Lots of emails for the last day of the Series. I opened an email from one John Funk. He's a class act, a Masters racer with the enthusiasm of a Junior, the discipline of a Masters, and the speed of... a 28 year old. He's a New England favorite - everyone likes and respects him as much as they fear his legs.

He'd written to tell me that his mom had just died.

Understandably, he wasn't sure if he was going to race, and even if he did, he wasn't sure if he'd do two races.

I thought about the intense emotions I felt when my mom had died back in 2003. She had been suffering at the end and it was a relief to see her finally at peace. But that did nothing to relieve the emotions I felt. I'd find myself in tears at random times during the day, just a phrase or a bit of music or a particular glance triggering some memory.

About a month before her passing I'd promised her that I'd win the Cat 3 CT Criterium gold medal as well as the Bethel Spring Series. After a short time off I set about achieving those goals, driven at a level I've never felt before.

I thought of John and how hard it must have been at that moment, to be drowning in such strong emotions it would be impossible to hide even a percentage of it.

I emailed him to let him know that whatever he did would be fine. I did say that I felt that his mom would be proud if he came and raced.

Because, you know, that's the way moms are.

I heard the moto go buzzing by, lap after lap, Frank and the Navone boys drilling it. I could feel their efforts, pushing to get through that spot on the hill. And I thought about racing over that same spot.

I thought of how much emotion I carried with me on that last day of the 2005 Series, trying to win it, trying to fulfill a promise I made my mom at the end.

The tears came easily in that quiet, open space, sitting at the registration table. I remembered what it was like to hit the top of the hill at the bell in 2005, wondering if I was too far to the front, driving hard just one more time, pushing the legs to make just one more effort.

I marveled at my motivation later, and my brother put it in a good way.

"I think there was more than just one person riding the bike that day."

I finished before the moto came back in, so on the way out I said bye to the moto pilot, and left for home.

Race Day

Race day dawned normally, up at 5, at the venue at 6, no big emergencies. I'd spent a bit of time doing race promotion stuff during the day, but with one extra person around, I had some time.

So I re-wrapped my bars.

I mean, wouldn't you? Given everything that you could do on race day, what could be more relaxing? The rote-to-me motions are predictable and fluent, honed by hundreds of bar wrapping jobs in the shop. Five or ten minutes later I had nicely wrapped bars, using Bontrager "cork" tape, a play on the familiar Cinelli cork. Soft, pliable, lengthy (I ended up with about a foot-plus of extra on each side), with nice bar plugs... it capped off the Tsunami nicely.

I also spent some time pinning my numbers, pumping up tires, and trying to eat enough to avoid bonking. I can't eat much at one time anymore so I have to eat often. Frank helped, trying to serve me more food, but stuffed, I couldn't eat any more. I switched to a sugary food (muffin) about two hours before the race, away from the slower burning, longer lasting egg dish I had earlier.

Family

At some point my dad showed up, my brother, his wife, their three sons. My other brother, from Maine, showed up too, with his wife and their daughter. The Missus made it too, with her mom and step-dad. For my Maine Brother it was the first time he'd seen me race since I was 15 (and he was 8 or 9). For his wife, the Missus's mom and stepdad, it'd be the first time they'd seen me race.

I hoped that they'd see a good one.

John Funk

Funk made it too. I didn't want to bug him, to say too much, because I knew that it'd take just a little chip in the dam and the emotions would flow. He raced hard, driven, and in a spectacular finish, he won the overall by winning the field sprint. He's known as a climber, not a sprinter, but he managed to upstage some very fast finishers to take the sprint.

I had had faith that he'd win, but to win by just one point, that was tight. The racer in second could have won the overall had he won the race. He and the second placed guy talked a bit about how maybe they could have worked together a bit better so the second placed guy could have won the overall.

I told them about Funk's loss. They both looked down, thought about it, and both said at the same time, something like, "I think the way it worked out is just fine."

Second place probably never felt so good.

Race Prep

With the temperature bouncing up and down a 10 degree range, I initially overdressed, but then, shedding one long sleeve layer and adding one short sleeve and a wind vest, ended up "just right".

I managed to find a few minutes to talk to teammates about strategy. Really it came down to keeping the field together. I expected IRSMedic, with a powerhouse team, to try and get a break down the road. If seven went away, IRSMedic would do everything to help the break, let them take all the points up for grabs, and clinch the overall for Bryan.

Expo would naturally have to prevent that from happening.

For the final lap or two I had a pipe dream of having a leadout, but based on prior week end-of-race experiences, I figured I'd have to work off of the IRSMedic leadout. But with even a field sprint a question, I didn't want to bank on any plans for the finale so this non-plan was fine with me. It's better in these cases to aim low. Being disappointed with 2 to go because my seven man leadout train didn't materialize isn't a good way to enter a race finale.

Race

The officials did a call up, something that I forget they do every year (now that I'm typing it, I'll remember it). They called up the overall contenders, myself included. They called up the sponsoring teams, Expo included. Someone mumbled something about Expo crushing with numbers, but it was all good. Most everyone understood there were two races today - one for the overall, one for the race.

For the race itself we as promoters had once again delved into the "more-than-100-racers" numbers, skimming some numbers off the top of an unused packet of race numbers. This meant a huge field, and my normal promoter-instinct is there ought to be 10 primes. That's a bit much for a 30 lap race, so I decided on 5 two-place primes, and I relayed that to the official. I forgot about the merchandise I'd given the officials so he called out that we'd have 7 primes.

A collective groan (or was it a good "Ooohhh"?) went up from the field.

We started off and immediately a couple riders attacked, an Expo rider Paul tagging along. I happened to be near the front so I responded too, as well as a potent sprinter type. I didn't think I went that hard - after all, I promised the Boys not to blow myself up doing stupid stuff. But the numbers don't lie - my fastest bit of the race and my peak power happened inside the first 60 seconds of the race.

Bad Aki.

A lap or so later we were back in the fold. Cliff, Lance, and Paul were there, looking after me, and then Cliff and Paul were off for a prime. My extremely conservative actions in the short-lived break ("suck wheel") meant I had a little gas in the tank; I wasn't running quite on empty.

This opening salvo start set the tone for the first third of the race, with attack after attack after attack. A huge threat was the guy that soloed to a win in the Cat 4s; he'd done the same the prior week in the 5s, and he regularly did pro-level marathon mountain bike races. He definitely knew how to motor.

He got clear with a few allies and for a while it looked very dangerous. If the break started to go and Bryan bridged... that would have been it.

But then, a couple laps into this danger section of the race, I glanced up as we hit the hill.

Three Expo guys, at or near the front, drilling it.

Wow.

I tucked back into the shelter of the field. The Boys were working it, working it hard. I'd be safe.

Then, maybe halfway in, I started seeing a few of the Expo boys drifting around me. Paul came up to me, a big grin on his face.

"How you feeling, dude?"

I shook my head no.

He looked at me and grinned.

"I'll be going up and down the field, but I'll be around."

I thought of the second chopper in Blackhawk Down, where two Navy SEALs get inserted onto the ground to protect a wounded pilot. One of the two snipers preps a gun for the immobile pilot, places it in his hands.

"You're locked and loaded. Gordie and I will be out front." (Or something like that)

The sniper runs back out front, one of two guys defending their small perimeter. In that scene the implication is clear: "Let us take care of you. Just watch our backs."

Their scenario ended grimly, but in my much more peaceful situation, I had numbers and strength helping me. Paul's comment, his confident grin, eased my mind. He and the Boys would be out front, I'd be sheltered in the field, watching the back. They'd handle the chaotic front - I just had to survive in the more placid field.

Stephen Gray of IRSMedic, a brilliant racer and an overall winner of the Series in his own right, started moving up aggressively within the field. I saw Lance, on a "drift back", and hollered to mark him, but Lance didn't respond. I took it upon myself to try and get up there, but Gray's immense strength allowed him to move up and then start launching attack after attack. He was one of the few IRSMedic riders that could drive a break to the finish, and I needed him controlled right now.

When I saw Stephen launch a vicious attack, I had to move too.

Cliff, on his distinctive green bike, was up there, but I was afraid the break would go. Stephen in there, another IRSMedic, Cliff... if a few more guys bridged, Bryan would have to join us, and if Bryan was up here, the break would stay away.

I needed a single point to move to second. I had to beat Bryan to win the Series. It would be mano a mano at the finish.

I launched a huge effort up the hill, went flying by the disintegrating front, and latched onto a guy in black. He managed to bridge but I was absolutely cooked. I couldn't do anything but hold onto the wheel in front.

Stephen realized who it was that had bridged, so did the other IRSMedic guy. As a guy in yellow pulled, Stephen launched a huge move up the hill.

I couldn't respond.

Cliff rolled up next to me, and, in a clear and deliberate tone, like a soldier, asked me a question about Stephen.

"Do. You. Need. Him. Back."

I thought about the words for a second.

"Yes," I managed.

Cliff rocketed up the road.

A guy in yellow sat in front of me, hammering. It wasn't Bryan but this guy was working so I sat on the wheel. Cliff and Stephen were off the front. I had to salvage what I could, and if not, I had to return to the protective fold of the field.

I couldn't pull, but I figured that if I could hang in the break, and a couple more guys made it up, even if I didn't sprint I could get seventh.

And seventh, with its vital point, would give me at least second in the Series.

It took me a while to figure out that the guy in yellow was my former teammate Mike A. He was literally the only teammate I trained with when I was on that team. Good guys, the team, but when I got in one ride with a teammate in two years... well, geography sometimes wreak havoc with riding schedules, plans, and teams.

Anyway, Mike was out there breaking his legs to see if he couldn't force a decision in the race.

Ultimately his two laps, flat out, couldn't turn the tide. I turned around and realized the whole field was on our wheels. I even had the disgrace of having a racer yell at me for not pulling. Not that I could, but that's besides the point - if I couldn't pull, I shouldn't have been there. I eased and sank back into anonymity.

Of course the Boys came through. Before I could panic the field roared up to the short lived break, Expo boys pulling and cajoling through example.

IRSMedic threw down the gauntlet. I happened to be near Bryan, having clawed my way up to his wheel when the pace mysteriously picked up. I could hear him barking commands, sending one rider after another off the front, attack after attack. I thought of Zeus throwing lightning bolt after lightning bolt, each one wreaking havoc on the field.

The Boys started to whither under the barrage, with rider after rider drifting back. You could see the wounded look in their posture. The battle had turned and their earlier efforts were starting to hamper them.

Bryan started barking out more names, and yet more IRSMedic racers flung themselves off the front.

I couldn't imagine a real battle, where soldiers made life and death decisions instantly, constantly, under extreme duress. I was falling apart in a simple bike race.

My mind started to haze over. I lost track of laps, forgot to even think about tracking laps. I found myself unable to hold quite a straight line, veering here and there when wind caught me a bit. I had to think about each section of the course.

"Okay, get around that first turn. Gap. Go through, hit the manhole cover to go through it. Sit on a wheel."

"Turn Two. Watch the wind from the right."

"Backstretch. Fill any holes. Watch right curb. Don't go over yellow line."

"Approaching hill. Watch the wind from the right. Stay left, but not too far left."

"Hill. Stay left. Don't crunch the inside. Shift if necessary. Stand if legs feel flat."

I plodded along in my own little pain cave, oblivious to the race around me.

Suddenly Cliff, on his new green Trek, rolled up next to me.

"Four to go!"

I could hear an alarm going off deep inside my psyche, but I couldn't fathom what was so "alarming".

4 to go. 4 to go. 4 to go. This seemed important. I turned and looked at the cards as we rode by.

04

"Four to go? Oh.. (expletive)!"

I started moving up on the inside, Cliff paralleling my moves on the left part of the field. I clawed my way up a bit, then, as holes started opening, started a miraculous flow through the middle of the field. It seemed almost magical, the way the fluid field parted ways.

Suddenly I was close to the front, Bryan in sight, the front of the field right there.

The Boys were driving hard, just like I asked them to, before the race.

"Keep it strung out - if it's strung out I can move around. If it's not I can't. Okay?"

I remember intent, nodding faces looking back at me.

And now, when it counted, the race strung out.

A lot.

Too much.

The elastic snapped, and about five riders separated themselves from the field. Lance was up there, driving, but two IRSMedic guys had jammed their way up there.

It started looking a bit dangerous.

2 to go. I climbed the hill next to Bryan, close, neither of us acknowledging one another, both of us painfully aware of the fact. I was under incredible strain, and I couldn't let him know that.

Not much changed on that lap, but I found myself a bit jammed on the inside on the backstretch. I found two Pawling Cycle guys just as the hill started and followed them up the side.

And as we came up to the bell, I put in a little dig to move myself around the head of the comet, to move myself into the front 10 of the field. I didn't see any Expo Boys in front of me so I steeled myself for a frantic lap of field surfing.

Then, lo and behold, Cliff came roaring up the inside. He yelled to me and I moved onto his wheel. The two Pawling guys happened to start going just then, and Cliff got on their wheel. He looked like he wanted to go, edging out to the left just a bit. I knew it was too early so I hollered.

"Not yet!"

He looked back and his whole body readied for a pounce. No! It would be too early. A sprinter fears nothing more than to be dumped in the wind 100 meters before he's ready.

I screamed as loud as I could.

"WAIT! WAAAAIT!!!!"

Cliff's body uncoiled immediately and he looked around and down. I yelled one more time to make it clear.

"WAIT!"

I watched him turn this insane gear, on the Pawling guys' wheels. We were sitting third and fourth in the field. I knew there were at least four guys ahead (there were actually six), but I thought that we'd catch at least a couple of them.

I should be able to score the point I needed, and maybe beat Bryan.

I kept going, Cliff obviously thinking we were going too slow. When you're leading out but not yet unleashed, it always seems too slow. Time itself seems slow, like the whole world is dunked in molasses. You feel like the whole field is about to swarm you and you just want to go and hammer and slaughter the field.

But if you're the marked sprinter, time waits. Time doesn't just slow, it pauses. Nothing moves until you hit the button, and then everything jumps into motion. That's because the whole field waits for the sprinter. It's to their advantage to put the sprinter in the wind as long as possible, and if the leadout guy goes early and blows up, the sprinter gets dumped into the wind.

So I held Cliff back.

Then I started getting nervous. I kept looking down to see if any wheels were rolling up next to me, but I didn't see any.

I turned my head left and saw the field forming this huge barn door, hinged about a rider behind me, swinging wide. I could see where it would shut.

Right on top of us.

"GO!" I screamed.

Cliff went.

Out of the saddle, a quick shift into his biggest gear, and he started churning the gears, ramping it up. We were going, going, going.

We flew past the real estate sign on the right. When SOC and I were practicing leadouts, we decided that he should launch there. But Cliff had been pulling long before that, and he was sitting only third wheel, an exposed position, for a while before that.

I needed Cliff to get me to the bottom of the hill. I simply could not go into the wind before that. I realized I was asking so much of him.

"AAAAhhhhhh!"

He let out a primal scream, agonizing. If I heard it at night, I'd dial 911. But right then, at that moment, even 911 wouldn't help me. It was a hundred meters early and he was in trouble. I needed more from him, and I watched and waited as he kept up his pace. Then his legs did some wobbly stuff, he looked around, down, and I knew it was over.

"Go, go, GO!" I screamed.

I needed another 20 meters, and he had to deliver.

He found two or three more pedal strokes, and I looked up to see Lance and another guy detached back from the break, exploded, almost standing still. The rest of the break were already halfway up the hill and doing the death crawl to the line.

I launched.

Hard.

It took me a downstroke to get going, but when I got going, I was moving. My front wheel came up off the ground on every pedal stroke for a three, four pedal strokes. Each time my front wheel jammed back into the road like a slalom skier's skis, at an angle, pointing the bike towards the finish.

Bam, bam, bam, my front tire kept bouncing back into the ground, let me stay my course.

The pedals seemed to give as soon as I gave them pressure. Instead of a slogging 70 rpm sprint, I couldn't keep my cadence under a hundred.

I flew past Lance and the other, and I honed in on the three in front.

As I approached them, with one more from the break just in front of them, I glanced right.

Bryan.

He must have been on my wheel. He was sprinting full on, perfect form, intense posture. He looked like Renshaw launching on the Champs, taller than a Cav but fast as all heck.

He had to go to the three riders' right.

I went left.

The break riders had made a superlative effort to stay away in the hottest laps of the race, and their effort showed in their ragged pedaling. I shot by on the inside, threw my bike hard at the line, slamming my helmet on the stem, and then looked right.

Bryan wasn't there.

I looked up. He wasn't there either, just his teammate who'd won the race.

I finally dared to look back just a bit.

I realized that I'd just won the Series.

A disbelieving cool down lap with all sorts of friend and teammates. Once back at the line I stopped to see my family. My dad was there, who, I should point out, was watching when I won in 2005. The Missus, a huge grin on her face. My brother, his wife - who was also around in 2005, my nephews, two of which hadn't been born in 2005.

I remember hearing Abdul, a long time friend and training partner, one that I traveled with to Michigan, Florida, and everywhere in-between it seems. He called out too.

Someone called me over across the street - they were taking pictures of the team. Mike K, my good friend, rolled by. I wanted to say something but there were three people talking to me at once. Later he told me he couldn't find me but that it was a great race to watch.

Lifted from SOC's blog.
L-R Lance, Paul, Drew, Dennis, SOC/Chris, me, A Friend, Steve, Cliff, and Mike.

I thought maybe this year I'd finally finish a P123 race, but I felt queasy standing there. I hadn't taken my Claritin, hadn't had much Gatorade, barely drank any fluids during the race. Suddenly the registration table, indoors, with a chair, seemed oh so appealing. I decided not to do the second race - my goal of finishing a P123 race would have to wait until another year.

I rolled back towards Navone Studios. Bryan was sitting by the finishline camera set up, looking a bit forlorn. He cracked an ironic grin when he saw me so I walked over. We got talking, as we seem to do when we meet up.

I, of course, hold him in the highest regard. If it wasn't me, I'd have been happy to have had him win. Maybe our respective teams were rooting all out for their respective leaders, but for me, if he'd been the one distancing me at the line, I'd have thought, "There goes a deserving champ."

He wanted to make sure that we hadn't lost anything in translation from prior conversations, and of course we hadn't. Yes, he was disappointed in not having the jersey, maybe for his son Miles who had made the trip to watch dad race. But he made it clear that he enjoyed the battle, that he was happy that if it wasn't him, it was me.

We also talked about Evan, the guy that had been beating us both, soundly, before he upgraded to Cat 2. It'd have been a totally different battle if he'd been there - we both felt Evan was far stronger than we were. But when the race kind of dropped into our laps, we could fight a slightly more even battle.

We did the podiums and such for all the races I skipped. John Funk got his podium, two happy racers flanking him. He then set off to join his dad and the rest of his family, having fulfilled his goal of winning the Series.

Stephen Gray admitted that he rarely wears his prior Leader's Jerseys. They're a bit bright, to be honest, and a bit obnoxious. That was the whole point, but now that I had one, I realized what he was saying. Maybe in Vegas, where no one knows me, I can ride around in it. But for now I felt reluctant to wear it except when I was on the podium.

Oh, which gives me the excuse...

Bryan, me, and an Evans stand in (the Junior overall Winner Brian Suto - I figured he would enjoy another podium presentation). All happy folks. Navone Studios supplied the pictures and painted our unpainted podiums. The paint on the front was still wet as David found out.
(Pic lifted again from SOC.)

We all cleaned up, the folks that helped make this Series such a memorable one. Frank, with his studio and photography and coffee and food. Dave, Melissa, Jonathan, and Arianna. Erin and Delaney. Our officials Mike and Meg. Herman, who stood in for Jonathan when the latter was partaking in his own tournament.

Finally, my car packed to the gills, I got under way to my dad's place.

So there it was. Another Series done. I was leaving on my own. I felt like I was driving away from summer camp, when you leave behind a magical world, one that's not quite reality. I left behind with memories and experiences with a bunch of friends with whom I shared joy and sorrow and triumph and disappointment. I met some of them literally before they were born; others I've known for 20 years or more. Still others I met for the first time just a few months ago.

There's always good and bad things, even in the magical Series world, but in the end this was a good one. With only a bit of paperwork to do, a few emails to shoot out, the Series is done for the year.

Next year.

Next year, we'll do it all over again.

I'll see you all then.

8 comments:

hobgoblin said...

Aki, you've written some good stuff before--really tight, amazing stories about races and racers, filled with perceptive description and humor--but this one leaves them all behind. This goes far beyond a race report and becomes something special.

Jones said...

Awesome read. I started following you blog 2 months ago. Congrats on the series win.

Brian said...

Hey Aki, congrats on the great rides, it's got to feel awesome. Enjoy your summer, I hope to make the races once more next year...

Michele said...

Congratulations! I was on the edge of my seat.

Yaniel said...

Congrats on the series win Aki, must feel great.

I instapaper'd this posting and read it in chunks through out my day on the phone. It's just best entry yet. I love how reading your race stories is even more exciting than racing my own races, it really does seem like going into battle. I guess when the only thing I'm thinking about is turning the pedals and not going OTB, I don't have time to actually use strategy!

Anonymous said...

Aki,

Thanks for putting on a great race. I only got to race once this year, but it was as well-organized as ever.

Brad

Sean said...

hey aki! how the hell do you remember all those details?!! great write up + ride! congrats on it all!
S

Aki said...

Thanks everyone.

Hob, your comment meant a lot to me, coming from someone who knows writing, so thanks. The above post was pretty hard to write, and a lot of it I wrote stream-of-conscious at some point after the race, typing furiously.

I've kind of "recovered" from that post and will be posting again, plus I'm working on (finishing) two helmet cam clips (4/11, 4/18 races), if not more (rides etc). Right now I've had a few failed uploads so working on it.

Sean - I do remember a lot of stuff, even, for example, races from a long time ago. I do cheat on race details when I have helmet cam footage to review. In this case I did, but I didn't listen very carefully to the words, so the text is a bit off. However, the non-race stuff, the powerful stuff, that was burned into my brain.