This was a bad week for me going fast. Tuesday night was the weekly Coburg time trial. Last week was my first race on my time trial bike, and despite having a few issues with the fit, I still managed to PR on the course by over 2 minutes. This week, I dropped my saddle, put on a longer stem, and was feeling ready to take another 30 seconds off my time. I bike out to the course, did my warm up and made it to the start line.
3... 2... 1...
The man holding me up let go, and I started pedaling. I pushed down with my left leg, and the left crankarm turned, and nothing else did... that's not good. I trickled over to the side of the road.
|If you look closely, you can see the angles of the crankarms.|
"You can put me down for a DNF."
-"DNF or DNS?"
"No... I started. I just didn't make it very far."
At that point, all I had left to do was sit around and wait for other people could finish so I could ask for a ride back into town.
So, my quest to improve my time would have to wait for another week. In the mean time, Friday, I thought I'd test out my running legs for the first time since the marathon. I figured I'd start off easy with a nice, easy, three mile run. This should have been something that was easy for me, but starting off running felt like I was jumping straight in to mile 20 all over again. My legs felt heavy, slow, and fat... which they are. But my knees also hurt a lot. I managed to make it through the three miles, but my knees have been hurting since then. So naturally, the only thing to do is do a bike race!
The Main Event:
This Sunday was Banana Belt #3, race number 3 of 3 the Banana Belt series, and I'm not sure where the name comes from. The course is an 11 mile loop around Henry Hagg Lake, that features bumpy pavement and approximately 750 feet of climbing per lap. It's actually a decent course for me, because even though it's rarely flat, the climbs don't ever last more than about two minutes, and so I am able remain at least partially anaerobic through them, which is where I'm a viking.
As of Saturday afternoon, I didn't even know I was doing this race, but I got a text from a friend who was driving up and looking for someone to split gas with--the perfect crime. This was to be my first mass start race of 2013, and my first road race since upgrading to a cat 3. The course was 6 laps for a grand total of 66 miles, which also happened to be about 10 miles longer than any race I had done to date. But with all that being said, I knew my fitness was good, so there was no reason I shouldn't be able to handle this.
So, I woke up at 5am, got picked up at 6am, and arrived at the course some time shortly after 8. Blammo. After several trips to the restroom, and a quick warmup, the start of my race was delayed for 15 minutes affording me several more trips to the restroom, and a second quick warmup. I was ready to go.
About 3 miles into the race, a teammate of mine got a flat tire. Now, I should mention a little something about teammates. I race for Team Oregon, which is an amateur bicycle racing team out of Portland that will pretty much take anyone who wants to be a member--they are not at all selective (which is, of course, how I ended up on them), but they do sport a number of very strong riders. As I live two hours away from Portland, I rarely come into contact with most of the team. In fact, probably half the team I've never even met or spoken two. But there are a few friendly faces in the crowd that I see once a year or so, usually at a race, and these fine men have always been exceptionally friendly to me. And so it just happened that the teammate who flatted happened to be one of the few I knew, and despite the fact that there was really nothing binding us besides the fact that we both happened to buy matching spandex, I decided to stop and help him.
He quickly got a wheel change from the support car, and then the two of us were left to chase our way back to the field that was so inconsiderate to not stop and wait. Yup--that's right, in my first cat 3 race--a race longer and harder than I have ever done before, I voluntarily made it harder on myself with less than 5% of it complete. There was a slight chance the two of us would never catch back on, and a much greater chance that come mile 60, I would really be regretting this extra effort, but I wasn't about to let some guy's bike race be completely ruined. The least I could do was try to help--after all, I owed it to this friendly man I see once a year.
We chased the field, and actually began gaining on them relatively quicker. There was one of the tougher hills on the course about a mile ahead, and that slowed down our progress, but we kept chipping away. As we got closer to the field, a third teammate dropped back to help us catch up. A few minutes later and everything was all together again. Huzzah. There was a chance I'd get dropped later because of the effort, but at least my effort wasn't completely in vain.
So, for the next 50-something miles, I just sat in with the group, not doing much of anything. That was okay, because as long as I was sitting in with the group, it meant I was still with the group. With just a couple of miles until the finish, I saw a very strong rider from Eugene attack on one of the climbs. I didn't know if this attack was going to work, but I knew the rider was strong enough that success was at least plausible. I dug deep and attacked as hard as I could to try to catch him. Alas, he was a lot stronger than me, and it didn't take long before found myself sitting at the front of the peloton rather than the back of the breakaway. That was a less-than-ideal outcome, and so I sat up. This move wasn't going to help me get to the finish, and I just expended what ever energy I could have used in the final uphill sprint. The field continued charging hard, and I jumped back onto the back where I hung until the final climb when I passed a variety of riders who weren't particularly concerned with contesting a sprint they couldn't possibly win.
I'm not sure what my final placement was, but it doesn't matter. I finished with the group and wasn't in the top 3, but it was my first cat 3 road race, and I didn't embarrass myself. Good enough.