Thursday, July 29, 2010

Running around Racing

The last couple weeks, I've been on the road in my beautiful brown 1984 Volvo GL station wagon crammed full of bikes and racing paraphernalia racing in Portland and Bend. Take a look at this trapper-keeper of a car!

I've got three bikes, six wheels, and a grip of bags stuffed in that thing, and look at all the extra space! The future was 26 years ago.

Now I'm starting to hear about an ingenious and increasingly popular invention called "bike racks." Apparently they make the practice of disassembling and tenderly wrapping your bikes in soft cashmere towels a thing of the past. The first problem is that you have to buy them. The second problem is that the first time I ever attended a road race, I traveled with Sam Johnson in his race-mobile. So my perception of what constitute luxurious accommodations is skewed. Luxury to me isn't having air conditioning. Luxury is having a cooler filled with ice packs so that, when driving in the 90+ degree heat of Central Oregon with the windows rolled up (gas mileage lol!), I can slip one behind my back and experience a sensation similar to eating a York Peppermint Patty.*

So I schlepped 90% of my material possessions with me to Portland, where I was looking to race the pursuit at the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge. I like the pursuit because it reminds me of swimming. When I compare an 80-mile road race to an event like the 200 backstroke, there isn't a lot of overlap. An event like the backstroke takes the amount of preparation, physical exertion, and mental focus of a road race, and compacts it into about 2 minutes. I have done swim meets where the 200 backstroke was all I had to do that day. I know when my heat is, I know how to swim it, and I know how to prep. Despite feeling in control, the times I've swam it fastest, it felt like I was observing the race from within myself. The swim happened, and I was a passenger who saw the technical maneuvers and felt the accumulation of fatigue throughout the event. The fastest race I did left me feeling melancholy, because I felt like I hadn't really participated in it. I had grown used to a feeling of agency in the pool. I could push myself, think consciously about my stroke, and see improvement over time that encouraged a faith in control. But during my best swim, I felt like all my calculation and conscious effort were superseded by a subconscious force that was more effective at enacting a successful swim than I was.

I could meditate on that all day, but suffice it to say that I feel the same sensations in the pursuit that I used to in swimming. For each pursuit, there is the same certain schedule, same distance, same equipment, same conditions. And while I think that after a while, I will be able to ride a pursuit in the same way I used to swim the 200 back, I'm not there yet. I still have to calculate, which makes my performance clunky.

The race! I got paired against the guy who CAUGHT my ass last year at FSA. I said eff that noise! Luckily, I had Tela giving me lap splits, so I dropped 10 seconds off my time and got 3rd in an incredibly deep 8-man field.

After hanging out with John Klein in Portland (which I recommend), I rocketed over to Walla Walla for a few days, where I got to play board games, drink dumb amounts of coffee, and then catch a ride down to Bend with a dude named Kaler. Kaler has air conditioning.

In Bend, I met up with the HB Cat 2s for Cascade. I went and warmed up on Thursday with Ian Crane and Steve Fisher. I'll admit that I took one breath out of my mouth while we were riding, but that's because Ian Crane has ceramic pulleys and Steve Fisher is real little. I had been resting all week, so I wasn't expecting the legs to be too stoked. That, in addition to the fact that we have one of the world's fastest 15-year olds on our team meant that I got to be a worker bee for the weekend, which I took to mean I should spend as much time swinging dick off the front of the race as possible. Biggest lesson I learned this weekend was to try and attack when other people also feel like attacking. On Friday, I attacked into a little corner about 15 miles in, and since no one could match my supreme corner-attacking skills, I got to spend the next 30 minutes banging my head while the pack ate chocolates. And by ate chocolates I mean race like collegiate racers. I came back and then resigned myself to help chase the break for our young climbers. On the last hill I saw this:

The illegal feed zone! Well, I wasn't feeling so good, and the illegal feeders' jolly attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I flipped him the bird, which he took to mean "Water." Just kidding. I think it was my index finger. On Saturday I soft-pedaled the TT, but Steve Fisher STILL couldn't catch me. That's because I am a premium descender and was wearing this new skinsuit that the Russian Cycling Federation 'asked' me to test for them:

It must have worked well because I got 96th place. Then I pegged it for a few laps near the end of the crit. Vroom!

On Sunday, I spent a similar amount of time and energy swinging D off the front of the race, similarly alone. This time, I got a minute on the field and started imagining how many FB friend requests I would get if I won, but it was not to be and I got brought back after a lap of the Awbrey Butte CR. I felt alright about it, because it let the team ghost-ride their bikes and discuss the merits of 3G iPads. I understand that Chris Wingfield was not involved in the conversation.

Now my legs are all warm and I'm getting ready for another pursuit next weekend at the Marymoor nats qualifier.

Hey NW Racing: Why is there a weekend in July with zero racing other than a long TT in Ellensburg?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

omg i'm blogging!

Hello global audience! This is a blog about bike racing. I really only want a blog to keep track of what I'm thinking about so I don't forget about it. Nostalgia is so awesome! That said, I'm more Puget Power than Pineapple, at least I think I am.

Bubblewrap bartape is an homage to my cycling roots. My first bike race was a time trial in 2007. I read about a magic invention called aero bars that make you tons better at riding your bike, so I bought a blown-out old pair from Recycled Cycles, arm pads not included. I fashioned arm pads out of bubblewrap. One useful design feature I came up with was to make the bars release an encouraging pop whenever your position was extra good. Well, by the end of the race, there were no more bubbles, just a thin skin of sweaty plastic, meaning that I had ridden a very efficient time trial. Proof? I was only one step from the third step of the prestigious Cat 4/5 podium of this early-season local race. From then on out, I knew that I was destined for cycling greatness.

Since then, I have won exactly five road bike races. The first one was a road race a year after that fateful time trial. I rode up the one 'hill' faster than the other novices I was with, and had to restrain myself from victory saluting using the double-pistol technique. The next one was the time trial at my adopted home's baby, the Tour of Walla Walla. After that, I spent some time as a sucky 3 racer until bursting out of my moist cat3 womb at Enumclaw in 2009, winning the TT and barfing after it. The barf was mostly water and raspberry hammer gel, and consequently, I have ingested neither of these things since. Later that day, I totally beat Ben Rathkamp in the crit. Then I barfed all over him!! Just kidding. The last one was the incredibly windy collegiate road race in Pullman this year. This one was particularly gratifying, since Bill Wykoff gently placed a gold medallion around my neck for my services.

Now, I am out of school and hoping to develop a sustainable lifestyle of working and bike racing. These are the only details I really have nailed down.