Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ironmen Can't Sprint

I looked at the temperature on my iphone and then looked at the icy fountain outside my house. It was 19 degrees (-7 for those of you in using the Celsius scale). Crap, I hate cold as much as Indiana Jones hates snakes. I despise the cold. I hate numb fingers, toes, frozen bottles, and the bulky feeling of all the clothes you have to wear keep some modicum of warmth in your body. My nervous system feels like it short circuits when the temperatures plummet, everything moves in slow motion. The hot and humid days suit me so much better. So I told myself I need to gut it out. This year it’s about being able to toughen up and push through barriers, so just live with it. On a positive note, at least it was sunny.

This year my plan is to improve my limiters and weaknesses. My bike strength is poor and my power curve is a little flat. Last year in triathlons, I would get a lead on the swim only to relinquish it later on in the bike. I was able to make that ground back on the run, but why not build the ability to take it wire to wire. Epic camp exposed me for what I was: A piss poor cyclist. I needed to change some things up. I want to be a complete triathlete, solid all around in all three sports. I needed to ride with bike specialists.

So, after Epic camp, I joined the one of the local bike racing teams, The Tulsa Wheelmen.
It’s been a while since I did a bike race. I think the last one I did was the VP fair in St. Louis in July of 1985. That’s around the same time that the movie “American Flyers” was made because a team mate of mine did some riding in the St. Louis scenes. Greg Lemond was one of Bernard Hinault’s domestiques, and Lance was probably some punk kid riding a Schwinn with a sissy bar, in Plano, TX at the time.Cycling just wasn’t that popular a sport in the US yet.

I drove out to the race site expecting a poor turnout. I was surprised that there were quite a few folks there. I signed up and got my license. I was now a Cat 5. In the eighty’s I had achieved a Cat 2 level. Cat 5 didn’t even exist. The starting level back then was 4. I guess with cycling’s popularity; they had to start a new level. I was aware of the beginning levels bike handling skills, so my goal was to stay in the front and stay out of trouble.

Most of the guys were warming up on stationary trainers. Meanwhile, I went out to the highway and hit it hard. As expected, the wind chill was awful. My fingers were numb in 5 minutes even wearing my thick gloves. I went back to the car and put on a pair of neoprene Blue Seventy webbed gloves that Gordo Byrn gave me at Epic Camp. I froze coming down the Crown Range and became severely hypothermic. At the end of the camp several prizes were awarded, I got the gloves so I wouldn’t ever have to freeze again. Today, I used these as a bottom layer glove and they worked really well except the webbing between the fingers didn‘t allow me to pull the other set of gloves on very tight. Thanks anyway Gordo. My hands stayed warm.

It’s a different element at bike races. Everyone seems very fit and they are there to RACE just not to finish. The level of seriousness in the sport seems higher.

The race was a 3 mile looped rolling criterium. 30 riders were at the starting line. We got off to a slow start. I knew this wouldn’t last long, and it didn’t, at the first hill one guy took off and I bolted out right behind him. The pack covered us and I sunk back into it. I was just to testing the strength of the riders there and how I felt. I didn’t feel too nimble or quick, but I was strong. I felt yesterday’s workout in my legs. It was best just to sit back and cover the surges so that’s what I did. At one point in the race a guy crossed wheels with another and almost went down beside me. After that, I made an effort to stay at the front.

A surge for a prime occurred two laps from the finish and I found myself with 3 other riders and the pack lingering back. I made a surge to see if they all would go with me. It was a good opportunity to get away. No one would pull through so I just slowed down and waited for the next surge. The only way I was going to win was to get in a breakaway and TT for a while. I don’t think anybody else was willing to do that.

The crits I used to do 20 + years ago were hard all the time and then surges would occur when you were about to explode already. It was downright painful. This race wasn’t so bad. Everyone would recover after a surge. I guess that’s the difference between the 5’s and the 2’s.

On the last lap, I moved to the front to cover any potential flyers who might want to try and go 1 mile from the finish on the last big hill. One guy did and I stayed close as he blew up. In the1/ 2’s this guy would have been hell to catch, and most likely that move would have stuck.

In the last half mile I had moved into a great position and was 4th, close to the leaders for the final sprint. But wait, I don’t have a sprint. Ironmen don’t need to sprint. Two guys passed me in the last 20 yards. I felt like such a slug. It’s definitely not a skill I have honed recently.

I was satisfied, 7th Overall. It was the type of training I was looking for and it got my heart rate up to close to max levels. I find that very hard to do on the bike alone by myself.

I looked at the results and everyone except one guy was 21 or 22 years old. These guys weren’t even born the last time I raced. Man I feel old.

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