Suffering. Suffering is attacking again and again and again and again until you can barely hold onto the wheel in front of you as the pack eats you up on your latest failed attempt. Suffering is eating too much cumin-seasoned rice for lunch, and constantly vomiting cumin-flavored bile in your mouth while sprinting in 90-degree weather. Suffering is wheezing; acid in your lungs and snot coming out everywhere. Suffering is not caring where you spray your snot—on your own leg, on your glasses, on your handlebars, on the rider to your right. Suffering is seeing cross-eyed while swerving through a pack of rancid-smelling racers, inches away from becoming part of the hot, cracked pavement. Suffering is doing 600 watts while drafting off the guy in front of you, knowing that if you let that wheel go, you’re fucked. Because you are last in the line. I did quite a bit of suffering today.
The course was 7 kilometers of rolling hills, 120 kilometers total. A good-sized pack of guys showed up for the race today, which started at 6PM. I was feeling sick to my stomach from lunch, and very sleepy and tired from being dehydrated while walking around Masskaasdkthsomething in Holland yesterday. Lately, when I do these races I have a list of goals set for myself. The first goal is to win, obviously. But as the race goes on, I re-adjust my goals for how I feel. I’m not sure if this is a good idea or a bad idea, but it’s what I’ve found myself doing for the past week. After winning, my next goal is to place top 5. Then it is to place top 20. Then it is to be aggressive and finish. Then after that it becomes “just finish.” Then it becomes “just keep riding.” I went through all of these phases in today’s race, and I was not satisfied with the goal I accomplished. Because there is only one goal I will ever be satisfied with, and that is the first goal. I placed 16th today, but I could have done much better if I was a better tactician.
After a prolonged attack on lap five or six, I paid dearly by almost getting dropped as the peloton passed me. The next lap and a half was very painful and fast. At this point, I set my goal of “just keep riding”—the lowest of the six goals. I told myself to conserve from then on out and only attack one time per lap. I resisted the urge for a while, and then it became unbearable. And just so you know, attacking doesn’t necessarily mean I’m attacking by myself off the very front. Usually there is a small group ahead at any given point in time during these races. Usually they don’t last long, and attacking might mean bridging the gap and passing them, or just attempting to bridge. The back of the pack is not a great place to be if there are 40 or more people in the group that you are in, but if the group is around 25 or so, the back is the easiest place.
Anyways, I made the lead group (30 riders or more) after about 9 laps. From then on out, I started feeling better and better, but tiring at the same time. I guess I was feeling better compared to the other riders, which is usually what happens to me during races. So as I began to feel stronger, I did more work. And I’m pretty sure that all the work and attacking I did had no impact on most of the riders I was with. Everything was chased down eventually. If I were smart, I would have just sat at the back and let everyone else do the work, which is what a lot of guys did. But you never know, sometimes it could work. Sometimes a split is made and you get stuck on the bad side, pissed off that you weren’t further up in the line when things went down.
But today all my attacks were futile, including the three times I went on the final lap. After my third failed attempt, I sat in and decided to conserve for the last 3 kilometers. That’s when a group of five got away. And then a group of four. And I forgot to mention that there was a break-away of three guys that had a minute on all of us that were still left.
Things got very strung out in the final few K’s and I ended up taking 16th, instead of the possible fourth that I could have taken. But considering the strength and size of the field, and the fact that this has been the third race this week, I guess 16th isn’t too bad. But come this Sunday I’m going to win damn it!
Non-racing news-wise, I’m kind of pissed that my brother isn’t allowed to spend any time here at the house. He has been sleeping in a small room three kilometers out of town, but has been spending time here, with us because there’s nothing to do in his hotel room or anywhere around it. There is a rule that no family members or friends can be at the house, because it interferes with training. I thought it would be fine that Galen could hang out here and ride with us since he’s the same age as a lot of the riders (plus I didn’t know about the rule). But some of the younger guys have apparently been bitching that it’s unfair that I have my brother here when they can’t have any family members. So the coaches were forced to enforce the child-like rule. Galen is going to leave tomorrow morning instead of on the fourth because of it. I have been getting along great with the riders and coaches, but I keep forgetting about the immaturity of some of the kids here. I may act like a 17-year old a lot of the time—making mom jokes and aiming my farts at others, but there is an age gap that sometimes rears its head in inconvenient ways. Gal and Ilan (the coaches) have a difficult job of balancing the strict rule type of coaching used for the young guys, and the informal friend/mentor type of coaching used for us quasi-adults. Other than this recent Galen-banishing, everything else is super. Oh, and I found out why Eliad passed me in the final few meters the other day. I had forgotten about a bet that he, Tomer, and myself had made before Monday’s race: the two guys who got beaten by the one with the best placing would have to clean the “winner’s” bike two times each. So Eliad is a sneaky little punk, well he’s actually not very little, but he’s still a punk. He brought it up on the car ride back from the race today, and somehow he talked his way into me sending him a box of Snickers to Israel when I get home. I protested that I shouldn’t have to clean his stupid bike because I pulled just about the whole freakin way on the last lap, and led him out for half a kilometer, but he wouldn’t have any of it. I’ll clean his bike but I’m going to do a bad job.
I just finished the most epic battle in ping-pong ever. One of the guys and I played about 12 games back to back, each one with a heavy price for the loser. He wanted to bet on the games, so we bet pushups and jumps. I did the jumps because I don’t want to work out my arms, and he did the pushups because he wants a bigger upper body for girls. We started out pretty small, with 20 pushups/jumps. I lost the first game. Then I lost the next game. Then we raised the wager to 25. I lost again. The wager was raised to 30 and I won. By the end of our tournament, he had done 150 pushups and I had done 140 jumps. And he still owes me 200 pushups, which he’ll do tomorrow.
Five hour ride this afternoon.