I left off on the morning of the time trial, at 8:30 when I woke from not enough sleep. The sun was shinning outside, reflecting off the pool in the backyard and catching my groggy eyes with beckoning bright glimmers. A day lazing in the sun by the pool, eating fresh citrus straight off the loaded orange trees would be nice, but boring and not what I came to Arizona for before the age of 98. Instead, I downed some beet juice, held back the gag reflex that I’ve developed from drinking beet juice, and wondered if I’d feel sick today from drinking too much beet juice.
For those of you who know me well, or who know me recently at least, you know that I don’t do much phoning. This includes talking on the phone, texting, promptly returning calls, etc. I do like to leave overly long voicemails. Anyways, I probably average like four phone calls a week and on a good week–good being a low volume week–I do like a dozen texts, predominantly different variations of yes or no answers. It’s not that I don’t like communicating with people, it’s just that I leave my phone off all the time out of habit. A habit forced upon me because my phone turns itself off every thirty minutes or so. And I don’t usually remember to turn it back on after work when I’m in a rush to either ride somewhere in the dark or to juice as many beets as can be juiced before 11PM. Plus not that many people call anyways. But since it’s race season already and constant phoning is required to organize and arrange race necessities like car rides, last minute equipment, and the like, Thursday through the weekend saw a rapid rise in my crappy old cell phone usage. It was still holding a charge and going strong Friday morning.
As I wolfed down eggs and fruit and English muffins that my host, and former bike racer, Cammie, had ready for me, I came to terms with the very real possibility that I’d end up having to ride 50 miles through Phoenix to the TT course. I wasn’t too against that, though I’d been wondering how I’d attach the disc wheel to my backpack since I’d left all my bungee cords at home. I thought of how I’d manage this (a lot of tape?) as I turned my phone on to see if I’d received the golden text I’d been waiting for overnight. Turned out that Trevor, my team director, had brilliantly come through with a phone number for me to call. A guy named Taylor from Boulder’s Sonic Boom team might have room for me in a car to the race. Might. I called the number. It rang. He answered. Also, no random solar flare destroyed all life on earth in a matter of mintues! Hurah! Taylor was just getting picked up at the airport by his teammates, who were heading directly over to the race. Like right now. Carp!
“But my dad is at the airport too. He’s renting a car and might be able to give you a ride,” said Taylor. I was possibly saved, maybe. I called his dad, Dean, who agreed to come pick me up after he got the car rental sorted out. Strangers: 8,278, Kennett: 0. I’m a bad person. I don’t deserve acts of kindness such as this. I’m a creep. I don’t belong here, which is why I’m going to start writing thank you cards. Adelaide says I need to be nicer to people and less rude to people I don’t know (Pff as if). But I just HATE KING SOOPERS SO DAMN MUCH! That place IS the worst grocery store IN the entire world and I live just one mile away so I have to go there instead of doing the 12 mile round trip to Sprouts, which is the best grocery store in the entire world and has a great bulk section where dried cherries are only $5 a pound if you accidentally mark them as cranberries and they’re right next to each other so someone could theoretically make that mistake. King Soopers is literally the only thing I’m ever angry about any more, ever. But it makes me so Soooper angry that I have to take it out on random people. (Just kidding I’m actually very nice, probably nicer than anyone else you know by a lot).
Dean picked me up at 10ish. I’d been scrambling to get ready in time, having to build up the TT bike, pack stuff for the day, fill water bottles, make coffee. Shit balls. There was no coffee in the house. Very very dirty, smelly, shitty balls coated in a thick film of sorrow and shame. No coffee before a TT? That pretty much equals dead last place, possibly a DNF even. Probably a DQ actually, just because. Dean agreed to stop for coffee though. Day saved, twice now, by Dean.
On the way out of the Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale metro area, which is 700 miles long, we began our search for a coffee shop. Those two words, “search” and “coffee,” should not be in the same sentence. Search for a coffee place? Maybe if you’re blind and also can’t smell. Coffee is everywhere. It’s just like searching for an abortion clinic. They’re on every street corner and full of hot chicks. I just said that to be funny. I don’t actually know if there are a lot of abortion clinics. In reality, searching for a coffee shop is like searching for a McDonald’s. Those are everywhere.
After searching for roughly 40 minutes, the only thing we could find for coffee was a McDonald’s. Arizonans don’t drink coffee. They drink Jamba Juice, Slurpees from 7-11, and they get the rest of their beverages at the amazingly large number of “Ice and Water” stores. Yeah, I saw two ice and water stores before I found a coffee shop. So McDonald’s it was.
Finally, on to the race. We got to the course with plenty of time, I warmed up, put on the disc that Trevor loaned me, put on the Curve Chrono suit Scott gave me, and suddenly both my bike and myself looked fast. Keyword: looked. I felt pretty decent for the second half of the warm up, extremely bad for the first half but it’s the second half that matters. So I rolled down the start ramp with a good feeling as the 2013 season began after what seemed like a very short time between my last race in Belgium in October.
The course was very flat, with a slight cross head wind and a minor false flat for the first half, followed by a pretty fast, big-geared straightaway to the finish. 14 miles total with one turn–the turnaround. American time trials are so much fun.
I paced myself conservatively, using heart rate for the first time in a race. Super conservatively. I made it hurt but kept my heart rate dead on at 185. One of my big problems with the time trial, not including my terrible inefficiency in the position due to inadequate gluteal-firing and lack of practice, is pacing. I always go too hard in the beginning, blow up after five minutes, go too slow for the next 10 minutes, then finally hard again for the last three. Perfect cat 5 pacing.
I didn’t make up very much ground on either my thirty second man or one minute man for the first five or six minutes of the race. Then I began seeing progress. My thirty second man was reeling in my one minute man pretty rapidly by then, and I was gaining ground on both. I overtook my one minute man (Marcel) before the turnaround, then caught my thirty second man (Rob) just as we made the turn. He took off immediately, out of the saddle to pick up speed. I slowly caught back up to him, stayed parallel for a minute on the windy side of the road, just half wheeling, keeping my heart rate exactly where I thought it should be, then he began ramping it up again, just slightly, to put a few bike lengths between us once more.
I caught back up slowly and we rode next to each other for another 30 seconds before I pulled away again. Then he caught back up, then I caught back up, etc. The battle went on for at least six minutes before I finally took the lead. A small eternity later, the 1KM to go sign finally appeared. I smashed past my 1:30 man, realizing for certain now that despite putting myself in some good hurt throughout the 30 minutes of racing that I’d still left too much in the tank. I’d make up for any pain I’d missed out on over this last minute though, and subconsciously chomped down hard on my cheeks. I bit so hard that I was spitting out blood for the next half hour after the race. After crossing the line and thinking that I’d done fairly well since I’d passed three guys, I sat up to let my 30 second man (Rob) catch back up to me. A few minutes later, once we’d caught our breath, I asked him his time so I could figure out what I’d done. After chatting a bit I remembered that I still hadn’t organized a ride to the road race the next day. It wouldn’t be fair to ask Dean to take me again, since his son was racing at a different time, plus he was staying up north of Phoenix and I was in Scottsdale (and also Tempe because I moved later that night). So my thirty second man and I began talking and I he was down to give me a lift. Done. Simple. Awesome.
My joy was drowned in a waterboard of sorrow 10 minutes later when I saw the results. 43rd out of 86. Shit. Super un-outstanding. The reality, though, is that that’s what I deserved, having not spent more than eight hours on my TT bike the entire winter. It’s time to finally start focusing on it. After years of neglect, I’m making a promise to myself to do it once and for all this year: get good at time trialing.
Dean and I drove home, I built up my new road bike, found out that one of the cables and housing had been destroyed while being thrown about by the baggage handlers (long story short I got it all sorted), moved to Cammie’s boyfriend’s house for the next two nights because her roommate needed the guest bedroom, ate a delicious dinner that Cammie and her boyfriend Andy made, then I went to bed. And that’s the longest story about a stupid time trial in the history of race reports.
Saturday!! Saturday?? Yeah Giraffes!!?! (This will only makes sense to you if you’re smart and well-read).
Saturday was the road race: a six-lap, 98 mile race around a super boring, super dry, super flat, and pretty windy and dusty course. There was sort of a neutral feed zone with two guys handing out bottled water. Yay for paying $120 to race here with this amazing support and imaginative, well-planned, safe course with great prize money!
No but seriously, this was probably the sketchiest road race I’ve done that had just four corners per lap. For you math wizards, that equals 24 turns for roughly 100 miles. 24 corners in 100 miles should not be at all sketchy. What made it sketchy was confining 90 riders to a single lane, then throwing crosswind, a heavy flow of traffic in the oncoming lane, and constant navigation in said opposite lane to pass a dozen other slow-moving fields, none of which were neutralized so they took all the right lane. I think there were just two crashes despite the unsafeness of the race. The one crash I’m certain of happened directly on my rear wheel. We had to throw the brakes on all of a sudden during the crosswind for some reason on lap three or four and the guy behind me failed to brake, opting to break instead. Get it! Hahaha.
I had plenty of time to think, “Oh no he d’int!!! He best not be messin up my brand new Zipps!!!” In that split second that his bike slammed into mine from behind and the terrible sound of carbon, metal, and human flesh scraped the pavement, this is what I thought of. But I stayed up and since the crash occurred behind me, I couldn’t have cared less. I kid!
Rewind to the first couple minutes of the race. Brad Huff of Jelly Belly pedaled slightly faster than anyone else and found himself sitting off the front by three or four hundred meters. We weren’t neutralized, so why the hell wasn’t anyone attacking? Oh yeah, this is Amurica and people ride like little female dogs until the last mile. “Fornicate this,” I said to myself and also out-loud to anyone who cared to listen. I stood up, briefly flirted with the other side of the yellow line to get around the idling peloton, and made the bridge to Brad quickly. He and I sort of went hard(ish) for a few miles, until he decided that pedaling hard wasn’t fun and began coaching me on how to pedal not hard. He was right, though. It would have been super unwise of us to smash it and expect to stay away from 13 Jamis-Hagens Berman riders, who were defending Ben Jaques Maynes’ yellow jersey. Yeah, 13. Jelly Belly also had 11 guys. A few other teams had five or six, but to crack Jamis would take an entire peloton’s non stop assault, which unfortunately never materialized.
Brad shared a Coke with me during the crosswind section, contently marveling at how we were missing the entire cross wind havoc that was certainly going on back in the field. I looked back but couldn’t see much. They were out of sight for a long time but even when we finally did see them I couldn’t tell if there was any havoc going on back there. I later learned that the peloton did split in two and some poor fools never made it back on after. Dropped before the end of the first lap. Not a good way to start the year.
We were caught within half a lap after basically toning the pace down to a soft pedal. No one had tried to bridge to us and I wasn’t going to blow myself before the MASSIVE climb, so we got caught. Jamis just reeled us in, easy as pie. The small hill coming up before the finish line had a strong tailwind which we immediately felt right after turning off the traffic-laden cross wind section. The hill, sadly, was easy every time we went up it except the last, though I think some guys were dropped there on the first lap. Umm, train harder?
I attacked throughout the second lap with Jelly Belly and a few other teams with nothing materializing. Jamis shut it all down. Finally on lap three something stuck and stayed away until the last half lap. It was doomed though, with not enough horse power to have even the slightest chance of outlasting Jamis. I wish I’d been in it though. So I kept attacking, trying to bridge up there. I got close twice, attacking once on the hill, failing to make contact by like 45 seconds, and then attacking again a lap later a mile out from the base of the hill. I thought I’d caught it on that second try, but it turned out I’d just caught a few guys who’d been dropped from it. Jelly Belly seemed content with just sitting in the peloton at this point, since a few of their guys were in the doomed move. They should have been sending more help off with me gosh darn it!
With a lap to go I still felt really good. The race was easy so far, though the peloton was down to less than 50. I sat near the front in the crosswind section the last time, barely having to pedal while the tail end of the pack fought for the scraps in the gutter. Perfect position. We turned the corner and the tailwind rocketed us back up to 30+ mph. I positioned pretty well going up the climb, passing on the left as we tackled the base of it. 2K to the finish. I was sitting around 12th wheel near the top when a Jelly Belly guy attacked hard. I raised up out of the saddle to follow, as did everyone in front of me. A couple guys about four spots in front of me blew to smithereens after a few seconds of hard riding and sat up, opening a huge gap near the crest of the climb. I decided it was do or die, and closed the gap myself, latching back onto the back of the six guys who’d gotten away. One of them countered the original move. I held onto the back, having gotten there just in the nick of time. The counter attack subsided and we slowed until another counter went, this time pretty briefly. We slowed, which meant a dozen guys caught us with just under 1K to go, I ended up still stupidly near the back as the pace rocketed up again for the last time, reaching sprint speeds with 600 meters to go since the tailwind was so strong. I lost. I crossed the line for 16th out of the 18 of us in that front group. Terrible. I wasn’t even tired after crossing the line. I didn’t have the top end sprint to pass anybody, but could have kept on at that same intensity for quite a while longer and wished I’d played the finish smarter. Frustrated, I rode down the hill, cooled down a bit mentally, then rode back up to the finish to gather water bottles at the feed zone. At least I was aggressive, I told myself in consolation.
Sunday was the crit. It was a dumb crit, meaning I raced poorly. I felt great and was never in any difficulty; I just didn’t have the positioning in the end, despite the race only starting with 70 guys. I attacked for the first quarter of the race, nothing all out but enough to get my legs and lungs turning over and to see what the attitude of the race was going to be like. The move of the day got away soon after I stopped attacking. It didn’t last, with Jelly Belly chasing it down over the next half hour or so. I went off the front a tiny bit when it got brought back, then all of a sudden there were only six laps left. What the? It felt like we’d been racing for 25 minutes. I failed to move up enough during the final two laps and finished mid pack. Blah. I wound up 18th GC, which earned me a whole $50. Actually I’m not complaining about that. That’s like three whole days of groceries in earnings, minus the $400 plane ticket, $130 entry fee, $45 cab and gas money, and $26 bus tickets.
All in all it was a good, fun race and I’m very glad I came to it. I got the mothballs out and saw where I need to improve for the coming season (time trialing and sprint positioning–could have told you that without doing the race actually). The sun felt AMAZING, my cough is finally completely entirely 100% gone, and yeah. Pretty good trip. Ummm, that’s about it. Bye.
Both numbers upside down the whole week by accident. Pro.