Monday, August 9, 2010

Being done

Cascade was unspectacular. Perhaps the 20hrs of riding the week before were too much, perhaps I just peaked somewhere on the Thursday Nighter that week and my body shut down. Who knows. At any rate, it was fun lining up to an NRC race and stressful as hell in some parts, but it sure opened the eyes to the differences between "elite", "really elite", and "totally pro" levels of riding. It was awesome and I'm thankful to Rubicon for giving me the chance to ride. I flatted out 22k into the first climb up Bachelor on the Friday stage, and didn't get myself off the road quickly enough and got a slow wheel change, involving a broken skewer, a poorly fitting wheel, and general chaos and bad luck. In the ensuing 117km I failed to catch back up to the UHC driven Pro/1 field (imagine that). Time cut, and fined by some dumbass official for imaginary drafting and "mixing in" with the women's breakaway (neither of which was possible, I was well behind their cars plus out in the other lane the whole time), so it was a miserable day. So it goes.

Saturday I just did a slow 3hr ride and watched the crit, then hung up the bike for four days. When finally I got back on the bike, debating my racing options for the rest of the summer, I realized that my body was pretty much shut down. It's been a long time without a real break from either racing or training, and the whole body felt heavy and tired. The power is still there, but the good feelings just aren't.

The Tuesday crit has grown, it seems, over the years, and we now get a regular ~30 guys lining up and on a good night the wind blows hard from the North-West so that splits happen, breaks go, and pegging the pace in the gutter on the home stretch can do a good job of putting the hurt on the unwitting racers and set up a nice counter attack for a long breakaway. It's generally fun, and I love to race it hard. The more laps the better, but this week was only 30 laps and no-one gets sufficiently tired in 30 laps for the hammering to really split things up. I raced with less enthusiasm than normal and when the 3-lap-to-go flyer got brought back, I sat up on the back. My training journal entry for Tuesday reads "crit night. kind of dumb." And that's it.

Yesterday I almost didn't do the Thursday Nighter. But I rolled out anyways and couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to try and race it, or follow wheels and see what happened in the sprint. We started slowly and made it up over Welders as a group at the fairly pedestrian average of around 35kmph for those first 15 minutes, picking up on the hill but just bumming around until then. Right after the backside of that a little group went and I made the split second decision to jump on it, and away we went: Mark C, Rob, AP, Billy, and myself. A group that, if we put out heads down, should by all measure be able to ride clean away from the regular group. And that's what we eventually did, rolling 45kmph for the rest of the ride, though AP turned off at Briggs (resting for the State RR). My whole body felt like crap though the power was easy enough. I started with 20-25s pulls then started doing 45s turns, and as we picked up the speed in the last 25min or so we left the main group far, far behind. My breathing was easy, there was no pain, just Watts. Nothing happened. We kept turning and Sprinter's Hill felt like a cruise. Rob led it out at about 48kmph and ramped it up to 53 before the sprint, and I hit 62kmph coming from third wheel to take my first, and probably last, Thursday Nighter of the year.

It felt easy, I won a sprint (!!! - though that was possibly the best group of non-sprinters I could have asked for), and the form is definitely there. But form is fickle, and as any cyclist knows, sometimes very fleeting. Form seems to reside all through your body, from muscles to the nervous system and into the psyche of the cyclist. Some days the muscles are primed but the messages to go don't seem to get through from your brain stem, and some days your brain isn't in the right place to want to go. I cruised up McBeth and down Fox Hollow after the ride and stayed in the little ring all through town, feeling not tired but kind of empty. Not the usual post-ride kind of empty either, as I was hydrated and fed and well awake. Just the kind of empty where bikes took a backseat to the rest of life, as I thought about housework and job applications and my impending move up to Portland. When the garage door opened I looked at an empty hook on the ceiling and almost hung the race bike up on it.

It's been a few days now, and I haven't felt like riding yet. I did weed the yard and drifted the McKenzie with Matt to toss leech patterns at stubborn steelhead. In another month I'll be stalking birds and getting excited about my big game tags. Sometime in October I'll want to train again, but until then, I'm merely another recreational cyclist out for a spin once or twice a week when I feel like it.