Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pre-'Burg Thoughts

It's still wet. Everywhere.

Fitchburg starts today, which means I will likely ride a squishy wet time trial later this afternoon. I used to get really excited for this race, to the point of it almost always being a bit of a disappointment. The race comes right around the time that many folks start to feel like a mid-season break is in order, and given that it's the only NRC stage race in New England, and one of only 2 four-day stage races in the region all season, it definitely is a high point on the calendar. But it's also kind of a mediocre race around a truly depressing little town that I can't imagine wanting to visit for any other reason. And yet, I've grown pretty fond of the rolling hills and tree-hidden ponds and reservoirs out around Princeton.

Don't get me wrong: the road race is beautiful. And this year, with the mountain top finish on Mt. Wachusset taken away the race actually suits me better. And the crit and the circuit are cool, and this year's tt course is pretty well right up my alley...but. But something. The race is a cruel mistress and seems every year to be both more and less than the sum of its parts. I had hoped to race this year as a cat 1 and do the NRC pro race, and I probably could upgrade at this point if I were so inclined. But it seems like a good idea to do one last cat 2 race where I can ride to win and really put the stamp on my cat 1 upgrade. And the 2 race is no giveaway--I can think of two guys I know personally who were in the 2 race last year and are pro this year--but it's more of a level playing field than the pro/1 event, which is unforgiving enough to stretch the limits of the definition of the word "fun".

In any case, I am definitely feeling the need for a mid season break coming on, but I am still pumped to race hard. I'm just feeling a bit conservative in my expectations, which is a good way to start a big race. I've been so close to a good result at Fitchburg for years now, and it always gets away from me. So nothing to lose, right? Apart from that, after Fitchburg finishes on Sunday, I will be home for 2&1/2 days and then head up to race the Tour Of Quebec in and around Quebec city. Now that should be fun.

So today, a rainy Thursday, I sit in my brother's kitchen in Northampton, MA, and I think about bike racing, about missing my daughter, missing my girlfriend, getting a job in the Fall and feeling scared of trying to become the teacher I want to be. And in the midst of all that, as much as I don't want to clean my bikes, or race in the rain, or deal with bike racer attitudes sometimes, I am grateful. I'm grateful for this sport that pushes me so hard and tells me where my limits are. And I'm grateful for those limits presenting themselves immediately, and frequently. It can take a long time to really, honestly discover for yourself how good you are as a parent, or a teacher, or a lawyer. But bike racing is intensely honest, for the most part, and you are revealed to yourself, for good or ill, awfully quickly, week in and week out. I suppose that can be jarring, but it's also reassuring in a way that is addictive, I think. I look forward to a more balanced life some time soon where my self-definition week to week is more well rounded, and where intellectual limits present themselves to me with the same clarity as physiological ones. But for now, today, it's Fitchburg. I'm racing, and if I'm going to bother to pin on a number, I'm racing to win. But first, breakfast.



  1. "...race around a truly depressing little town that I can't imagine wanting to visit for any other reason..."

    I stayed with a friend in Fitchburg for the race, just up the hill from the crit course. While there, the police were summoned to the neighborhood on three occasions for a drug bust, a violent domestic dispute, and some ilicit fire works. It truly is a crap town.

    I was sorry to hear that you'd had to head home, but it sounds like some rest was in order. Good luck in Quebec!

  2. Thanks, Andrew. Better days, though, eh? And yeah, Fitchburg is a tough place, though I actually found a really nice neighborhood up above the circuit race course, quite by accident. There's something about that race, though, that just spooks people, makes people crash, gives me the creeps. Indian burial ground, maybe? It's a tough beast.

    Glad you got through it intact.