Saturday, October 10, 2009

Divine Providence Part 1

I quit bike racing yesterday. It didn't take, though, probably because I was actually riding my bike at the time, and I had to ride for at least long enough to get home, or else ditch the bike and hitch-hike home in my superhero costume. And I thought about it, believe me. I have been slightly sick, and really tired, and awfully frustrated in my last few races. I've been worrying about UCI points, series standings, prize money, sponsor expectations ans a host of other shit that I would really like to think I had evolved beyond the need to measure myself by. And the beauty part is, for today, I have. I had fun racing my bike today, which is a hell of an accomplishment considering that I wasn't convinced I would even start today when I woke up this morning, and I got two flat tires in the race and DNF'd.

Last night I got a solid pep-talk from my amazing, brilliant, sexy and fun partner, Charmaine, and that helped me feel like all answers were right answers. Thanks, Baby! Whatever happens in the races, I have an amazing woman to come home to, and that's really as much as I could hope for. If I have to be a head case, and apparently I do, at least I bounce back quickly.

So yup, another DNF. The difference was that today I felt like a bike racer again, and I felt pretty snappy, which was a nice surprise. Good enough start, not so good I was likely to get myself in trouble trying to hang with my betters, but just good enough that as the first lap shook out I was comfortably top-20 with good guys all around me, and I was completely confident that I would settle into a group of guys who would race hard for the full hour. And really, that's all you want out of the start. It's a race, and you have to let it happen. But racing close enough to the front that all of those intangibles like UCI points and simple accomplishment are actually within sight produces something my friend Al Donahue refers to as "awesomeness". When you're in among the awesomeness, you keep going fast. When you're in the weeds with the back-markers, it tends to slow you down a little bit, in mind, body and spirit.

So why did I DNF? 2/3 of the way through the first lap I got a squishy tire, due either to the fact that the course was paved with glass, or to a sharp curb we had to ride every lap. I rode the tire flat for as long as I could, ran some technical stuff, and rode some technical stuff, which was actually pretty cool in its own disappointing way. Unfortunately I don't have a pit bike yet (this week, I'm hoping) so I got a super fast wheel change from Joe and Joe's Garage stalwart, Doug Aspinwall (thanks guys!) and got rolling again but I was nearly dead last at this point. Bummer.

One thing I have learned is that early bad luck in a race takes all the pressure off, if nothing else. So I resigned myself to a race of catch-up and settled into a groove. I was picking guys off at a pretty good clip and steadily moving up. My friend and teammate, Justin Lindine suffered a mechanical, as well, and I caught up to him just as he swung into the pit for a bike change. We were together for a bit but he dropped me pretty quickly. Nevertheless, seeing him killing it kept me motivated and I started to see a pretty large group of guys about 2 sections in front of me, which looked attainable. And then I got the second flat tire, in just about the same place as the first one...

I was half a lap or more from the pit, and I really couldn't see what was to be gained by running another half a lap just to try to spend the rest of the race fighting for the lead lap, so I pulled the plug.

At least I was mad about it, though. If I was as burned out as I thought I was yesterday then I would have been secretly happy. Sometimes mechanicals are like that: a relief. Not today, though. Today I wanted to race my bike, I was hungry for it. And that was a victory in itself .

So tomorrow is another day, and another race down here in Roger Williams park in Providence, RI, which I have to say is still one of my favorite cyclocross venues. And whether I head to Toronto next weekend or stay at home and race in Troy, I'll be more focused on the simple joy and effort of racing than on the outcome. Because, really? I am a pretty lucky human being.


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