"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


A bittersweet Sunday

Huge congratulations to the two of my teammates who won State Championship jerseys yesterday! Mike Sequin won the Master's 4/5 40+ and Liam Donoghue is now the top ranked Cat 4 racer in Illinois.

William worked his tail off at the front the entire race to try and set up Mike and me for the end. Seegs rode my wheel into Turn 7 and came out of Turn 8 just in front of me before blasting into warp drive on a 40+ mph sprint for our first win of the day. The train of riders who went wide to the left were all caught with their bib shorts around their ankles as Mike motored from the corner to the line through 250 meters of open air.

Seven hours of waiting and moving around with the shade later – 9:15 first race, 5:30 second race – we lined up again with nine XXXers in the field and put together what one race organizer said was a team effort the likes of which he would never have thought possible in a Category 4 race.

It was fast at the gun and stayed that way for the entire 46 minutes. Liam followed the first flyer from the line and soon a break of about nine was off, including William, as well. When that was caught, William went off again, and won a prime. Next, Seegs jumped and strung things out for a lap or to. Not to be outdone, as he was absorbed and more than one of us was second-guessing taking a jump, new Cat 4 Chris Kostner went on his own two lap flyer.

At just under five to go he came back, and then it happened: Liam jumped hard, got a huge gap, and stayed off, crossing the line before we’d even come through Turn 8 on the final lap. After all the chasing, it was not easy to block, but seven other teammates will get the job done at that point. Again, just before Turn 7 I watched with amazement Seegs acceleration away from the pack – he put a 30 meter gap on us and came in with his second podium of the day.

We all met for beer at the bar at Turn 1/5 after on the cool down lap. We really couldn’t savor that fine American macro-brew craftsmanship as Seegs and Liam were being immediately called to the announcers stand. It had been a long day for everybody.

It was a bittersweet day for me. It was great day to be XXX, positively. But I had been psyching myself up for a podium all week, and when it came time to race, my legs had nothing. I felt I couldn’t contribute, especially in the second race. I was drowning at the front – desperately trying to stay third wheel and block for us but fading back each time I worked my way up, my fingernails scraping furrows into wood, sliding downward back to the water.

It was hard to watch all the joy and celebration knowing that I had raced weakly, both physically and mentally, but was easier once I just let myself be happy for them.

It’s been a long, productive month, but I was hoping to end it on a higher note, personally. I suppose four straight weekends plus a Wednesday of racing have taken a lot out of me but I can’t make excuses - we’ve all been racing hard. When each moment of truth came yesterday, I didn’t respond to step up my game – giving in to self-doubt. I know I felt like shit, but so did everybody else. And when do you ever feel perfect during a race?

I wanted to gold-plate my upgrade with a podium yesterday and it just didn’t happen. Don’t see how I can really submit it at this time. I have the requirements, but I didn’t race above my category yesterday. I don’t deserve it.

Motivation is at a serious low right now – equal parts Monday, retrospect, self-loathing, and fatigue. Thank God it’s finally my rest week – I don’t want to even look at my race bike right now. I’m completely off the hoops today, Wednesday, and Friday and just commuting into work the other two weekdays. Friday, Maggie and I head to Milwaukee for some of our first, real summer fun. Summer fun that I would have loved to have shared yesterday – instead of hiding from the sun for hour after hour and jabbering to myself inside my head to go faster – with a morning at the farmer’s market and taking Jack to the dog beach.

So I’ll make up for it this week. It’s straight to Summerfest after stepping off the Amtrak on Friday morning. It will be more crowded than I prefer, but at least early on we’ll still be able to walk between the beer tents, and take a whirl on the Skyride. By time it gets asses-to-elbows crowded at sunset, we’ll be firmly ensconced at our picnic table to take in The Roots performance.

Saturday will be a leisurely spin through Milwaukee on my cousin Rick’s city bikes: Alterra coffee to the Art Museum to the Lakefront Brewery before returning to his place in the evening with vittles for grilling, and suds for swilling.

I can imagine it now. My bare feet are up on the railing, silhouetted in front of the deepening orange sunset. I have a beer in my hand; the label slowly disintegrating against the glass bottle from the condensation in the warm evening air. The soft strains of U2 float out of the speakers in the kitchen, The Edge’s jangly guitar swirling around us, mixed in with the sweet smell of charred barbeque sauce and roasted corn-on-the-cob. Maggie’s ever-present hiccup will make me smile, I’ll squeeze her hand, and all this stress will come out in a long, contented sigh.


Nick Gierman said...

Don't get down on yourself about one day of racing. The same thing happened to me last year after Chicago. I had high hopes for going out on an awesome note, was in the break that went on to win, but bonked on the second to last turn. I went through the same thought process as well. You will do fine after a good rest week and come back to racing stronger.

The Car Whisperer said...

Thanks bro. I get pretty emotional on the bike good or bad day. I am pretty bi-polar about it I know. But it's days like this that make the good ones so high.

Congrats on a great race. It was funny to hear that guy butcher your name on your 1-to-go flyer!

Tamara Fraser said...

After your [super awesome sounding] rest week, you'll be ready to take names and break legs at Superweek. And everybody sandbags at Superweek. It's tradition.