Wednesday, May 09, 2007

San Luis Rey Suffering

Perhaps suffering in a bike race is akin to the pain of giving birth ...I wouldn't really know... but there seem to be some similarities. For instance, I'm sure plenty of women have had a change of heart during labor, and wished they could un-do what had been done nine months prior. Same with the bike racer. When all looks hopeless with many miles still to go, we sometimes ask "why did I enter this race?" But generally, in bike racing as in child-birth, the sufferer pushes on through and is rewarded at the end.

Not buying the analogy yet? How about the cramping and general messiness...

But the thing that prompted this perhaps-lame comparison is that, in both cases, time tends to dull the memories of the suffering. Sitting here comfortably on Wednesday morning, three days after the hot and windy San Luis Rey RR, my recollections of the ordeal have definitely dimmed. Consequently, the following race report will not do justice to the agony--substantial I'm sure--but rather will just be an accounting of a few facts, key players, and anecdotes as I recall them. Kind of like the new-baby reports you get... height, weight, length-of-labor, time-of-birth, etc.

But first I have to tell of the interesting science experiment my son Brian showed me within minutes of our high-noon arrival at the race. He discovered that if he put an ice cube on the pavement, remarkably it completely melted within a minute, and shortly after that all trace of its existence was gone! Symbolic??

The facts: 11.5 mile triangular lap, one leg straight and fast downhill, next leg flat with headwind, finishing leg gradual uphill with tailwind. Start half way along the uphill leg. Repeat seven times for 80 miles. 50'ish rider field with full teams from 5-Star Fish All-Stars (fresh off the Vuelta a Bisbee) and Kahala-LaGrange (just back from a successful Tour of Virginia), along with most of the other usual SoCal pain inflictors like Neil Shirley, Thurlow Rogers, the Mezas, etc.

Lap 1: From the whistle, a handful of guys blasted up the hill at full gas trying to initiate the early break. The field did not let go easily and soon we were all in a long anaerobic line with gaps every few riders. Around the corner and five guys were clearly separated, including two 5-Star Fish and at least one LaGrangian (I think). I was the loser at the front of the long line who couldn't close the gap by the top. They flew down the descent and we all bunched up going probably 5-10 mph slower. For the remainder of the lap, 5-Star and LaGrange spread wide across the road and chit-chatted.

Lap 2: More of the same. The early break got out to four minutes, and the wide bodies of Karl Bordine and Matt Johnson continued to clog the front and intimidate any chase efforts. But that all changed when we hit the hill for the second time, as Rigo, Neil, Chris McDonald, and Thurlow blasted off with a couple of LaGrangians in tow. I dug as deep as I could but they slowly pulled away.

Lap 3: At this point, I was in the third group on the road, and was getting a bit concerned that all the places were gone. My only consolation (and hope) was that our group still had some major motors like Bordine, Matt Johnson, Joe Wiley Coyote (CVC cat 2 winner), and Eric Barlavav (San Dimas cat 2 winner). With the new composition of the guys up the road, the 5-Star All-Stars didn't have such good odds, so they started to work pretty hard. I took over on the uphill and rode a tempo that seemed ok to everyone, seeing as nobody ever came by. We held the gap to the Rigo group at about a minute.

Lap 4: More 5-Star pulling, along with some huge efforts by Joe Wiley. This time we hit the hill much harder thanks to Bordine's last surviving teammate making a giant sacrificial effort that Karl then launched from. I tried to go with him, but ended up about 10 seconds back, and the rest of our group exploded behind me. Up front, I saw the Rigo bunch had joined the early break, and they were only a few agonizing seconds in front of Karl, who was still about 10 seconds in front of me.

Lap 5: With the top of the hill looming, and knowing that I had to connect by there, I dug deeper than at any point so far this year. Thrashing legs, hot air scorching lung tissue, acidic sweat stinging eyes... I made contact at the right turn. No way does giving birth hurt more than that! Women do it all the time... this, on the other hand, was epic suffering! Ahem, at least I think it was. Unfortunately I was so proud of this accomplishment that I failed to go with the inevitable counter-attack containing all the real contenders so my visit with the first group was short-lived. Now there were six guys up the road. Down on the flats, I came to my senses and joined a good attack with Celo Pacific's Brent Prenzlow and SDBC's Matt Schechtman. We were quickly joined by a strong aussie LaGrangian (Cantwell) who put in the biggest pulls.

Lap 6: The motor official kept the four of us apprised the gap which was holding at a minute behind the front group and a minute in front of the chasing group. We climbed hard and dropped LaGrange. It sure seemed like the wind picked up down on the flats, and I was having trouble even getting up to do my turns, but we persevered and each of us contributed.

Lap 7: Oh what a welcome sound that last-lap bell... We were all resigned to not catching the front group, and knew that we needed each other in order to survive as the second group, so nobody was attacking yet. Personally, I was amazed that Bordine hadn't come blasting by us, and was still expecting it to happen any time. We pushed on, still in survival mode. Shortly after starting the final climb, we saw Carlos Mayoral up ahead, a casualty from the front group, and that triggered the inevitable attacks. I tried to get up to him cleanly, but Brent clawed back. San Luis Rey is his team's race, and he had supportive cheers from all around the course. He was digging very deep. He dropped me and made it up to Carlos. Matt blew and was out of sight behind. He had soldiered hard and honorably for the last two laps, and left it all on the road.

A couple pics from Celo Pacific...

The lead group coming into the sprint. L-to-R: Dan Vinson, Neil Shirley, Rigo Meza, Marco Rios, Thurlow Rogers. Rigo won for the second week in a row.

My chase group, L-to-R: Brent Prenzlow, Matt Schechtman, and me.

And then we finished.


Statistics: 80 miles in 3:28, ~5,000 ft climbing, 8th place, 5 bottles

Half the field quit, and there's no trace of them. Just like the ice cubes on the hot pavement.

[add/edit: upon further consideration, and especially since Mother's Day is this weekend, I'll rescind my conjecture that child-birth is comparable to suffering in a bike race. Please sweetie, will you let me back in the house now?]


lauren said...

hmm, having done both...

unless you can personally say racing bikes is similiar to pooping a watermelon for 18 to 36 hours, then well sure, they're exactly the same.

Marco Fanelli said...

Good one Lauren!! made me giggle out loud for a minute...

And no need to personally experience it... watching (twice) convinced me beyond any doubt.

lauren said...

hee, hee! i was only teasing you. i figured you knew, being a dad and all.

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

did she let you back in the house? :-)

dr-nitro said...

That race did me right in 92. Corndog had just admonished me the day before for not placing much that year, and only doing the grunt up to that point that season. So at SLR, determined to show him my worth, I did the idiot thing and attacked on the second lap. Got caught on the forth. He went off next, and I thought it was over. But he got caught. I split with Donnie Carol (I think), and barely outsprinted him for the v. Ha, Greg! Take that.

So, in my case, it wasn't as painful as child birth, but closer to the joyous side (although I ain't gonna make such a comparison even without having a wife who would not take kindly to such comparison).

Doing anything up north soon, Marco?

Marco Fanelli said...

Doc Kim: Yes, she let me back in the house ...the garbage needed to be taken out and the litter-box cleaned.

Doc Nitro: SLR is one of the few remaining SoCal classic road races. (Acton is on-again/off-again in recent years.) I remeber my first time at SLR in the mid-90s when going up the climb I was completely gasping for breath and Horner was cracking jokes and laughing. Punk. Re NorCal races: yep, we'll be in the Bay Area for Memorial Day weekend, so I gotta do Mt. Hamilton. Then hopefully Nevada City in June (not sure about Masters or p/1/2 though). I'm sad to be missing Berkeley Hills this Saturday, but the weekend is going to be hectic, plus I wouldn't have a feeder. You know, all three of those races are ones I've done as a junior, senior, and Masters! I should do a post about that tonight...

dr-nitro said...

Yer think'n of doing the big one at Nevada City. Damn! Old man city for me.

I'm probably going to do the Mt. Ham thing, but I still think that that race is run backwards.

And hey, I hear that districts is gonna be in Woody this year. Oh, that gives me a...

So do you really think that I will need a feed at b-hill? Actually, I'm thinking that I'll just bust a gut for the elite squad early, giving me an excuse to do only about 60 (the geezer distance anyway), then go spend some quality time with my friends. Or at least that is what I say now. We'll see what my ego has to say about that.

Henri said...

Marco, you gotta be takin a big hit for this comparison, the gals should really chew you up and not even bother spitting. good luck this weekend!