Monday, June 11, 2007

Visiting Purgatory, Then Wisdom from a Zen Master

I raced in Bakersfield yesterday. It was hot. It was windy. There were approximately a billion goat-head thorns on the road. Based on how my lungs felt, I'd say hydrocarbon molecules were more prevalent than oxygen in the Bakersfield air. And the scenery was... well, click on the adjacent picture to experience its full glory.

Yet it was a terrific day that I wouldn't trade for anything. You see, it's all in your perspective. I'll get to that in a minute.

SoCal District Road Race Championships; Oildale, CA; p/1/2; 8 laps 80 miles.

I arrived a bit early to watch the 35+ and 45+ races and maybe take a photo or two. Two things immediately grabbed my attention. First, Thurlow was racing the 45+ event. Hmmmm, does he know something I don't? (Well, undoubtedly he does, but the question was with respect to yesterday's races.) Second, I was sweating buckets just standing and watching. Not good.

12:30 rolls around and it's time to race. 50 or so guys toe the line, including most of the usual SoCal protagonists plus a few who typically race up north, like Dirk Copeland and Ozzie Olmos, both CalGiant Strawberries.

For me the race had four distinct parts, acts of a play if you will.

Act 1, (laps 1-2) Flirting: Field rolled out and the typical attacks began to fly, mostly from 5-Star Fishes and youngsters like Benjamin Bradshaw (VMG/USA U-23 team) and Skyler Bishop (Kodak/SierraNevada) and we (MarkZen, Cookie, and I) were able to be in most all of them. Soon however, big Karl Bordine was OTF solo and rolling good. Now the remaining All-Star Fish went into full defensive mode and chased down any bridge attempts. C-Walk mentioned to me that Karl will cramp, and to not worry about him. Sure enough, he started coming back to us and when we got close, Rigo Meza and Matt Johnson (5-Star) bolted out of the group with purpose. I knew this was probably the race-winning move and scrambled my way into it.

Act 2, (laps 3-5) Dirty Dancing: Initially 12 riders in the break. Rigo, Matt Johnson, Ozzie Olmos, C-Walk, Freaky Fridays Aker and Githens (AKA Hair Bear), Jorge Alvarado and Marco Rios LaGrange Mexican National Team, Ben Bradshaw, Evan Lawrence (RHVilla), Cookie, and me. As per usual when trying to establish a move, this mutha hurt for the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately we lost some horsepower too early. Matt flatted, Cookie and Ozzie popped due to unnecessarily brisk uphill pulls by the Freaky Friday lads, which apparently even cost Aker his spot in the dance. Or maybe he hit a goat-head too--I don't know, he just disappeared. Anyway, we were down to eight and getting time checks that we were two minutes clear. Mostly we were working well together. Hair Bear was a horse, and yours truly was meekly pulling through so as to not draw unwanted attention, VMG Bradshaw was an energetic puppy. But rather than rejoice in our collective good fortune, C-Walk started getting a bit peeved about the lack of full commitment by a certain pair of LaGrangians. Like a pavlov dog with rabies, such negative racing in a break will bring on the Vampire attacks. Every freakin time. And when the first seven don't get the message across, he'll follow it up with another seven in a row. No mercy. On the 5th lap, C-Walk cracked the break in two. The irony is that the three that stayed with him are the three that he felt weren't committed, but when you think about it, of course that is what happened! Rigo is so talented that he could win under almost any circumstances; the LaGrangians had numbers, so why should they bury themselves. In any case, it was now Chris against the Mexican Mafia.

Act 3, (laps 6-7) Humped-and-Dumped: So while the front four motored away toward a gold medal and championship jersey, our quartet moped and whined about being used and abused. Well, that's not totally true. Hair Bear Githens was still upbeat and encouraging, and apparently full of gastric gasses as he ripped some wicked burps. I was envious since my belly was sloshing with disgusting half-digested cytomax which would periodically make the return trip to my mouth. And then the cramps hit. Initially just little annoyances, but soon expanding to full leg seizures requiring immediate 100% attention. Remarkably, with a bit of muscle punching, each cramp subsided enough to keep the bike moving forward. One new experience I had was pedaling, then feeling like the pedal was broken, only to look down and see that my foot was pointed like a ballerina's and locked in that position. It would only release after I grabbed my leg and forced it down. Weird. Anyway, the remnants of the field (about 20 guys left) were on our heels and VMG and RHVilla gave up the ghost. Githens and I labored on for another lap before getting absorbed, and that extra lap was due only to him as I sat on 80% of the way. The guy is a bonafide motor.

Act 4, (lap 8) Purgatory: I got caught and summarily spit out the back with some fellow rejects. Now if only I could have ended the misery right there. But no, those bastards slowed down enough that we had, had, to try to rejoin. Damn it, we did. By now my cramps were continuous. Once one subsided, another one hit. Do you watch Seinfeld? You know how Elaine dances? Horrifying isn't it?! Well, Elaine's dancing would be the epitome of grace compared to my pedaling style on that last lap. At the front of the race, the Mex Mafia dropped C-Walk and Rigo handled the one-two LaGrange punch to win the race. Our rag-tag bunch was sprinting for 5th. Nick Brandt-Sorenson tried to go early, but got 50 meters and melted. Then Dan Vinson and Aker took off. They didn't melt, and got 5th and 6th. I came in 10th.

Results for the curious.

After the race I slumped over my bike and moped about my physical ailments, and the absurdity of getting popped from the winning break by my supposed friend. The absolute definition of self pity. Then teammate MarkZen rolled up and was bubbling with optimism and good talk. When he sensed it was not catching, he gently scolded me for being too negative. He made the analogy to his tennis-playing days, and hitting the ball with the sweet-spot of the racket, and how good it felt and how he could feed off that sensation, bringing his game to a higher level. The analogy in a bike race is being in the right place at the right time to win the race. A real Zen Master could have fueled off of the mere fact of being in the winning break, and probably ridden a higher level because of it. Good talk MarkZen.

So as time wore on yesterday, I turned toward the positives. I mean think about it, we got to race bikes with and against good like-minded people on a safe and challenging course ...with full road closure no less! Those of us racing from SB had a great group of folks supporting us in the feed zone. Team bosses Jimbo and Druber along with young Charlie Blingerman were awesome, and the highlight of every lap by far was reaching the orange tent containing those friendly faces and cold bottles! Dinner afterward was a blast too.

I love bike racing.

Yo, other races happened yesterday also...

SB's strong contingent of 3's made a nice showing, with Matt Benko getting Silver (barely missing gold!) and all the TGI/Hazard's boys finishing strong in the front group.

45+ was the Thurlow and Sonance show, as per normal. He yo-yo'ed off the front trying to bring along some teammates in order to stack the podium, but in the end he had to go solo. Notable: David Pops Larsen rode the 45+ after already racing 50 miles in the 4's, and he finished well in each. Kim Bleth rode strong, making it into a break at one point. And the careful observer will notice that Karl Kaiser Weber raced yesterday. Right on Karl!

35+ was taken by John Rondash, after hanging just out of reach for much of the race. Surprising to me that Cynergy, Central Coast Masters, and/or Amgen couldn't or wouldn't pull it back. That's bike racin' for ya! Good to see Larry Niday out there looking strong.

Some pics of the 45+ and 35+ (as usual, click on the picture for a full-size version)...

Turbo pulling Stricky away from the field.

Steve holding on.

Dave Worthington scooting up the hill.


More carnage!

35+'ers suffering.

Liebert pulling.


Gary said...

I love your race reports!! Keep em coming and great job hanging up there in the front all day. Gary

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

marco--cool race report! I'm in france, and missing the cycling world immensely, so thanks for filling me in. I missed that race due to this work trip. :-)

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

i know, i know, my timing is off by a few weeks...I'm going to have to convince these engineer types that next time they have a conference in France it should be in JULY!

Jan said...

these two Fast Friday guys were CAT 5' in January

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks Gary! except that I wasn't in the front all day, especially when it counted! BTW, I enjoy your reports too.

Doc Kim, I had to laugh at your "missing the cycling world" comment while you're in France! Yep, Goleta CA is the center of the cycling universe ...or at least it ought to be! Hope you're enjoying your conference.

Jan, yeah those guys are amazing! I'd been hearing about them all year from teammates who they pummeled. They don't even look like bike racers... Just think how strong they'll be after losing all that baby fat! (and just in case they ever read this, I'M ONLY KIDDING!! TAKE IT EASY ON ME... I'M OLD ENOUGH TO BE YOUR DAD!)

TnA said...

They didn't pummel us all year...Jason and I both beat Mr. Aker at mothballs ;-)

He must've been sick...

Cynthia said...

Ah I love your reports!
I have to say that is one advantage of being a Cat-4 woman, we "get" to race at sunrise! In summer months and in beautiful tropical regions such as Bakersfield I don't mind getting up so early to race. It gives me enough time to get home and watch 10 hours of Law and Order reruns for recovery....

dr-nitro said...

I think that next time I dip south I'll have to dip into young punk 1/2/p race. Sounds more interesting that the geezer race. Although I could have made my race more interesting if I was a bit more aggressive.

Anyway, way to go laying waste to most of the young'ns.

See ya up in Nevada City.

Aram Dellalian said...

Of Course Thurlow was wearing a skinsuit for the 1000 degree road race.

Looked like a fun time...wish I could mix it up too.

Marco Fanelli said...

TnA- OK, not pummeled... how about "totally dominated"?

Cynthia- Yes, you're lucky getting to go in the AM. BTW, I love the inspirational quotes on your site!

Nick- Consider racing p/1/2 at Sisquoc this summer. Also, with all that bagboy-AMD bad blood flowing up there, I'm nost sure I want to do Nevada City. Best to be careful whose wheels you're on. Let's just ride off the front and let them fight for scraps!

Aram- I half thought Thurlow would do two races out there Sunday. He's done that at San Luis Rey I think. BTW, not to get too deep, but what is your thought about staying over there versus returning to the US?

dr-nitro said...

Well, I'm going to go up there and try to broker some some peace. At the very least, it leads to more aggressive racing.

Jason said...

PUMMELED describes it perfectly.

Rocks said...

Marco - I am so jealous! I cut my teeth riding on those roads. Now you can see why I whine about the cold in SB. Anyone who gets used to that heat is ruined for life. Wished I coulda been there! Great report - thanks.