My re-introduction into road bike racing last night was trial by fire, literally. The skies were filled with smoke from the hundreds of fires burning in northern California but that didn't stop many crazy bike racers from suiting up and hitting the roads around Boca and Stampede Reservoirs just east of Truckee, Ca.
My last bike race was June 2003 at the Nevada City Classic, a brutal circuit race up and down the hills of Nevada City. Since then I've taken up running but since being side-lined with this shin injury, I've been back on the bike. So why not jump into a little race?
The Reno Wheelmen put on a fun series of bike races through the spring and summer in and around Reno. I raced with them in 2002 to get myself into shape for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. I've been doing some good riding lately, however, nothing real high end. Like racing. And it showed.
Pat is doing the Alcatraz Sharkfest swim in San Francisco this Sat and he wanted to get a dip into Donner Lake just to get some cold water exposure. We found a public dock that was perfect for the kids to swim a bit and Pat could work on that "cold water face immersion/hyperventilation/mild anxiety" bit. Good practice for SF.
After the swimming and a bit of dinner we headed to Boca for registration. I signed up with the C's and started warming up. It was fun seeing and visiting with old friends that I hadn't seen in awhile. The race started and I found myself mid-pack of about 15 riders. The pace started really slow and my confidence grew. Then we hit the first hill. Actually, hill is an over-statement. It's more like a small bump in the road but I found myself being passed by riders. I glanced back to see who was behind me and was shocked at what I saw: nothing but open, empty road. I had been dropped off the back and we hadn't even got to the big climbs yet. Uh oh. This isn't good I thought. Well, at least I knew what the title of my next blog entry would be: DFL.
I was able to reintegrate the group after the small bump but I knew I'd be off the back again at the next hill. And I was. I worked really hard to stay close and was able to bridge back up to a girl who was being paced by a much stronger guy on the flats. It soon became apparent that I was stronger on the downhills and flats and she was stronger on the hills. At the first turn around the 3 of us were together. I was able to recover a bit but the pace was slower than I wanted. So I decided to drop the hammer and see what happened. I figured if I could get a gap on the girl then maybe I could hold her off on the last 2 big climbs and stay ahead for the finish.
At the second turn-around point I had about 10 seconds on her. On the second to last hill her friend passed me like I was standing still. I guess she had told him to go ahead and do his own race. So it was down to me and her (I still don't know her name, just #660).
I hit the last hill and focused my eyes 2 feet in front of my front wheel. I told myself to keep up the hardest effort I could until I either 1: got to the top of the hill, or 2: threw up. Finally I was on the last few miles of flats and I just hammered as hard as I could. It was my own time trial, my own suffer-fest. I kept glancing behind me and didn't see #660. I finally told myself to quit looking back. Even if I looked back and she was suddenly there, there was nothing I could do about it. I was red-lined. It was a little demoralizing to know I was pushing as hard as I could and the best I could hope for was second from last. I really thought I'd be able to hang with the group a little longer but I guess my lack of racing really showed itself.
I crested the last small hill to see the finish line guys packing up. Wait, wait for me. And there's one more behind me. So I guess my title for this blog entry had to change. It would no longer be DFL.
And the smokey skies actually weren't too bad. Maybe I was just suffering too much to even notice my lungs getting scorched. During the last mile I did finally lift my head a bit to take in the view. It was a beautiful sunset through the smoke as the sun sank into Boca Reservoir and I even noticed the puple lupine along the road. It was all a very beautiful, eerie scene.
Tomorrow we head to San Francisco and hopefully get out of this terrible smoke. We have 2 fires totaling about 1700 acres burning about 15 miles from my house. Then I come to work in Reno and all the smoke from California is now over here. Maybe if we head as far West as we can, we can escape it.
On the running front, I had all my tests done (MRI, CT scan, bone scan) and am now just waiting to get in to see the doctor which won't be until July 1st. I ran about 100 feet today and there was no pain. Don't laugh, that's actually a really good sign. Normally the pain started with the first running step. So this weekend I'm taking my running gear to the City and do a bit of running. That has to be one of my favorite things to do: an early morning run along the Embarcadero. There's nothing more peaceful. And if all goes well, my leg won't hurt.
I'll try to post a few pictures after we get back. And for those who don't know, DFL stands for, you guessed it, Dead F'ing Last.