Monday, May 26, 2008

Panoche Road Race 2008

Only in exceptional cases do I post race reports.  Panoche Road race was one of those cases.  Why?  Not because I did especially well, but instead because I suffered especially well.


Category: Masters 35+, Category 1/2/3

Teammates:  Aaron, Matt B., Andrew, Ramon, Clark, Chris

Weather: Hot, exposed, oven-like.

In case you hadn’t heard, this race was hot as hell.  Riding out, we were about 1/2 hour into it, when I noticed I had nearly finished my first water bottle.  I started to get concerned.  I reminded Aaron, “Keep drinking.”   He was.  I looked down, and noticed he gone through 3/4 of his.  We knew were in for a tough day.

Going out though wasn’t too bad.  Other than the guy running into my rear wheel (which made all kinds of racket), there weren’t any real items of interest.  However, when I saw Dan Martin moving up to the front just before the cross wind section, I knew we were preparing for a tough time.  When hit the cross wind section the race was ON.  It started off really fast, and then got faster!  I was in the gutter trying to echelon without riding too far in the dirt.  This took a certain amount of bravery and stupidity at the same time.  After 2-3 minutes I started to fall off…ever…so…slowly.  Inch by inch I lost ground.   Matt B., who was behind me, saw I was falling off.  He started to go around.  That little amount of draft let me hang in another 10 seconds.  Then someone else came around.  Another 10 seconds.  That was just enough.  It was then when the 6 strongmen (including our own Chris Wire) broke away from the field.  This slowed the field just enough to let me hang on.  I looked at Matt. “How about that?  That was f-ing brutal!”   (This was Matt’s first race in the 35+ 1/2/3, and they certainly weren’t playing nice!)

We went up the harder climbs and I was feeling good.  Andrew advised patience, and told me to sit in and attack after the turn around.   I needed to try and get across to the six.   This was a good plan.  Unfortunately, our group went too slow at the turnaround.  I tried to spur them on a bit and led part of the climb.  I then rested a bit and jumped.  Although the 6 were getting farther and farther away, and my solo attack would never catch, I figured I can thin the second group out some.  Ron Castia started to bridge, so I slowed a bit to pick up a chase partner.  This way we could keep the pressure on, and maybe (with a lot of luck) get across.

Soon after, Jeff Poulson bridges to us.  I shut down.  Ron was telling me to pull, but I knew I couldn’t help at all.  There was no way I was going to help Jeff make it up to the 6.  He is just too good.  So I sat on them both.  They continued to work for about 15 minutes, while I took a ride.  When what was left of the main field had just about caught us, both he and Ron sat up.  I attacked.

Boy was that a strong headwind.  I got into a rhythm and just kept pedaling though.  Sooner or later, someone will come along and help.  If not, at least my team can rest, while the other guys get discouraged chasing into what felt like a blow dryer. 

Thirty minutes later…I am all alone thinking, “Damn, it’s hot out here,” and “I am going all out, but can only manage 13mph!”  Fifteen minutes after that, I am still all alone thinking, “Damn, it’s hot out here…and my water bottle is empty…Oh, this sucks…Why won’t someone bridge up to me?”

After 53 minutes, I was finally caught.  By the whole group, no less. 

Clark, do you have some extra water?!?”

“I am dry.”   We’re all hating life at this point.

Then, they come: attack, after attack, after attack.  Ron Castia, and Jeff Poulson were valiant, but  Andrew, Ramon and Clark covered everything. 

Clark even made a couple of solo attempts.  Chalk this up to tenacity, and a really well organized team!  Everyone knew what to do. 

Then, after another really hard effort, when the group was quite unhappy, I attacked.  I knew I had no legs for any kind of sprint, so what the heck?  I figured on going out there and frying.  Hopefully I would soften up a couple of guys while our guys rested.  Five minutes later, I see “5k” painted on the street.  Is that real, or a mirage?  What is that for?  Our race, or some other event?  I am feeling quite lousy, but press on. 

Too long later, I see a real sign: 1K to go.  I look back and see no one.  I look forward and see the finish tent.  I look back and see no one.  Forward again to the finish. 

I roll directly to the water jugs with my rear wheel squeaking.

Whatever physiological system that was protecting my body from shutting down suddenly realized that I was done.  I started hyperventilating and I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.  I rolled to a stop, retained my balance, and started to re-hydrate.

When coherency returned, I looked at my rear wheel.  Remember back at the beginning of the race when some guy ran into my rear wheel?  Well, he tweaked a spoke and sent the wheel out of true.  I was rubbing my rear brake for the entire race!  Man, what a day.

One last thing:  Kudos to the feed zone volunteers!  Without them, there would have been a number of people in a very bad situation.  I personally would have ridden myself into the ground.