Monday, April 23, 2012

I will title this "Lost In Texas," because that pretty much sums up my weekend. I was either A) racing or B) meandering through Dallas wondering, "where the hell am I?" (Note that neither of those experiences involve eating or sleeping.)

I arrived in Dallas late Friday night, and found my teammate, Scully. We gathered our bikes and bags, and made our way to get the rental car. From there, we headed to the hotel to assemble the bikes for a seven in the morning race start. It was after midnight, we were both groggy and the blood sugars were a bit low (despite a full order of nachos in the Denver International Airport Lounge)...and neither one of us were really enjoying the do it yourself project before us. My handlebars refused to tighten, and with my small set of tools, I couldn't get any leverage. I fought with them for a good half an hour, and moved on to the seat. By that time, I was hurried. Ready to sleep. In retrospect, I rather wish I had given that seat post an extra three minutes of attention....but more on that in a bit.

Finally, with bikes ready, we headed to bed. Four hours later, we woke up and threw on our kits. (Oh, you unforgiving spandex. I hate you, you bastard.) I grabbed a bagel and some PB, and was ready to roll. We consulted the event flyer and it's hastily drawn map to try and locate the start, which was a mere two miles from our hotel.

Scully and I rode around, turning down One Way streets and alley ways, looking at signs pointing toward the Dallas West End Historic District. It took only minutes for us to realize we were hopelessly lost.

I sent Scully (who, luckily, has a better sense of direction than I) into a McDonald's in search of guidance and bad coffee. Armed with insight into where we were headed and a cup of joe, we rode another aimless stretch of Dallas pavement.

Finally, we spotted the start line with fifteen or twenty minutes before the race. We also spotted the Colavita Women's Cycling Team who, I might add, are FREAKISHLY fast. In fact, it was a pretty mean looking group of women, generally. Oh well. Can these fast girls polish off a full order of nachos in the airport lounge and still have room for vegan gelato? Yeah, that’s right, who’s the elite now?

After getting a ton of flack from a race judge about my number being "too high," and having her re-pin me with a good deal of irritation, I dorkily lined up at the start. Whistle blew, and we were off!

Scully and I had a fast few laps. The course was a figure eight with a slight downhill and a slight uphill, lots of turns, and only one real spot to move up in the pack. On the bottom of the downhill, there was a tight right turn. At every pass, I leaned in so far I could hear my pedal scrape the bottom of the road. 

By the fifth lap, I was fighting for position. I had gotten shuffled to the back. I made the mistake of coasting too far on a straight stretch where I really should have been pedaling hard, and I got dropped. With no chance to catch the pack until the next lap, I knew I was hosed. The continuous pedaling as I was stuck chasing basically felt like I was doing a workout on my bike trainer but pushing it much harder. At one point, I looked over and saw Dan Schneider from the Elite Team, as he yelled, "One long interval, Becky!" Indeed. Worse, my seat was shifting up and down through the whole race. Yes, it would have been prudent to have given that more attention the night prior. Jerry Willis from the Elites pointed that out, looking at the angle of my saddle as he said, "That's looks comfy."

Naturally, while riding I became a snotty mess, so I tried to occasionally shoot snot rockets but ended up just blowing snot all over my face and hands and feeling like a welfare child in Alabama. I was a snotty, tired, demoralized mess. Still, though, I was watching Scully a few meters ahead. She was having a pretty solid ride, and I the course itself was fun.

At the end of the race, I was disappointed with my performance but glad to get another crack at it the next day, and I was looking forward to watching the guys race later in the afternoon. Better yet, we had an event planned with Sanofi, involving kids and bike building. We made our way to another part of downtown Dallas - less scenic, in a lower income neighborhood.

We were greeted by a gymnasium filled with kids and volunteers, all busy assembling bikes for children in need.

It was an awesome event with a lot of wonderful, sweet kids and fabulous volunteers. We put together a few bikes, and spent a lot of time speaking with the kids present and the adults working among them. We devoted a good 20 minutes mugging for pictures, talking about bikes and racing...and soccer. All the kids were really big soccer fans. (I know nothing about soccer.)
I spent the rest of the afternoon lulling about downtown Dallas. We grabbed some lunch with the guys, and I went for a nice afternoon walk around town before the mens' races. Eventually, Scully and I made our way back to the start line (after getting lost again in downtown Dallas and ending up about 15 miles out of our way).

Watching the guys race was a ton of fun! Dan's dad was there, and we spent some time chatting about their impending move to Colorado. The weather was nice, and with the sun up, you could see the manicured lawns and parks surrounding the race course.

The guys had great individual races. Dan and Ben were fighting for position the whole time, and both won primes. Bradford nearly won his race, getting edged out at the very end. Dustin rode well but, in the end, lost position and couldn't fight his way back. Jerry and his brother Tommy were flying alongside one another for much of the race.

By this point, we were all starving. The guys needed to shower, and so Scully and I were stuck patiently waiting to eat. By the time they were ready to roll, we were ravenous. That was unfortunate, because we ended up at the worst pub in America. The only redeeming aspect of the experience was in watching the server crawl in and out through a WINDOW to retrieve our food, as there was no door to the patio seating. I’ve learned the hard way that certain foods will bite me in the ass once I’m exercising, and I don’t want to feel miserable riding around in circles at various intervals while stifling nasty-flavored burps. With that in mind, I opted for a veggie burger. It came out ice cold in the middle, but the waitress was kind enough to crawl back through the window, nuke the half-eaten slab of soy for a few minutes, and slap it back down before me. Good thing I was hungry.

The next morning, Scully I repeated the events of the morning prior...but we were maybe 10% less lost. The good news is that this left us ample time to get to the start, warm up on the course, and get prepared for the final day of racing. I was nervous given my fiasco of a race the day before, and really wanted to have a faster day. Scully seemed a bit more confident.

We lined up at the start, and the race commenced. I took a position near the line this time, because I knew from experience that playing chase was not going to work on this course. Apparently, the girl behind me was regretting not doing likewise because, less than a meter into the race, she attacked from behind. WHO DOES THIS??? Who surges a meter into the first lap. We are here for forty fucking minutes, Chief. You've got lots of time for your amazing breakaway. Only in a Cat 4 would you see this kind of stupidity.

Stupid girl goes flying into a tight opening between the girl on my right and another woman to the right of her. Only, there is no opening. She completely misjudged the gap, and of course NO ONE is expecting this kind of reckless surge at the beginning of the race. The woman on my right has lost all balance, and is just trying to maneuver away from the careening stupid girl about to take her out. In a moment of panic, she grabs my bars, all the while yelling, "Whoa, whoa!" I look over and raise my elbows slightly and calmly but urgently instruct her: "Dude. You need to let go of my bars. What are you doing?" That was the last thing I said before I keeled over and ate pavement in front of a group of spectators and friends who quickly went from “Go Rebeccaaaaaaa yaaaaayyyyyy” to “…..oh.” As I lay on the ground, I looked up and immediately saw a concerned volunteer stick his face an inch away from mine and shout, “ARE YOU OKAY?"

The girl next to me had pulled to the right, and flipped me and my bike. I skidded and rolled a couple of times (thanked her for breaking my fall), and then found myself mysteriously under her bike.

I hopped up and started inspecting my bike and kit. (I had wrecked earlier in the week on a training ride, and had to get a new kit sent to me for the race. I didn't want to have to make another call thanks to a torn bib and jersey.) Good news was that the bike seemed mostly okay, despite my bent bars and my wheel that was no longer tracking so neatly...and no holes in the jersey or bibs. I looked at the volunteer, who pointed to the pit, and I started making my way to a guy gingerly shaking his head. "Good news is you get a free lap," he told me as he loosened me up on the bike and prepared to shove me back into the paceline. "Just don't stand up or pedal. When I push you, you just coast and catch. You got that. Let's not do this twice." Right.

Meanwhile, the girl who'd taken me down was on the sideline, having a heated discussion with her coach. She was sobbing, "This happens every fucking time. I'm done. I'm not doing this anymore. Every time." Uhhhhh...maybe if you are rolling people EVERY TIME you should re-evaluate your race strategy. Just sayin'.

I got back in the race, and actually fought my way to the middle of the pack. The whole time, I heard the sound: "Thwup, thwup, thwup..." Every rotation. My back wheel was no longer true, and it was hitting the brake with each revolution. Awesome. I was trying to decide whether or not to go back to the pit and risk having it judged as something other than a mechanical failure...and playing chase for a second day...or just riding against my brake. I chose the latter, mostly because I was having an okay race despite the mechanical issues. Somewhere in the middle of the race, I managed to win a t-shirt prime. I was pretty pleased given the crash and the brake situation.

I kept it up until the final two laps. At that point, I saw Scully who I knew had been behind me with three other girls. She passed me, and I realized that I had lost a ton of ground in the last couple of laps. Fighting fatigue and my brake, I finished about a second or two behind Scully. Still, it was a good race considering all that had gone wrong.

In fact at one point in the middle of the race, I saw an unattached rider leave the course and take a DNF. She had been slow...I, personally, had lapped her three times. I was disappointed to see her quit. I was thinking, "You got here. You showed up. Finish it!" Same goes for the tearful trainwreck who grabbed my bars. Yes, it's harder to keep at it after you crash...your more careful, it's a tough race mentally (and more so when you crash a meter into the start)...but not finishing is an option reserved for true injury or total mechanical failure. Not a bad day of racing.

In all, it was a fast, fun course with lots of awesome turns. A beautiful day in Dallas. No complaints.

Scully and I went out for a ride thereafter. We got lost. AGAIN. We rode about 50k, and 20 of that thinking we were headed back to the hotel when, in fact, we were going the completely opposite direction. Luckily, this guy stopped and got us back on track. (You don't see a lot of spandex-clad cyclists in Texas. This dude knew right away we were from out of town. When he told us we had gone a "long, long, long way" in the wrong direction, he added, "I don't know how you'll get back. It's more than TEN MILES." I can do that in my sleep, chump. At least, I thought so...)

Meandering back through confusion, low blood sugar, tired legs and the entire right side of my body locking up after the morning carnage, it was the LONGEST ten miles of my life. This is Scully, low and about to die:

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were ready to pack the bikes and head home. In all, it was an awesome, busy, fun and fast weekend. I had a great time. I made it home with some mystery chafing on my back as well as a nice bruise on my left knee from the fall, and then a host of cuts and scrapes. Most of my friends have been polite about the mishap, but the hilariously mean ones have been giving me shit nonstop. I'm tired. But I race again on Wednesday...

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