Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I heard that song on the radio yesterday afternoon and it perfectly sums up where I'm at and what I'm thinking/feeling.  I've been contemplating how to write this one out, and the song was a good motivation to get movin before the thoughts continue on into the ether and a new chapter comesa along.

I raced my 1st USA cycling race in 10 years Sunday. It was a mountain bike race down in Moline IL, or what may as well have been Iowa. Not only was it my first sanctioned MTB race, but I'm in the Sport (Category 2) field. This is the category for riders who race all the time but have not yet moved into the elite category. Like I said, it's been 10 years and maybe it would be fairer to race in the novice class for a while, but theres that thing called EGO, and driving 3 hours I may as well get my moneys worth right? The interesting note to make me feel better is I would have been in the top 10 for novice if I went that route. The problem is I rode/raced well when I was younger( late 20s/30s ), and regardless of what I've done (or NOT done) over the last decade, I am picking up where I left off as far as categories are concerned. I can provide a million excuses some good some bad but the reality of it all is I need to focus on where I'm at now, and make the best of it. I was nervous leading up to this weekend. First race in ages, new bike, training issues over the last 4 to 6 weeks, wrist injury, etc etc.  The race was on an island at the Mississsippi river and was 4 laps on 5 miles of technical singletrack. A very technical race. I was planning on riding at or slightly above my Anaerobic Threshold, and even ran out Saturday and picked up a heartrate monitor from Sportsmart (that's what I still call it), because changing batteries on my cyclecomputer rendered it useless.. I should have known better. I was NOT going to back off the pace based on a winter test result and landed up riding most of the race at least 7 beats higher than my plan. I only looked at the monitor on occasion just to get a feel as to where I was riding. At least I have new numbers to train by... The morning of the race I woke up with an old familiar feeling I have not had in literally YEARS. Race morning anxiety.... I made a promise to myself and blurted it out to my family shortly before my race started. If I was going to be ALL stressed out, and the family time and experience wasn't fun I/we would walk away. It isn't going to be fair for any of us if I am a stressed out ASS every day I race and the wife and kids don't enjoy the day. I purposly reminded myself of that declaration  more than a few times, and I think I kept things in check. So YES I did race back in the 90's. I had some good success, and managed to place well in a good number of events on the road, and dirt. Things were different back then though. No long term training layoffs like this time around, not as many (if at all) family commitments, no illness or genetic issues to deal with, a lot less limiters. Back then, a number of years of hard work, lots of time to train, and a good collection of race experiences ultimately resulted in  a number of  seasons bringing home some good results. Then I retired because my family and responsibilities grew, I had to deal with (mostly) a genetic illness, and ultimately I felt it was more important to be a good dad than a bike racer. The only thing that didn't change and never will, is my passion for the sport. So I'm 10 years older, I have all the setbacks that genetics throws at me (and then some),  my free time is limited, I continue to miss training opportunities because of track meets, soccer games, and the general business that comes with a family -BY CHOICE, that and my training hasn't been great (again comparing to Ray version 1).
My LTPM (Long time personal manager LOL) was keen to know how I am on race morning and did a good job at anticipating  the stress. I was mindfull of that though,  I even seen that stress trait in a fellow racer barking at his family before the race. I DON'T want to be that guy... I wasn't :) Stressed? yes? Did I act out? no (at least I don't think I did). It was also my first race in a new teams race kit. I was representing xXx. So enough of the blabbing. I showed up, (which can be a victory of sorts), and after warming up and taking pictures with an excited family, Dad the bike racer was off. It was 4 laps on 5 miles of technical singletrack mostly flat. A fun course for sure. I rode all the lines well, and was able to easily ride in control. BUT after the 2nd lap on the quarter mile start/finish stretch of gravel trail that, if you could, most riders shifted big ring, grabbed the bottle, or food etc, and tried to make up time on the riders still in the single track. I crashed with another rider bigtime. It's funny, one reason I'm racing off road is I don't like the idea of crashing (who does?! (WTF) on the road. So up into the big ring I go,  and when I'm going into my jersey pocket for a GU, another rider crosses into my path as we are drag racing, and the collision has him going down right into/in front of me and taking me down in the process. It was slow motion. All I was thinking is I can't believe I'm crashing on the only stretch of the course that resembles the road. strange isn't it? We were moving fast, it happened in slow motion and I remember falling and rolling with the rider, and his bike along the limestone and into the gutter.  No blame (from either of us) and after regrouping and getting my chain back on it was back to business. I was freaked out though for a few minutes. Turns out I took a majority of the impact from either his bike (or him) into my left ribs. NOTE - Hurt like Hell Sunday night and Monday was worse -deep breathing was hurting, and there is tenderness on a rib or 2wo...  I rode the rest of the race and did not hang with the group I was with right before the crash my times were pretty consistent  per lap. The best part of the day was hearing and seeing my wife and kids cheering for me each lap. That's a big reason to continue to do it. On the finishing stretch I seen a little kid riding onto the course and I let up to avoid hitting him, at the same time a guy came out of nowhere and passed me with about 10 yards to go. He stopped and said he saw me sit up when the kid entered the course, and appologized for taking it. Oh well. It's over. I still think not hitting a child is more important than a finishing place but it sucked seeing him come out of nowhere. No biggie...
 I had nothing to compare my results to, and it's been so many years since I raced. I would/AM stupid to think I can jump right back into racing after so many years and get good results. I'm not a prodigy, I do have a passion though (and a natural talent- yes, I still think I do)... I think I placed 62nd in the category 2 race and did NOT do well in my age group. YES I'm disappointed, but it really opened my eyes to a number of different things. Things like what I'm doing to help my racing, what I'm doing to hurt my racing, realistically what can I do with the free time I have that is better than how I am managing time currently etc.  My younger boys first question to me when I was done was in response to my blurb about "if it's not fun we're not going to do this anymore". He asked if I had fun, he asked if were going to do this again. I said yes, and he was thrilled that we are continuing, REALLY thrilled. All of them were proud of me, and that means a lot. It also means a lot that they were so excited to go, they had a good time, and are looking forward to next time.  So aside from my dissapointment, I am glad I went, and again, I would be stupid to think you can get right back to where you left off all those years ago. I guess the best way to look at this is the pressure to place is off, and I need to remember to keep it fun. I didn't get results overnight the last go round so now I can enjoy the experince of seeing myself get better with experience (again)

So it's off to the doctor this afternoon to get the cortizone shot in my right wrist to address the pain I'm experiencing. The ribs? I don't know what will come of that.. A bit better today than yesterday, and I don't really want to ask for ppain meds again. I'm also considering swapping all the upgraded components off my full suspension frame and onto my hardtail frame to see if I should stick to a lighter simpler more efficient hardtail. I still haven't been convinced full suspension is the way to go, and  I need some kind of excuse right? LOL

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