Brain dead

It was the June segment of the POA Cycling Summer Series last night.  I arrived a little fearful.  My calf muscle had bothered me for the last couple of days and I had visions of it seizing up early on in the event.  Turns out it wasn’t my leg that cost me a good finish.  It was my brain!

In the cat 4/5 race we do 35 minutes plus 2 laps.  This means we normally get 35 laps or so in on the near .5 mile course.  We’ll finish up in less than 40 minutes.

Last night there were 37 of us lined up for the race.  There were a good number of GlobalBike club team members on hand and I figured they would give a good showing.  I had Sam, Luis, and Matt with me.  Oh, yeah, Tyler Crotts was there as well.  He factors into the story later.

Right from the start things got hopping.  Matt took off to start a break and I followed.  Five minutes into the race we had a gap on the field.  Unfortunately, my old body has to warm up before I can start doing things like that!

As we were rotating through, I started to struggle and said to my break partners, “I’ve got to back off.”  I didn’t want to hold Matt up if he was feeling good.  I realized I would just slow them down.  Later I learned that they thought I said, “Let’s back off.”  We all slowed and were caught.

It was time to go to mid-pack and recover.  One thing I’ve learned it that no matter how you feel, you cannot go to the rear of the field – at least not on this course.  I sat in and tried to recover.

Honestly, 15 minutes in I nearly pulled off the course.  I felt really, really bad.  Thankfully, I’ve been there before I knew I just had to ride through it.  I began to concentrate on staying near some of the GlobalBike riders and that took my mind off my body enough for me to effectively recover.

Twenty-five minutes in I started to find that I was unintentionally starting to make my way closer to the front.  I don’t know if it was because other riders were slowing or I was feeling better and speeding up.  Perhaps it was a combination.  One thing for sure, I was feeling much better.

That is when I started thinking about the finish.  It entered my brain that the race was 30 minutes plus two laps.  I decided that at 30 minutes, I would attack going up the slight incline on the backside of the course.  If I could get a good enough gap, perhaps I could hold on for the two or three laps I would need.

Around the time I started my move I looked ahead and saw there was someone else who had already attacked off the front.  It was Tyler Crotts – my trash talking nemisis.  Maybe the two of us could connect and help each other out.

The first part worked.  I came out of mid-pack and got a gap before there was any reaction.  I went through turn four and started to climb.  About mid-way up the climb I caught Tyler.  I looked back as I came around him to see if he was able come along.  Tyler wagged his head and stuck his tongue out.  He was done.  I was now alone.

Oh, well, I would just have to put my head down and give it a go.  After the first lap, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  As I would make a turn, I looked back to see the field.  As I came around turns two and three, I didn’t see any chasers.  Good.  Just nail out a steady pace and try to hold on.

It had registered vaguely in my mind that our race announcer, Blair, had not been calling out any lap countdown.  As I came around to finish my first lap on the break, he still was talking about me breaking away – not the amount of laps left.  Could I stay out here for two more laps?  It did help that I also heard the voices of people on the sidelines cheering me on.  I can’t remember who or what exactly they said, but it was a cool feeling.

The next time around was a heart break.  I had started feeling a little tired and wasn’t pushing it nearly as much as before.  It was about 33 minutes in and I heard Blair say as I passed, “5 laps to go.  5 laps to go.  Can Jonathan hang on?”  Funny, hearing those words completely demoralized me.  “No,” I thought to myself, “He can’t.”  Perhaps I could put pressure on the field to chase and allow Luis and Matt to sit in and then make a move.

I hung in there and lead another lap.  I made it around turn one and looked back.  When I was halfway between turns one and two I could see the field coming out of turn one.  I was done.  They caught me between turns two and three – right where I had started my attack.  I tried to stay on, but remember what I said about avoiding the back of the pack.

Three laps to go and Tyler and I were now riding along together.  We talked and still maintained a respectable speed over those last laps.  The last thing I wanted to do was to get lapped.  Number one, I just hate the idea of not finishing on the lead lap.  Number two, I don’t want to be in the way when the riders pick up speed!

We avoided getting lapped and as we crossed the line, we did it wheel-to-wheel so neither of us could say we beat the other (though I do have to point out that I was scored in 20th place – the last possible scoring position, I didn’t see Tyler on the scoring sheet).  It was a fun night.  Yes, I didn’t get the finish I wanted, but I definitely wasn’t just field fodder.

Had I not been brain dead and started my attack a little later, who knows what the evening might have held?  Oh, my calf muscle?  It felt great during the race.  However, by the time I cooled down afterwards, it was already tightening up again.  The Beautiful Redhead tells me that it is trying to send the message that I need to be on the bike more.  That would be nice…