$7.50 a lap

Today I sucked it up and headed over to the River Falls course. It was rainy and cold. Actually, just standing around under covering, it didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t until you became thoroughly soaked that you began to suffer. Suffer, I did.

I got there just in time to see the final laps of my teammates in the Masters 35+. It was a lot of fun seeing them work together and bringing home some great finishes. Standing around with them afterward, it was great to feel connected to it all — though it was a little disappointing to learn that I could have been an actual part of the success since some our guys weren’t able to make it. I could have raced Masters after all.

Instead, I was lining up alone for the Category 3 race. We would be the last field to roll off for the day. I had hoped that the temperature would increase — and perhaps it did, but I couldn’t tell. I was numb.

Several times during warming up I stopped to use the porta-johns. I guess it was a combination of the wet, cold weather and me drinking too much. Maybe it is also a part of being 43-years old! This would factor into my day later…

We lined up behind the Pro/1/2 field and waited for them to head off. Then we moved up to their place to get our instructions, etc. It was while we were waiting for our send off when I started to feel that urge again. If I had the day to do over again, I would have gotten out of line and hit the john again. It turns out I would have had time.

I didn’t and I regret it.

The first lap was okay. Only once did I have a scare. It wasn’t due to anyone else. I just let the road get to me.

Once you come off the start/finish line you take a reasonable turn to the right. Then there is a left turn that is deceptively tight and the asphalt there is smooth — with rain you think it looks slick. I had taken the first right turn rather gingerly and now was accelerating to close a gap. This sent me into that turn at a pretty high speed.

What I should have done was just trust my equipment, lean into the turn with my right leg extended, and my left arm pushing down on the bar. Every other lap I did and it was smooth sailing. Unfortunately, this time I caught some waves.

I panicked as I came into the turn. I had the feeling that the bike wasn’t going to make the turn and I would go off the road. I braked and found myself awkwardly balanced on the bike. The front wheel started wobbling. For a split second, I thought I was going to go down. However, I slowed enough to gather the bike and then set off again after the field pulling a number of riders behind me.

We settled down and for the rest of the lap until the bottom of the hill, we rode at a nice speed. I would glance at my computer on occasion to see wattage readings in the 100s. This was good for my plan.

My plan was to sit in as much as possible to conserve my energy. These gently rolling sections would be important as there would be a 2 mile climb to deal with. If I could hang in there until the final lap, perhaps I could get a top ten finish on the final climb.

The first climb was fine. I was near the front and the field was driving it pretty good. We crested and I was in good shape, though I noticed that the whole field was pretty much with us. It made me think that perhaps I could ease up a bit on the climb and conserve some more.

During the second lap, my bladder issues became more obvious. I wasn’t desperate, but I knew that things were only going to get worse. I started to consider my options — really, only one presented itself: relieve myself in my shorts. I decided I would if it came to that.

On the second climb I tried my theory. I eased up and let the field kind of string out a bit. As we crested, I found I was a little farther back, but I could tell that I had not put out as much effort.

Unfortunately, there was a trade-off. Coming off the hill the field began to accelerate. As I was going into the first right turn, the front of the field was starting to make its way into the “scary left turn.” Gaps were forming and I found myself having to work even harder to get back with the field. Thankfully, this time I took the turn correctly, but I was giving up the energy I had saved on the climb.

By the time we reached the climb, I was at that desperate stage. I really had to go. We started the climb again and I was about mid-pack. I determined that once I could breathe again, I would do what had to be done.

This time I was starting to lose it. I was drifting back. It wasn’t because I wanted to. I was starting to labor. I didn’t understand. My wattage was reading reasonable levels. It didn’t seem that I should be feeling this way.

Once again I was chasing to get back on. Twice I had sizable gaps form and I was working hard to attach to the wheel in front of me. Finally, I did and was able to settle into the pack to recover.

Now would be the time to relieve myself. By this time my bladder was cramping. I was miserable on the inside and the out! It just wouldn’t happen.

I don’t know why. Perhaps the chemicals make your body shut down for “fight or flight” had kicked in. Maybe my brain just couldn’t deal with something that I had never done before. All I know is the misery continued to be base of the fourth climb.

Now I was hurting. Frankly, I was losing the will to continue. Another rider near me dropped saying, “I’m out!” I almost followed suit. However, I told myself, “Don’t stop now. At least get over the hill and see what happens.” So, I gathered myself and crossed the line with a huge gap.

I did give it a try. Another rider who had suffered on the climb came around me and we tried for a bit to work together to catch back on. I even caught a glimpse of the field just a turn ahead of us.  My partner accelerated and I went to go with him. He rode away from me.

What on earth was going on? I was riding with guys that I have stayed with on many a ride. Yet, here I was toast.

I stopped there. I decided I needed to go pee. However, it was a bit before my body let me.

It was time to get in my car and leave out the back way. I didn’t want to go by the start/finish line. It was too embarrassing.

I finished only four laps. I paid thirty dollars for that. That’s $7.50 a lap.