Saturday, May 29, 2004

Elma Road Race

6:15 am: My alarm goes up and I wake up to a typical wet Northwest morning. The morning was to be spent riding the Elma Road Race, a 42 mile road race set in (as I found out for the first time) scenic Elma, Washington.

I had packed the car the night before, so I threw on some of my riding gear, grabbed some food and coffee and hit the road. Elma is about 100 miles south of the Seattle area.

When I arrived at the area, I went through the usual pre-race motions. Register, warm up, etc. At 9:30 the race got going under a nice steady rain. I lead the pack out as the race started, but opted to slide back and hang on to someone's wheel to save energy. I knew there was a 1 kilometer climb on each lap (we did 3 laps), but had no idea what it would be like. I wasn't expecting anything as difficult as the Enumclaw race.

As the pack made its way through some flats and rollers I enjoyed a constant spray of water and dirt from the wheels in front of me. It didn't taste very good, but my face got a good exfoliation. Maybe I'll sell this as some kind of new age skin treatment.

Anyway, when we hit the hill I started to fall off the back of the pack. I was behind by just a bit so I wasn't that worried, but as the pack crested the steepest rise and started to gain speed again I simply couldn't catch up to them. They were literally just a few seconds in front of me but I couldn't close the distance. I was stunned. Dropped on the first hill? How the hell did that happen? Did I do something wrong?

I paired up with another guy and we proceeded to start hauling ass down the backside of the hill in hope of catching the pack. They were in sight, there was hope. We eventually picked up a third guy and all worked together as we crossed the flat section of the course. Once again, I eventually couldn't keep pace, fell off and found myself riding alone.

This was absolutely demoralizing. I actually thought about stopping. I couldn't believe I had trouble keeping up with everyone. I managed to rationalize away my anger and decided to just keep working hard, getting in some good training and learning as much as I could. I figured after a few more climbs, the pack would start to disintegrate and I'd be able to pull back a few positions.

After I finished the second climb, the situation got a worse. As I turned a corner to begin the downhill section, I felt something very unnerving. My rear tire slid out on me. Not by much, but enough to get my attention. A quick stop confirmed my fears, my rear tire was going flat. It seemed to be a slow leak, the tire was only squishy. I was about halfway around a 14 mile lap and the wheel car had passed me to stay with the pack. I was fucked.

Since the bike was still rideable, I eased up on the pace and kept making my way back, hoping I would make the parking lot before I was totally flat. No luck. Many miles from the lot, my rear tire was totally flat. I rode for a while on the flat rim (ouch) and then rode in the grass on the ride of the road to prevent (more) damage. Eventually I caught up with someone from the women's race that was in a similar situation. The two of us walked for a long time until one of the wheel cars from another race helped us out and we rode back to the starting area.

All in all, not a great day. However, after I got home and had some time to think I realized things aren't that bad. I need to keep reminding myself it is only my first season. I'm sure there are lots of hard lessons ahead.


1 Comments:

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