Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Long Haul

Newspaper photographers just can't resist my cherub face and juicy kit!

Stage 1
The Anatomy of a Crack

(No Barry, not that crack)

After close to a combined 18 days away from home on bike-racing-related pilgrimages, Barry and I decide to get up pre-dawn on Saturday and make the day-of drive to the Dead Dog. I pour out a little of my coffee for Jose, our fallen comrade out with back trouble. 2 hours after leaving Loveland we are picking up our packets for an extra $10 fee and enjoying the fruits of the third spot in the lot. Knowing what was in store for us later, I look around and realize this is what the lot will look like when the Cat 3s finish -- everyone will have come, raced, and be gone in the time it takes us to trudge 86 miles through the Snowy Range.

The race starts and Barry performs the patented moving piss. I'm very proud, Barry! The rest of the 3s just stop and do their business, but Blue Sky shows them how the real men roll -- literally. Finally rid of the water weight, Barry -- he of the "I haven't really ridden for the last three weeks", where have I heard that before Jeremy? -- launches a move and quickly gains 5 minutes with a group of 5.

The 15-mile climb starts and the 3s hit it HARD. There is clearly no tomorrow for this bunch. There's nothing I can do but hang on for dear life and mutter the 7-words-you-can't-say-on-TV in my head (RIP George Carlin). The first 5 minutes of climbing (with roughly 2 hours more to go) was the third hardest 5-minute effort for me this year, and this was at 8,000+ feet elevation.

After a brief descent I hope that is out of everyone's system, but NO, we hit it again. 4 minutes later I'm OTB and wishing Jenna were here to take me home. As I drift backward I get a bird's eye view of the peloton exploding into smitherings. I find a group of 3 VCs and we start working together with maybe 15 guys + 5 breakaways up the road.

For the next hour we motor along somewhere between tempo and threshold, but as we near the top the pace is relentless and I become unglued. There are some rollers at the top, however, and I absolutely SELL MY SOUL to make it back to my group before the descent begins. My effort is one roller too soon however, and I come undone for good and there's nothing any angel or demon can do for me now. I begin the descent in a solemn silence knowing all this downhill is for naught and I will simply pull a U-ey at the bottom.

The second 15-mile climb begins and at first I feel good -- stickin' it to my companions just like last year. This year was not to be. I am cracked. Mentally done. Knees complaining. The Powertap is projecting a lonely stare upward as if to say, "Really Dancy, this is all you got?"

Well -- sadly -- the answer is "yes"; that's all I've got and my deficit is just rolling up like an Irishman's bar tab on St. Patrick's Day. I cut my lonely furough through the Snowy Range with no end in sight. I'm totally cracked and I'm only just past halfway done. I crest the top around 56 miles and take a minute to think about all the other races today (minus P/1/2) that only totalled that amount. I start to count down the miles. Literally, every damn one ... 30 ... 29 ... 28 ... 27 ... 26 ...

Before passing through Centennial, I am caught from behind (oh behave!) by 2 other riders, and this couldn't be at a better time as I don't want to ride in the headwind by myself. I coordinate a paceline as best I can -- I suppose we did ok but I am constantly aghast at how Cat 3s can ride their bikes so much and still not be all that smooth in a paceline. I steal a couple extra rests as one rider always likes to come alongside me to battle for the other's wheel. I just leave a little gap and before I know it I'm at the back again.

In 2007 my worst 11 miles on a bike were on the final leg of this race into a headwind that made 12mph feel like your head was in a buzzsaw. Thankfully, that dreaded stretch is greeted with a fair tailwind and it flies by. Resigned to my overall placing and massive time lost, I do my best to keep spirits high in my little survival group; doing my best to keep aggression in the finale to a minimum. We come to the line and I'm just happy to be done. And once again, the parking lot is empty and I'm starting to seriously doubt if any other categories race besides P/1/2 and SM3.

Barry 24th at +17', Isaac 30th at +26'

The Aftermath

Barry and I strike it gold and discover one of the hidden gems of Laramie dining, the Altitude Chophouse & Brewery. Barry leans back a couple Tumblewheats and I stick to High Plains Pale Ale. We devour wontons, salmon, and whatever pasta is placed in front of us.

We return to the hotel and promptly hit the deck at about 6:15pm. Barry wrestles himself up briefly to change brakepads, but ultimately we are down for the count until 7am the next morning. That's right Kevin, 12-13 hours of sleep, that's what, your total for this week?

Stage 2
A Half-Speed Criterium

OK, the criterium wasn't that slow, but it does answer the question of what happens when 45 guys toe the line at a criterium and have no other ambition than to get the hell outta there. Sure, we rolled a 26mph average but it feels tame and a team of 2 CSU guys manage to have their way with the skinny minnies. I'm unwilling to reprise my executioner role a la Tulsa Tough, but it's still probably a good thing no one was there to witness my disinterest. Barry, however, puts some polish onto his training weekend by taking 7th!

However, the legs start to turn toward the end, and with only a 90-minute break between criterium and time trial, I finish the criterium absolutely primed to bring THOT in Stage 3.

Stage 3
The Hammer of Tulsa

Hunter Allen talks about maintaining a positive mantra during time trials to drive your tempo and your breathing. Well, I am the opposite. It's nothing but negative vibes Moriarty! But when the legs are firing, it feels good in a secretively deviant kind of way.

I coolly roll off the line while maintaining a conversation with Jenna's old collegiate coach. On these fast downhill sections I maintain 31.5 mph to the turnaround 5.1 miles away in less than 10 minutes. I pass my 30-second and 1-minute men while chewing on the most negative thoughts possible.

I make the turn and launch into the uphill, though after such a fast opening stretch it feels miserable. I make my unofficial time checks on my 2 companions from yesterday. I'm up. I'm up big. But whatever I've gained on the downhill can be easily lost on the uphill to the finish. It's time to bring the Hammer of Tulsa.

(And yes, I do briefly share a private joke with myself about how ridiculous it is for me to be making unofficial time checks on guys in 28th and 29th in the overall. With my results this year I guess I'll take the small victories, but decide it's probably not worth a double-posted victory salute on the line.)

I'm holding my threshold on the uphills and tag my third catch, either my 90- or 120-second man. The finish comes faster than expected and I'm across the line in 24:13, about 1-minute faster than 2007 -- though the wind-free conditions of 2008 had something to do with that.

My effort is good enough for 10th and Barry tags a strong 12th despite some negative waves of his own, and we are jetting home as fast as you can whilst making burger stops and nearly running out of gas.

We reflect on a great weekend of training; Dead Dog is clearly the most epic of races, and we dearly hope that the low turnout of 2008 doesn't translate into no race in 2009.


Anonymous said...

nice pic Isaac. here's a link to the article:

Jose said...

Sounds absolutely horrific. Damn, I wish I could have made the trip!!

Jose said...

I'm not kidding, by the way. I really wanted to be there.

Anonymous said...

Nice job Isaac! Way to lay the hammer down in the TT!


Anonymous said...

Nice job guys. I had a fun weekend as well, ending up 28th in the 4's. The road race was hard, and I only had one climb! I managed to pick up a few places in the TT, but my legs were well-done by then. Good stuff.

John S.