The Punishers

You missed another opportunity to sample the dark depths of your emotional resolve today.  A small group met at SOMA at 1:00pm for a little out and back to the far flashers on 446 today with temperatures hovering in the low 30s.  The total distance was to be about 55 miles.  I knew that I was going to be late, so I was planning on chasing most of the afternoon.  This frame of reference put me in a unique state of mind that was to work in my favor. I left my appointment just east of town at 1:15, and not certain that the group was in front or behind me, I decided to go pretty hard to the lee side of Knightridge.  Along the way, I was looking for the telltale tire lines after the damp spots in the road.  Seeing none, I turned down Knightridge, opposite the way that we race during the World’s.  Soon I met the hardy group.  Ryan, Adam, Tom C, Colin and Geraint were to form the gruppo compacto for the foreseeable future, or the next few hours. 

There was some nervous chatter on this very cold afternoon as we turned onto 446 and headed South.  The pace was surprisingly robust for this time of year and I was glad that I decided to bring my race bike and not my Winter ride (although the others had, what appeared like their back-up equipment). It’s about 20+ miles to the flashers.  Pretty soon it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a casual ride.  The tempo was fast and all took fairly equal turns at the front.  We had a bit of a desperate situation heading out of the causeway when Adam turned a high tempo up the long climb.  I was on his wheel for about ¾ of the climb when I began to falter.  Colin was able to step up to the challenge and crest the top with him.  The rest of us rolled up to the two leaders thanks to the herculean efforts of Tom C. 

After regrouping the pace never let up.  Colin had to turn back after an hour on the ride to manage some family affairs.  I didn’t see him turn back, but if I had I may have joined him.  Clearly strongmen Ryan, Adam and Tom C were in charge on this one, so props to them.  They pulled longer and harder than Geraint and I were able.  But there is no shame in hanging on.  Despite the high speeds, I was able to dig deep and manage the gradual ascents on the way out.  Geraint lost contact briefly in the last few hilly sections but chased superbly and nearly caught us at the flashers on his own, an effort that will pay dividends this season.   A quick bite to eat at the lights and we were halfway home. 

The way back started quickly and was identical to the effort on the way out.  But this time, the strain was evident on the balance of the group.  Ryan and Adam set a frenetic pace as the five of us hurtled back towards Bloomington.  The early rises proved to be too much for us as Geraint and Tom C decided to call it a day.  I was hanging on for dear life, unable to pull during miles 30-45.  My world became the blurry wheel in front of me.  The wind was blowing off the left front quarter and I was desperate for shelter in the gutter on the 27mph assault that the two boys were delivering.   My lips were numb as I desperately began searching for the right gear.  I was always a tooth or two higher than my colleagues and the effect of the big gear and miles was becoming cumulative.  Gaps were opening on the false flats and I was forced to re-connect through micro-chases for several miles. 

As we approached the North side of the causeway I lost the battle.  My mental state was being sabotaged by the day’s physical decay and it conspired against me.  I had fought the good fight but reasoned that there will be other days.  That’s where it ends for me.  Not there out on the cause way on the bike, but in my mind.  It wasn’t the moment I resigned physically, but the emotional events leading up to it that sealed that deal.  Sure, I was spent.  But I have been at this game for a long time and I know how to dig deep, follow the wheel and soldier on.  Understanding the events that affect your mental attitude are important tools for high performance racing. Sometimes, reason must be set aside in lieu of managing the ride.  Today, that reason crept in at just the right time.

Philosophy aside, I waited for a few moments and Tom C and Geraint joined me and we all cycled back to Bloomington, chatting excitedly about the upcoming season.  When I arrived home, about 3 ½ hours later, my wife asked me to peel a bag of potatoes while she went out for a run.  As I sat there in the chair, potato and peeler in hand, I thought of the punishment that was handed out today by my peers. A warm feeling of satisfaction washed over me as I relished in the fact that I was able to participate.