I already know I didn't blog last night, but it's only because I fell asleep on the couch again at 9:00 after I got my daughter to bed. It's been a long week and it caught up with me.
I got up this morning and cooked breakfast for my daughter and made my cappuccino, before scrambling to get ready for the Weekend Worlds... the Chili's Ride. This morning broke sunny and clear, with lots of standing water and wet roads. The temp was cool but the skies were not black with clouds... it was a perfect morning to ride! I got out the door with barely enough time to ride down and catch the small first group of the Chili's group (one of the local Saturday group training rides). I got down the hill and caught them as they were passing, so I whipped a U-turn and joined them. It was a small but dedicated group. After a little rolling, we were eventually caught by another group doing the same ride and our numbers grew to around 12- 15 riders. Again, much smaller than the usual 40+ riders, but it was a quality group of dedicated riders.
Even though I only had a granola bar and a cappuccino in my belly, my legs were feeling pretty healthy and once the caffeine began to wear off a little, my heart rate settled down a bit. The early accelerations came at the usual spots they always do with the usual suspects, but I was able to stay with the group and even help push the pace a few times. At roughly the midway point of the ride, the first "climb" to challenge our legs came and I was pleased to hang with the leaders much longer than usual. I crested the climb within sight of the leaders and in about 6th place. For me, that was a very good effort. I mean... I started the day at 208.2lbs... not exactly my climbing weight yet. After the climb, we stopped at our usual spot to regroup and refill water bottles. As we rolled off, we laughed about how massively outnumbered I was for the final sprint by my friends on the Adams Avenue Bikes team... about 8 of them against me. We rolled off laughing about how they were going to gang up on me and make it impossible for me to privateer the sprint. Truthfully, I agreed with them- the numbers were NOT in my favor, at all.
We rolled off towards our date with destiny and the final major sprint of Weekend Worlds. I put in a short, but legitimate pull for a few Km on the front... earning my keep in the group. As we headed down the long final few miles of rolling roads toward the sprint, my sprinter's nerves got all tingly with excitement... even knowing how improbable my chances were. The group was rotating well, with the AAB guys drilling the front fairly well to maintain a good tempo. It was clear they owned the ride. I tried to maintain my position in the front group, sitting third wheel as often as I could. As sometimes happens, we hit the final light of the road with a red light and had to slow to a near stop before the light changed and we were able to roll off with a fresh regrouping at the front with new AAB legs to set tempo for the finale!
Two weeks ago, with less ready legs, I was in roughly the same spot- riding the wheels of the leadout- when I nailed a pothole and double flatted. That image kept playing in my mind as I told myself to not repeat that sad performance. When we finally passed the offending potholes, I felt a lot safer, but also knew that the sprint was coming in a few more pedal strokes. I was still in third wheel as the AAB guys, including my friend C-Murder (Chris Michels of Focus Bikes), began to give it the final wind-up. When the lead rider pulled off and Chris began to wind up a sprint/ leadout for their big fast man Everett Hauser who was behind me, I knew I had to go or get swamped. I launched my sprint, deep in the drops and knuckling through the gears with my SRAM shifting (a sprinter's best friend). I was out of the saddle and flogging my scandium bike with all the power I could give the pedals. The chain lagged slightly dropping from the 12t down to the 11t, but once the shift was complete I gave it all I had left- which wasn't much- and ran for the finish with open road ahead of me... and heavy breathing behind me. I allowed myself the chance to peer back behind me through my legs to see that I had the sprint won and crossed the imaginary line with my arms held high! The "victory salute" was half joking with my friends and half honest and sincere elation. I don't know if this is the first time I have won a sprint like this since my crash nearly two years ago, but it was certainly the most satisfying if it wasn't!
After the sprint, my legs were wobbly noodles and my heart rate was damn near hummingbird speed... but I had won. I had won with terrible odds against me and good friends dead set against letting me win. Afterwards, there was plenty of discussion about how unlikely the win had been and how a lesson had been taught by a wily veteran. I admit I was very pleased with myself!
We added an extra few miles to the ride and rode up and over the 52HWy, which is a nasty 4+ mile climb! The group quickly dropped my exhausted ass and put a few KM gap into me as I settled into the best pace I could maintain. We regrouped at the bottom of the descent and I helped Chris with a flat, holding his impressively light Focus Izalco Milram team edition bike. We chatted about the sprint as I told them they'd gotten their revenge dropping me so easily on the climb.
Andrew and I rolled off through the Mission Trails park as the others rolled up and over the Mission Gorge climb. We chatted about our relative lack of condition and about life, etc. We nursed each other along on the final few miles, lending encouragement and support. We enjoyed the sun and lack of rain, though we were drenched to the bone and covered in mud from the water and debris all over the roads of the day's ride.
As we split to go to our respective homes, I was reminded of why it is that I love to ride bikes. Time with friends, healthy competition and a desire to force myself to dig just a little deeper. The ride had been an incredible one on many levels. It was so great to have that first feeling of truly getting something of my old legs back beneath me. Getting a "win"- even if the only prize is bragging rights for a week and the right to give my friends grief for not being to able to keep me from winning the sprint- is such an emotional boost. I'm a long way from being where I want to be, but sticking with the riding during lunch this week as it dumped rain on me, paid off and helped build the base for more miles.
I love riding a bike. I love riding a bike with my friends. I'm glad I keep coming back from these setbacks and frustrations again and again. I'm glad I haven't given up yet. I'm glad I'm actually motivated to buy my racing license again and contemplating racing in a few weeks against riders far better trained and prepared.
I hope your rides this weekend- or whatever it is you like to do- inspire you too. In the end, it's great to be alive and have friends... even friends who can't seem to keep me from winning a sprint that really should've been theirs! (I kid... I kid... sorta...)