Monday, August 27, 2007

fat, old, slow, sluggish...

I rode the PA State Hill Climb Championships (who knew there was a "state championship" for such a thing) this weekend. I was not impressive.

A seven-mile climb gaining 1700 feet in elevation. Most of the elevation gain was in the first 1.5 miles and the last 2 miles, with a mostly gradual incline in between.

The night before I went to sleep with ugly reminiscences of past hill climbs. Specifically, that point in every climb where I was forced to watch the leaders just roll away because I just couldn't keep up the pace any longer. Heart rate pegged, fitness inadequate, and looking down at my wheels wondering who filled them with lead. I have vivid mental pictures of each failure. Two years up the final climb in the Edgar Soto. Last year up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, Roan Groan in Tennessee, and two collegiate road races with significant climbs. I'm hanging with the lead group and slowly, yet rather suddenly, it just slips away. There was no acceleration. No attack. I just slowly, but unavoidably--as if Fate it decreed--begin to move backwards.

And that's what happened. Embarrassingly, during the steepest section of the last bit of the first 1.5 mile grade.

In this race, as has been my experience elsewhere, as soon as I can crest the hill I feel fine. Or, if not fine, better than those around me. As soon as I came over the top of that first steep section I screamed past three other danglers who weren't able to hold my wheel. I soon came upon another who was. We traded pulls up the shallow grade until a larger group of six or seven caught us from behind. The lead group had maybe 30 seconds on us. Until we began to climb again.

When the grade steepened again it was my turn to leave others behind. I remember looking back after maybe a half mile and seeing several riders still in tow. I accelerated just a bit and after maybe another half mile looked back to see only a single rider on my wheel. I made him take a pull.

With about a kilometer left I mustered together what was left of my courage, shifted to the big ring, and tried to drop my companion. The climb had taken its toll, however, and while I was able to pick up the pace considerably, there was no more punch in my legs. It seemed no difficult matter for the other rider to keep pace in my draft. I tried two more accelerations to drop him, and despite my weaving all over the road--weaving from exhaustion perhaps more than from tactic--the rider held my wheel and sprinted around me with maybe fifty meters to go. He came around with such a surprising burst of speed that I just sat up, hung my head, and wallowed in defeat.

Losing bike races is spiritually exhausting.


I finished ninth of 26 starters with a time of 30:10, a whopping 3:12 off the winning time. I was fifth in my age group, 30-39, though I got a trophy for forth, since first in my age group was in the overall top three. The cyclist on the trophy has a pony tail and breasts. I gave it to Audrey. The promoter didn't deliver on his advertised promise for t-shirts.

1 comment:

UtRider said...

Quit your complaining you big baby! I'll bet you gave up 20-40 pounds to the dudes who beat you up the mountain.

Not even the pros win very often unless they are doing smaller, local races and even then they need to be on good form.