rac·ing/ˈrāsiNG/: 1.) To compete in a contest of speed. 2.) Steady or rapid onward movement. 3.) Moving swiftly.
Its been almost six months since my injury and I've seen little improvement in my foot function. It's still dropped and weak. I've accepted the fact that I may never run again. I made running a big part of my life. The gaping void that has been left without it has been difficult to fill. More than anything I miss racing; its in my blood.
On Friday morning Tony told me about a gravel road race in Lowell called the Lowell 50. I badly wanted in just as a warm up for Iceman. Registration was closed and my attempts to contact the race promoter fell on deaf ears. The website made no mention of same-day registrations so I made the decision to show up an hope to get a number. In all honesty, I was riding that race whether I had a legit number or had to poach the course. As it turned out, 10 minutes before the race, I was able to locate the race director and get registered.
The race offered two distances; 50 miles and 27. Tony was riding the 27 and our friend Matt was riding the 50. We are all riding Iceman on Saturday so I thought it wise to do 27. Matt, well I have no idea what he was thinking because he got punished out there on a hilly course with plenty of soft sloppy roads.
They sent the 50 milers off in a blaze of colorful spandex and a nice mix of cross and mountain bikes. Tony and I started near the end of the pack of maybe 50 riders. I've never raced on a bike so my strategy was very similar to my running race strategy; get to the front of the pack as fast as possible and stay there. I know it sounds like basic strategy but it's easier said than done. It was an uneventful start and I think I may have heard the race director say "go" but basically everybody just started moving forward. I stood and started hammering away at the pedals. I had to weave my through a colorful sea of spandex, crunching metal gears and tires streaming water and mud. Within the first mile or so there was a nice climb and the pack really started to thin. I grabbed the wheel of a three-man line and we quickly pulled away from the field never to see them again. My heart was pounding and I could feel the blood rushing through my veins. A blissful feeling washed over me as my mind was free of my daily burdens. I was racing for the first time in 6 months and feeling very fortunate to be doing so.
|Ethan at the finish.|
Right out of the gates one of the guys stepped up and took control of our pace line. We'll call him Ethan. Ethan was a member of Bissell Racing, or so his jersey said. He was riding a 29'er just like me. There was another guy in a Bissell jersey riding a cross bike. When I got my first chance to pull the line I couldn't control my adrenalin. I was immediately out of the saddle hammering down. Ethan barked, "Easy, easy we've got a long ways to go." I glanced at my Garmin and it read 4.70 miles. We took our turns and moved along the course like a well oiled machine.
Before long I saw two more Bissell jerseys in front us. My initial though (read inexperienced here) was that we're going to ride through them and leave them for dead. Ethan pipes up, "When we come up on these guys we are going to pick them up and bring them with us." Sure enough they fell in line and Ethan continued to control our pace. "OK guys, now we are six strong and there is only one guy ahead of us, we are going to let him sit up there alone for awhile and then we'll go after him." I had no idea we were at the front of the field with a chance to launch an attack on the leader. I was pretty ecstatic and had a hard time containing myself. I've never raced as a team like that and it was a really incredible feeling. I told myself that I could not fall off the back of the line, I was going to stay with these guys come hell or high water.
We continued to work together taking turns as we watched the leader slowly slip away. I knew at some point someone in a red jersey was going to launch an attack and I wanted badly to be in a position to go with them. I kept a close eye on Ethan. Somewhere around 17 miles or so we crossed a covered bridge and headed into a brutal climb. One of the guys on a cross bike attacked and Ethan and I gave chase. He crushed us on the climb but once it leveled out we ran him down. At that point we had put some distance between the other three but we couldn't hold them off. They caught us and we were six again.
The advertised distance was 27 miles and around 24 miles the pace really started to pick up. I knew another attack was coming. Unfortunately I didn't know the area so nothing looked familiar. I was pulling the line as we headed into a right turn and an immediate uphill. As we rounded the corner Ethan attacked hard. He was gone and I was pissed that I had nothing left to give chase. I though we still had a few miles to go so I wasn't that concerned. As it turned out we were very close to the end as the course was a couple miles short. A few hundred yards from the finish there was a right turn and you finished at the top of a hill. At the intersection I saw Ethan go left and was like, WTF? He blew it, made a wrong turn and cost himself five positions. At first I felt bad for him but then I realized that part of racing is racing smart.
I tried my best to give one last surge on the final hill, but the guys I was riding with were too strong. I had to settle for fifth place overall. The cool part was I guess they were all in their 40's because I ended up winning my age group (30-39). I'm hoping official results will be posted on the website at some point. OFFICIAL RESULTS
|Tony at the finish.|
This is strange because it appears that I actually got second in my age group since the overall winner was in there too. I suppose he got an overall winner award so by default I ended up with first. I am happy to see that I was less than three minutes from the overall winner.
It was a really great race that gave me a lot of confidence going into Iceman. I know I won't win anything at Iceman in a field of 5000 racers, but I will give my best. I thought the course was an excellent mix of gravel and pavement. The rain the night before made for some sloppy conditions which for me just added to the enjoyment of this race.
Tony kind of got hung out to dry and ended up riding most of the race alone which made for much cleaner clothes at the finish. Thanks Tony for telling me about this race, it was a ton of fun as always. I should have brought some post race beers. As far as Matt, well I heard that he finished in less than four hours but as I understand he didn't have a lot of fun.