Monday, May 22, 2006

Lulla Graduated

I hope that everyone in the whole wide world will join me in congratulating LullaBelle on graduating cum laude from law school. I am so very proud of her for working so very hard these last three years. I know it wasn't easy, and at times I was the cause of it not being easy, but she did it. Now the world is her oyster and I hope she finds the pearl she's looking for.

Tri Peaks and the Battle for Uphill Dominance

After a good performance on Saturday mechanical difficulties relegated me to the wheel truck on Sunday. However, mad props go out to Uncle Steve for turning Mt. Nebo into his own personal suffer fest and leaving the competition in the dust.

Slowly but surely my powers as a climber, which were long rumored to exist, are coming into reality. Mills and Coles no doubt are confused about where my climbing prowess emerged from but I assure them largely it's a result of our combined stupidity of fighting 30 mph headwinds on the way to Globe, Baldwin City, Wellsville, Topeka and beyond. Not to mention the ability to descend on the top tube at 50-60 mph without blinking while hitting a corner that is supposed to be taken at 25 mph.

Here is the race profile for those who doubt that I really climbed.

I cannot mention my race on Sunday, because a flat taking me out of a road race makes me so angry. This is especially the case when I had just put new tires on the Ksyriums in order to prevent the same. Therefore, I will only talk about Saturday. Three climbs and 93 miles of racing put me in a tie for 4th place in a field of 50. After 20 flat miles of jockeying for position and making sure no one snuck away we hit Petit Jean. Petit Jean is a dirty little stair-stepper which started steep and the sort of relinquished it's grip as we went up. After my failures last year at McMinnville, I learned the lesson that no one wins a climb by starting in the back. So I started all the climbs in about 10th. Petit Jean failed to break enough legs to make it worth any trouble at all.

25 miles later was the long, and as far as I know unnamed climb. Honestly, I didn't notice we were going up it, until I saw everyone around me slow down and felt my legs start to burn. I looked to the right and left of me and suddenly there was a valley beneath me. The second climb lasted close to 6 miles and by about mile 4 I was beginning to grow weary of it. After engaging in the battle of who is the best climber in the 601 area code with a guy from Memphis Motor Werks we crested the mountain in a small group of maybe 15.

The descent was long and open so I took a few pages from Ben Coles' "Guide to Cycling While Intoxicated or how to not use your Brakes while Going Downhill" and put the knees and elbows together and head on the handlebars and went downhill. At the base of the descent about a mile later there were two of us together with a few stragglers. No one organized and so about 30 guys were able to pace back on to form what remained of the group.

25 miles later we hit the Danville climb. What I love the most about Arkansas climbs is the sign that proceeds them: "Caution the next X miles is steep and curves." We passed that sign and my teammate yells from the back, "good luck Rob and God speed". Danville was short but steep. It may have last only a mile, but when the lead group crested there were seven of us remaining. I'll admit that at 70 some odd miles into the race I was reaching my climbing breaking point. Something amazing happened to me during that final climb. I was getting gaped and my power to continue was failing me. I closed my eyes and took an extra deep breath and surged forward again. It was as if the guys in front of me stood still for a second. I rode right up to the front of the little group. I've seen that exact scene happen a bunch of times on flat land but at those points in time I could never make it back to the group and ended up getting dropped. There was something about the going uphill part that gave me just a little extra power to make the connection.

As we passed the final feed zone I grabbed myself a bottle of Heed and descended again (if anyone else can tell me what Heed is I'd appreciate it, because to me it tasted like watered down coke). The final descent would have made Jed proud. There was a corner with a 15 mph sign posted pretty close to the bottom of it. I saw a group of about 5 forming 100 feet in front of me and knew that this plus a few others was going to be the selection and I wanted to be in that group. I went to the top of the corner, which curved to the left, grabbed both brakes and tipped the bike sharp right. I let go of the levers and plunged right to back of that group.

It took another 5 minutes for us to be joined by any of the climb's survivors and we made up a group of 14 who pacelined into the finish. By mile 90 I was cooked and just sat on as the little guys (i.e. those skinner than me) pulled us in. I wasn't dead weight, but I did almost drop myself the couple of times I pulled. So I relegated myself to the back.

The weekends success and follies compelled me to call up the old coach. So starting in the Fall I'd like to get Coach Mills back in the action, that's if he'll have me back? However, I think for this week I'm going to kick back and relax to avoid the burnout that I'm starting to feel.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Getting Ready for the Big Mountains

Tri-Peaks and TN races are coming up and bring a few mountain climbs. It's at this time every year that I start to think that I like climbing and that I'm good at it. So I thought I would find a visual reminder of the pain I go through when climbing in an effort to sober up to the stupidity that lies ahead.

Collegiate Nationals in 2002 going up Middlebury Gap at about 30 miles into the race. I don't really remember much about the 2000 foot climb or the descent. I know I dropped the guy behind me like a dress on prom night. No one jumped around me and rode away from me...however I was nowhere near the front when I started the climb. I was able to stay in the group for another 10-15 miles and then the next climb up Appalachian Gap ended my hopes of contesting for anything other than zig-zagging up the final kilometer.

For some odd reason the camera seems to find me with the same stupid look on my face:

U-City, Gateway Cup 2004. Everyone else has the ultra-euro pain face going on, but me. I get the confused and half-baked where are all the white elephants coming from look.

Mountains Mountains everywhere and nare a chance to field sprint. Maybe this year my prophecy and the Ben "what do you mean I didn't eat all July" Coles diet will take hold and I'll get to the top of Mt. Nebo and beyond.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Cincinnati Kid

What can one say about Brian Murphy that has not already been said? He is a man of mythic proportions yet possessing a humility that would make Gandhi seem vain. These are but a few of the prose he has composed in the past 24 hours:

Rob I would like to give the following speech on your last day of work to
the entire court:

I do not posses (as no one else does) your
amazing ability to craft a magnificent work of art from words floating around in
chaos. I don't have the patience and temperament to make the world a
better place one sentence at a time. I can't see the forest through the
trees, I can't make grown men weep. Sometimes when I read your writing, I
think "this proves it, rob is a god of communication. He speaks to me as
if he has lived in my shoes all my life." Rob, your words mend the soul
and cradle the heart; keep up the good work

A song of beauty which is unmatched except by his other words like:

Rob: a calm and collected genius when it comes to painting a picture with
words. If he ever met Steven Hawking, Hawking would be astounded by Rob's
magnificent prose and tailoring of the English language to meet his need, a
higher need. He has always had a love for the "little guy" but has also
never been afraid of a challenge. He loves the finer things in life, but
has no credit card debt. He was on his way to owning a house at the young
age of 23, and he can ride the hell out of a bike with thin tires.

I feel honored that he even knows my name. That he has taken the time to think about me in the few moments during the day when he is not controlling the weather. What are we mere mortals to do, but stand in awe of the verbal perfection that is Brian Murphy. I've seen his words shake the Earth and stop the tides. He is first among equals. No I have mispoken, he has no equal but stands supreme among all creation save Nate's beard:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

GA Crits

This past weekend Lulla and I went to Athens for the Twilight Crit and then stayed an extra day for the Roswell Crit. I have never seen more crashes in a Cat 3 crit then I did in Athens. Crashes occurred all over the course including on the uphill start-finish line. I don't know why either. It might have been because the field was so big, because the course was rather easy to race or because it was a short race with a lot on the line. Whatever it was I saw at least three crashes before the one that took me down.

It was one of those classic crashes where the guy on either side of you goes down and you know that you have no way out of it. You just accept your fate that soon you are going to be down on the ground and it's going to hurt. The thing that ticks me off is that this is my second crash this year and neither of them have been my fault. In both cases I've been the unlucky guy who just gets caught. I have my theories on what or who is causing these crashes, but I'll spare everyone the long boring explanation.

This crash took it's toll on my equipment. I split my helmet along the side behind my ear but thankfully it wasn't my head that did the same. Everything else was ok, but I developed a huge bruise on the back of my calf and inner thigh from the handlebars or maybe someone else. Needless to say the day was done for me.

I decided that I would just watch the twilight race and enjoy myself. Jed was racing at night and thought it would be great to watch him and some of the big time pros go at it. We had great seats right in the final corner and got to watch one of the biggest wrecks that I've ever seen. Unfortunately Jed went down in it and broke his handlebars in the process. The 40th guy hit the ground and then riders 41-150 hit him. There were just too many guys in the field to come after the crash for anyone to escape.

The twilight crit was some of the fastest racing I have ever seen. It got so hard and so fast that you could just feel people's legs ripping in half. In the end it wasn't the big teams that won the race but two guys who came out of nowhere, took a huge risk in the final corner and drove it to the line for the win. That's the kind of racing I like to see. The racing where sparks fly from pedals hitting the ground and guys who start their sprint before the bike can even dream of being back upright.

The Roswell Crit was fine, just stayed up and finished in the pack. I wanted to do more, but the bruise stopped me from unleashing a lot of power, even though I did string the field out once going for it with 3 laps to go.