Ten months into 2015 and I finally entered my first race. It would not have been my first, had I not gotten sick earlier this month right before the El Do Krosstoberfest race. I came down with a pretty bad cough that kept me up at nights and I was honestly afraid of contracting pneumonia again. I didn’t want to put the stress on my body that is racing and decided to sit that one out. It was Steve’s first cyclocross race, so I hopped on my cruiser bike and rode to El Do to support the team. Rob of “You can do it Rob” fame was there and after a little chat with Matt from Celo, Matt told me he cheered for Rob something like this:
Go guy who races with Chuy!
Or something like that! It made me laugh out loud when Matt told me that. Of course, I reminded Rob afterwards. What’s really funny about that is that Rob has been racing way more than I this year; soon I’ll be the guy who rides with Rob. The entire Romero family was there, as Chris and Sandra also raced, and so did their boy. I took a bunch of pictures, caught up with Matt, Dave Lawson, and Scott & Carolyn Reeves and some other people before hopping on my awesome cruiser and making my way home.
I had been trying for weeks to find someone with whom to partner at the Turn and Burn 6-Hour Race as I knew Dave Williams would be on a cruise to México and Rob had already found himself a partner in Big Dan. Bionic Man Stevo was riding solo, so I was left without a teammate. After a little bit of thought I quickly thought of my good ol’ friend Geoff Albert. A few text messages later and I had myself a 2-man team for the race.
Come race day, we had both agreed that we would put little race-type effort, if any, into the race and we both made sure the other understood that racing would have little to do with our day. It was a relief, because if there is anything I know about Geoff, it’s that he’s a competitor! We talked a little before the race and I rode out first. The plan was to do two laps before switching.
I lined up and saw some people I knew, so I rode over and talked to them for a bit. They announced that Tinker was at the race and then they sent out the Pros. I thought they were releasing us in waves so I made my way to my Cat 2 group when I realized it was a mass start: I started the race going backwards!
We crossed the street and started climbing and decided to move up a little and catch a guy I saw in a Cyclery kit. Then I saw another and eventually saw Stevo. I was making my way towards him when I realized how many people I was passing and, admittedly, I got a little carried away. I realized it and then thought that it would be a good way to get through the crowd before the descents. I never went to the pre-rides so the only knowledge of the course I had was what I could remember from last year, and that wasn’t much.
We rode up for a while and I passed tons of people, which didn’t really make me feel good because I knew that many of them were there solo. I seemed to catch what I considered a “front” group and then I realized they were all solo guys. I thought they were probably Cat 1 racers so that made me feel good.
Then my quads started to burn. Uh oh!
It was super dusty trying to stay on someone’s wheel and the race had the feeling of typical cross-country race instead of an endurance, at least it did to me. We hit the first single-track, rocky descent and although I thought I was holding my own, I couldn’t keep up with most of the guys ahead of me. I caught a guy who was being very cautious and then we made the left turn out of the single track and crossed the street, said thank you to the sheriff deputy who was stopping traffic for us, and then we went up again. We went up a little, nothing like the old Knobby Time race we did there or like the Kenda Cup races. This course was perfect for an endurance race.
We made a U-turn onto another single track and I hoped and prayed we would not go down the dreaded rock garden descent where the single track leads on regular rides and other races. Luckily, we bent left instead of right and avoided the scariness. The rest of the course was very familiar in its progression and when I was back in the swim area parking lot I took a drink of my water bottle and realized how bad my quads were burning. Then I heard a loud and booming, yet gentle voice:
On your right Chuy.
Big Dan passed on my right, and I jumped on his wheel and he led me all the way around the second half of the course. As we approached the finish line I looked for Geoff and signaled to him that I wanted to switch. He met me at the first course opening and I told him I needed to raise my saddle. Big Dan switched with Rob and I switched with Geoff and sat down to start the coughing from all of the dust of the first half of the race.
Dan’s wife was at the Cyclery tent and was very helpful. She offered to refill my bottle and get me a Gatorade. Later I saw her pouring water on Rob and of course, taking good care of Dan. Before we left I told her how incredibly helpful it is to have someone there when we come in. I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated everything she did.
I waited for Geoff to come around and was sitting quite comfortably and completely recovered when he came across the finish line.
I can go again.
I thanked Rob for partnering with Dan because they were taking 1 lap turns and Geoff was out there for his 2nd. By the time Geoff rolled around for the 2nd lap I was almost anxious to get on the bike.
I’ll see you in a couple of laps.
I was off again. Took it pretty easy the first lap, having fun and not pushing myself too hard. This lap seemed shorter than the 1st one I did and when I crossed the start/finish line to start our 5th lap, I looked for Geoff, but didn’t see him so I kept going. I realized I would see people ahead of me and my first inclination was to, in the words Lee Willmore, “Catch that guy.” I had to check myself a few times, and let my competitive instincts get the best of me some others. My legs started to twitch a little and any thoughts I had about taking a 3rd lap were gone from my mind. I blew my fork coming down the back side of the tractor descent. It was just like before, I heard a pop and lost about 200 mm of travel in an instant.
When I got back to camp, “Geoff said let’s do 1 lap each now.” I said Okay and made my way back to camp. Big Dan told me that Stevo had borsht pit bikes so I grabbed the Large Cannondale Scalpel and swapped out the pedals. I got a couple of minutes of R&R before Geoff rolled back around and this time I as excited to ride the full suspension bike.
I went off and took it easy again, my legs had not fully recovered from my last go-around and I could feel my hamstrings tightening with every pedal stroke. By the time I got to the little kicker before the climb out of the rock garden towards the fire road, I thought about the 1-X system and wished I had my granny gear. Maybe I messed with my own head or maybe I was just plain tired, because as soon as I finished that little kicker I cramped. I walked and Sal Martinez passed me. A bunch of people asked if I was Ok and I answered with my head between my knees.
It’s just a cramp.
I eventually walked up to the fire road and saw Sal there.
You gave me your cramp!
We chatted for a minute before I walked up and I jumped on my bike to finish the lap. I told Geoff I had cramped before he went for his lap. I decided during that time that I was done. When Geoff rolled around again I apologized and told him I couldn’t go any more. I knew I’d cramp again and that would be no fun. Geoff said it was no problem and he went again! What a guy! I averaged around 30-35 minutes per lap my first 3 laps and my 4th lap was a whopping 53 minutes. There was no way I wanted to go through that again.
When it was all over we ended up in 4th place. Before Geoff finished his last lap, Syd came over and we chatted for a while. Rob went out to try to complete an 10th lap with 45 minutes left to race. I thought he’d make it, but cramps and 5 hours and 15 minutes on a bike will kick anyone’s ass (except Tinker’s, he rode 13 laps!). They closed the finish line when Rob was in sight. I was a little bummed for Rob, but they had a solid hold on 3rd.
It was a great time all around. I met a bunch of new Cyclery racers and I got to catch up with Geoff and Syd, if even for a little bit. Geoff seemed to have enjoyed himself; hopefully he wasn’t too disappointed with how out of shape I am.
I realized during the race how much I actually enjoy competing. I told Geoff at some point on Saturday that I remember when he wouldn’t race because he wasn’t in good enough shape to compete and years ago I couldn’t understand it. Now I understand. This was a nice and real reminder that I am happiest when I my fitness is good and when I’m out there battling for position on the race course. It will be a slow return for me…but I will be back!