It was another bad week of training for me, but Lee Willmore always told me that sometimes life gets in the way of bikes. I did get to go out on a short run with Isa, which was very cool. She’s been running every day at school and wants to improve. She’s even talked about trying some cross country. . .I guess she does listen to me after all?
Friday night was pretty exciting because Isa got to play with the Warren High School band during the football game. She and the other members of her middle school’s band played “The Star Spangled Banner” during the pre-game and then played some of the fun stuff during the game. It was very exciting for all of the middle school parents who were there, and it gave the kids an idea of what happens beyond the classroom at school.
When I learned of the terrible things that happened at the Lake Hodges venue for Saturday’s race, I decided not to race there – not so much for superstition as for karma, but mostly because I knew Sunday was going to be a long hard day and racing twice during the Spooky Cross weekend really drained me – it would probably be way too hard to recover with all the work to be done during and after the race. Instead, I got Claire and Isa to agree to go on an easy mountain bike ride with me on Saturday to Carbon Canyon. Claire kinked her neck and decided not to go (which was not a bad idea considering how much mountain biking makes me tense up) so Isa and I loaded up our mountain bikes and headed out to Carbon Canyon Regional Park. We parked in the shade and unloaded our bikes. I checked the air pressure and got our water bottles ready. Our bikes were ready to go but we weren’t. Isa left her helmet at home and there was too much to do and it was too long a drive to go back and get it.
Isa apologized many times and thought I would be upset. ”I’ve forgotten stuff before,” I told her, “It happens.” She was still surprised when I pulled into the Tutti Frutti parking lot and said, “I don’t deserve it,” and even when we left, with frozen yogurt in her hands she asked, “Why did I deserve Tutti Frutti?” I finally told her it was because I was proud of her on Friday night; she seemed to understand that answer. We went to the Williams house for some beer and music and Dave started to list everything he’s ever forgotten on a ride, and even told her one of his friends forgot the bike! She wasn’t worried about me after that.
We all had a little trouble getting up on race day and I had to speed down the I-5 to get Isa there in time (of course, speed is relative on the car and on the bike). Luckily, they were running a little behind schedule so she had time to get ready and out on the course before her race, and so did I. Once the course was ready and all the juniors were all staged I went down to the velodrome to watch all the Celo kids go out and give it everything they had. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 Celo teammates in the juniors races! That’s awesome!
The schedule was different so all of us Masters B Men had to go warm up before the juniors finished the race. Luckily, Claire decided to make the trek south and was able to take some awesome pictures not only of the juniors, but the Masters B race as well. The Celo juniors did well, Madeline got 2nd place in the Jr. Women 15-18, Isa got 6th in the 10-14, but she wasn’t feeling well; in fact, she had complained the night before of feeling a little dizzy or lightheaded. Drew got 9th in the Jr. Men 10-14, Jameson won the Youth race and Liam, Ava and Olivia got 8th, 9th and 10th, respectively. Sofia got out there and got second place on a lap around the velodrome after all the juniors were sent off. It was a lot of fun to watch and got the morning started off right.
After a few minutes on the trainer, almost all of the Celo masters racers (A and B) jumped out onto the course for a final lap before staging. The course was different from what it’s been in previous years. Brent Prenzlow, Dave Lawson and everyone else who designed the course did an excellent job with it; they kept the more fun parts of the dirt, eliminating the long fire road loop section that led out near the parking lot, and added a lot of twists on the grass with a little bit of sand and rocky sections in between. It was fast enough to keep the mountain bikers close and technical enough to keep the roadies honest.
While we were lined up before call ups, Claire was there taking a ton of pictures and one of the officials noticed that Dave Lawson’s number was on the wrong side. He looked around, a little annoyed I think, so I jumped off my bike to help him. ”I’m getting a call up,” he told me. ”I’ll move with you,” was my answer. Claire saw what was going on and came down to help. I got Dave’s number on, but not the way he likes it because it was such a rush. He apologized because I was missing a good spot at the start, and I teased him a little about it and went back to my regular spot in the last row. I lined up next to Mike Coday who raced the day before at Lake Hodges.
There were a lot of people staged and we talked about the hole shot for a second. Mike told me that when he rode the track they explained that the shortest way around was “between the red and the black lines.” I planned on staying on the flat asphalt section of the track as long as I could, but that information would help me at the end of the race. They sent us off and I was dead last out of the track. I stuck with Mike as we went out into the dirt waiting for an opportunity to move up. We passed one guy before the rocky dip and when we hit the grass it was pass city! Mike caught the next guy and I went around and said, “Let’s take them one at a time.” I focused on the guy in front of me until I passed him and went after the next guy. By the time we hit the barriers we had gone around a bunch of people.
Mike took the lead when we got back on the dirt section. I had a better look at the line he took through the “rock garden,” as he called it, and it worked well for me: down through the loose rocks on the left side, around the the big root in the center on its right, then to the left of the little roots at the bottom, back across to the left up the little hill missing the big pothole in the center. It seems like a lot of twisting but it went perfectly with the way that section was and I used it for every subsequent lap with little regard for whoever was behind me trying to pass (and I’m sure I got in some 45 or 55+ guy’s way there at least once). Mike and I used each other in the same way for the first 3, I led on the grass, he led on the dirt, before Mike pulled far enough away where I couldn’t see him.
There was a guy in a white jersey on a mountain bike, on whom I focused to try to catch and pass. When I caught him, however, he wouldn’t let me pass. I finished the third lap behind him instead of Mike, but noticed that he came to a complete stand still when he dismounted. When we hit the barriers in the 5th lap, he stopped to get off his bike and I flew over the barriers like Brent Prenzlow warming up. I was up and over and back on my bike before he could pick up his bike. Camp Celo was in front of the barriers and I could hear people encouraging me so I made the left turn and gunned it to the next right and then a quick left and down to the sharp right turn where I almost slipped out and the guy with the white jersey on the mountain bike caught me. He took the turn better than I and came out of it with some momentum and passed me just on the other side of the rock garden. That’s when I felt like I hit a wall (but not the wall). I think I was pretty dehydrated at that point, as I started to feel cotton-mouthed and my lips dried up like a crisp autumn tree leaf that makes that sweet crunch sound when you step on it. I couldn’t spit and licking my lips was as useless as a thong on an elephant.
I thought about pulling out. . .I thought about getting off my bike, tearing off my kit and lying in the shade of a tree on the grass. I could see Dave Williams coming up behind me as I went through the maze of yellow and pink ribbon on the grassy section of the course. As I approached the barriers I thought I heard the names of the racers who were finishing being called. ”I might as well finish this lap,” I thought. I went over the barriers, much more slowly and deliberatly than before, through the dirt section, down then up the large rocky dip and headed towards the velodrome.
“Clink clank clink!” The number 1 glared at me and taunted me like that scarlet A in the Hawthorne novel did Hester Prynne; and like that good fornicator, I too trudged on, determined and undeterred to see it through to the end. I realized after that last push that I still had a little pep in my step (or pedal stroke). Dave Williams would pass me at any minute so I thought I’d jump on his wheel when he did. When I hit the first barrier run-up he caught me and at the top I said, “There go my bragging rights during the drive home!” and gunned it around the next two turns to the barriers. I went over the barriers as fast as I could and jumped back on realizing that Dave wasn’t coming around me.
On the dirt section we caught Richard Murphy and I yelled, “C’mon Richard, let’s finish strong!” Dave was on my wheel by the time we entered the track and I stayed between the red and blue/black lines and went around as fast as I could. ”Are we still racing?” Dave asked, which now in retrospect seems much worse than it did at that moment, “Still racing,” I told him and I beat him to the line by about a third of a second. Having started a minute after me and finishing with me gives him bragging rights, for sure, but I didn’t want to admit it to him. ”I won,” I said to which his answer was something along the lines of “Whatever!”
I ended up in 17th, just behind Mike Coday and about 2 minutes back of Dave Lawson who was 12th. Dave Williams finished 11th and his finishing time was exactly 1 minute faster than mine. That result was about mid-pack for me, which surprised me, given how terrible I felt towards the end of the race.
Claire and Isa loaded up to go home and I stayed and watched the elite race. I have a good understanding as to how good those guys are, yet I am always amazed and completely bewildered by how fast and efficient they are. Brent had a great race and ended up in 2nd place. It was good to see James Walsh out there recovering from his world class Ironman competitions and finished top 10 in 8th place.
The two Daves, Jeff Sigua and I stayed for clean up, as this race was co-sponsored by Celo Pacific and before I knew it I was having a beer at Dave’s house waiting for Claire to pick me up. I’m hoping I’ll have a better week of training for El Do as it’s in my back yard, so to speak. Isa and I spent a lot of time there last year practicing dismounts and remounts, and of course I’ve raced more than a few of the circuit races there in the summers past.
You can find pictures to this race here.