Saturday, June 13, 2009

reflections on Pescadero

Michael Grundmann photo.

I moved back to the Bay Area from Austin in late 2000. In early 2001, I was racing very well, having ridden solidly through the winter, reveling in the roads I knew from graduate school. I upgraded from 4 to 3 that year, in time to use my points from a circuit race I'd won in San Antonio the summer of 2000. I was 11th at Pescadero RR as a 3, riding strongly on the climbs on each of our two laps, coming unglued on the final descent when I was dropped from the lead group of 11. I held on for 11th, though. I also did well that year at the Pomona Valley Stage Race with an excellent opening hillclimb and surviving the splits on the circuit race. Somehow I managed to finish the crit in the pack, holding onto my GC spot.

I set my PR up Old La Honda in 2002, 19:03. But the rest of the year was generally frustrating I was getting dropped in my races. Pomona was earlier that year, and I did poorly this time, getting lapped in the last-stage crit. In the fall, after a crash at the Patterson Pass Road Race seemed to cause a cascade of problems, I was pack fodder at the Green Mountain Stage Race until getting cut when I was again lapped in the final crit. I thought that might well be my final race, both because of the trend in my results, and because I wanted to share more activities with my girlfriend at the time.

2003 and 2004 I rode the Noon Ride but not much else. I became quite good at the Noon Ride: I'd come into the week fresh, then thrash for my hour each day. But I wasn't good for much more. I missed the longer challenges.

In 2005 I had more time for riding when that girlfriend moved back to the east coast, so I decided to go back to double centuries, completing for the second time the California Triple Crown. Double centuries are really painful: the low point is around mile 130. I felt good to get back into it, though.

In 2006 my confidence was increased, and decided to dip my toe into racing again. Berkeley Hills was frustrating, my first race back, as I was dropped, but still managed to finish. A highlight was the Sierra SuperTour, and epic two-week bike tour through the Sierra mountains. That fall, though, Kevin Winterfield and I restarted the Low-Key Hillclimbs. I did better than I anticipated, and the series was a success.

2007 was highlighted by a strong ride at Diamond Valley in the 40+ state championship, in part due to fitness I gained riding a Memorial Day weekend training tour from Campbell to Santa Barbara. I also rode well at Climb to Kaiser, a 154 mile ride/semi-race from Fresno to Kaiser Pass and back. And again the Low-Key Hillclimbs were a success, despite Kevin's departure for Connecticut. I also rode well, at least by my standards.

2008 I started training with Dan Smith. The year started nicely, with the Hostels International San Diego Christmas Tour. Cara and I again did the Memorial Day weekend tour, where I felt I wasn't as strong as in 2007, but it was still solid training. Cara and I then did an excellent bike tour in Italy with Andy Hampsten: week-long trips just do wonders for fitness, I find. I rode well again at Diamond Valley (not placing as well, but still feeling strong), and placed second in the Ross' Hillclimb in the cat 3's. Another successful Low-Key Hillclimb series followed.

That winter, I decided to start running. I did a few 10 kms, and a few trail runs. Super-fun stuff, a nice break from bike racing. Cara and I did a bike tour over Christmas with Red Spokes in Thailand and Laos. It was by far the least physically challenging bike tour I've done, though, so from the training perspective, wasn't the best. Still very interesting, however.

I spent much of the tour sick, first with a cold, then with food poisening. Then when I returned, I got sick again. This killed my goal of running the Austin Marathon. And later, I got sick again. I injured my knee running that second trail run, which provided another set-back. And I continued including running in my training, which didn't seem to tranfer much to my cycling. Then Cara injured her knee, causing us to miss the Memorial Day Tour, and subsequently we're going to have to skip our pre-paid Bicycle Tour of Colorado trip. My power this year has been off 20 watts from where it was last year. And I just lack the ability to make multiple hard efforts. I've yet to finish a hard group ride, and the only race (other than Ross' Hillclimb) I've finished has been the Menlo Grand Prix, a flat crit. I feel like it's 2002 again, except this time I'm six years older. Pounding my head against the wall for no reason. Pounding my head against the wall because I don't know what else to do.

So finally this leads to today...the Pescadero Road Race. I simply wasn't a factor. I struggled on the climbs. I got dropped on the wet descents. I quit after two of the three laps, exhausted. Why was I there? What was the point?

Well, next week's the Mount Diablo Time Trial. Cara and I were supposed to be in Colorado, but we're going to have to eat our non-refundable non-transferrable entry fees on that one and sit it out. So Diablo it is. A chance to see where at least one aspect of my fitness is this year compared to the past two years. I hate going to races and not being able to compete. Dropping out exhausted half-way through, before the real race has even begun, is an enormous waste of time and attention. We'll see how Diablo goes. If well, I can think about that. But otherwise, it may be time to pack it in again.


Mr. C said...

Dan, Sorry to read about your dissapointment. At some point we all want to chuck the bike into the weeds and Pescadero is a tough race for certain.

Maybe before you pack it in you could consider what you like about cycling and riding in the first place. Sometimes going back to the roots a bit, instead of staring at the stat sheet, can bring some renewed motivation and interest.

Keep Pedaling.

djconnel said...

Wow -- that's a nice comment! Racing is tough. If we accept failure than we can't push ourselves hard enough to succeed. But then when we do fail, it's so hard. I'm not quitting quite yet. If Diablo doesn't go well, I may declare this year a failed experiment in racing, sign up for the Marin Double in August (doubles are just a matter of keeping the pedals turning, eating, and drinking), and reassess for next year. If I show signs of life @ Diablo, then there's still plenty of racing this year.