Finishing 16th out of 20, as a cat 4, in a cat 4/5 race, is not good. But i still feel good after my day in the Flint Hills of Kansas, at 48 miles this was easily the longest road race i've ever done and if not for one stupid mistake the end result may have been better.
The stupid mistake was me riding at the very back of the peleton for the first 25 minutes of the race. I should have known that the massive and unrelenting head wind was going to open up a gap in the group and that when it did i'd get the s*it end of the stick. But i like to learn things the hard way. When the gap opened it took me a second to realize it. I jumped and made my way back to the peloton, it probably took a minute plus to latch back on. The effort required was massive (by my standards) and i paid for it. Remember, this effort was being done into a 30 mph headwind. I think i lost a year off my life during that one minute, what happened next was not too surprising. Commence blow up in 3... 2... 1... BOOM! My ears were still ringing as i watched the peleton float away before me.
I almost quit right then and there, the race had barely begun and i had already been dropped from the peloton and was now facing a long depressing journey into the mother of all head winds. F that. Luckily my pity party was cut short as a group of 3 rolled by. They were in my race. I latched on. We picked up a forth and then a fifth. Soon enough the sloppy and random rotation was firing on all cylinders. I was loving it. Sloppy and random rotations are my specialty. I forgot my cycling computer but we probably spent 35 minutes rotating into a head wind and going 9 miles an hour. It was ridiculous, but we were moving forward. Towards the end of the head wind section our group of 5 was down to 2. The other guy was cool. It gave me a smile when at one point the wind blew off the 'road captain' patch that he had on the back of his jersey. The symbolism was not lost on me.
The impact of the wind can not be overstated here. I did descents in the little ring, for Petes sake.
Then, finally, the road captain and I reached the turn around point which meant we went from head wind to tail wind. Our entire world changed in the blink of an eye. How could so much pain and suffering be completely washed away by something as simple as turning around?
Take that as a life lesson... don't fact your fears, turn around. When you turn around you can spin out in your 50x11! I'm quite sure i hit a new personal top speed on Sunday, and it was easy. The wheels / tires were making a sound like i'd never heard. They were hummin' and it was waaay fun.
On the way back i chatted with the road captain, earlier this year he did a 50k trail run at Wyandotte park and later this year he's doing the Dirty Kanza, for the first time. Pretty cool. Then, after a bit and almost by accident i looked back and he was way behind me. At this point there were about 10 miles to go and the final 6 were back into the headwind. I was feeling better so i decided to give it everything i had all the way thru to the end.
I'd like to think i finished pretty strong. I ended up passing a few more folks, one or two that were actually in my race, and then, at the very end, after the whole miserable, hot, windy, exhilirating, satisfying day was almost over, who do i see as i look up towards the finish line... my girlfriend. Now, she's racing, not spectating, so of course i wanted to beat her. Full disclosure here: she started about 5 minutes ahead of me.
I couldn't believe it, 48 miles, head wind, tailwind, ambulance for crashed motorcycle, more head wind, two goo's a banana and some fig newtons, and at the very end of it all i get a sprint finish against my girlfriend. It was the perfect ending. Okay, I'm probably milking it a little, it wasn't quite a sprint finish. The closest i would get was about 10 bike lengths... but i was in the drops, out of the saddle, and gaining on her.
Next time she's going down.
So the moral of the story is... turn around then go forward.