... something about returning to what you are familiar with to re-center yourself or revisit past success? Last night was definitely one of those moments for me. After spending the weekend indulging in far too much boozy goodness, I stepped on the scale in the Monday morning having gained close to 5 lbs over the weekend. Now I know weight shifts a lot over the course of days, but this wasn't one of those trends in my mind. This was a sign to not let myself fall back into the weight bracket that I had worked so hard to get out of earlier this season.
I knew some of my teammates were planning to head out to PIR for the Masters 4/5 race in the evening and I was a bit torn on heading out there myself. In this day and age of high gas prices, I do what I can to minimize the amount of driving I do, especially for things that I don't consider totally necessary. PIR is one of those things that I don't consider necessary. It's on the other side of Portland through rush hour traffic to participate. But I really wanted to get some hard efforts in under my belt to start the week out on the right foot. I ran home at lunch and got everything together to leave as soon as work was done.
I get home a bit late due to a last minute Doctors appointment, and I see our car already loaded with my bike sitting on top. Traci rules. I eat a snack, get dressed and we are on the road in twenty minutes. Traffic reports some slowing on I-5, but nothing major. Go go iPhone GPS. I do my best to stay relaxed as we settle in for the drive. I've raced out here almost 10 times this season, but I still get pre-race jitters.
We arrive fairly quickly and park in the shade. Paul, Couzens and Alex are already here and Marc pulls in not 5 minutes later. I see a lot of familiar faces during warm-up as well. Larry and Drew from 343, Ken from Skyline, big Mike from Three Rivers, Dave from Ironclad, and Steve from Team Oregon are all in the field tonight. There are also a lot of unattached riders as well. Those are the folks you really have to watch. Last thing I want is to hit the tarmac due to sketchy riding.
The big topic of the warm-up is the wind. We are running counter-clockwise tonight, so the backstretch is into the headwind the majority of the time. We notice quickly that riding up against the wall provides some shelter. My legs feel tight during the warm-up, and the hot lap we do as a team puts me in a bit of stress. Too much beer I tell you.
The start of the race plays out much like most other PIR races. A few who are feeling their oats shoot off the front and are quickly reeled back in. I spend the first few laps dodging the sketchy wheels that will hopefully fade into the back of the pack as the ride progresses. We hope to get Alex or Couzens off on a break at some point but with the wind being as strong as it is, it will be a big effort for whoever is out front. The first hotspot comes and 343 leads a train up the right side, I stay calm and watch things unfold, hoping to launch Alex on a break if a few others go once we bunch back up. No luck this time around. The pack closes up fairly quick as we head into the wind.
The second hotspot bell goes off and things are a bit less organized this time around. Two distinct groups form heading down to the line. I grab Ken Lee's wheel on the left side as he accelerates towards the front of the pack. As if almost in slow motion, a gap opens in the center of the field and I break for daylight. I get about 5 bike lengths on the peloton and coast through the line (hands on the bars, fuck you very much) to win some swag. First time in a long while that I feel some of my prior acceleration available when I called upon it.
Somewhere along the next few laps a 2 man break gets off the front and gets a good gap. It wasn't until someone mentioned we'd be racing for 3rd did I realize it had happened. (I blame the beer for my lack of attention. You can't prove otherwise!) The PV crew did a lot of work for the next few laps to try and bring them in, but no one wanted to help out. I did my best to marshal others to the cause, barking out orders and evening trying to goad the other well represented teams into participating in the chase. I ended up dragging the eventual winner to within 50m of the break, allowing him to bridge up. Unfortunately the two of us were off the front of the peloton, dooming me no mans land with no legs. I sit up and wait for the pack to return.
The remaining laps are filled with half hearted pursuit. No one wants to help out and the break continues to sit 200m off the front of us, and now there are three of them. I get away again with 2 others to find ourselves out in no mans land once again. I sit up and get the rest of the team organized so we could get Alex free for the pack sprint. The backstretch gets all clustered up again and we are moving really slow. 343 finally moves to the front and we integrate in with them. Couzens and Alex are behind me, with a 343 guy in front of me and the two big sprinters from 343 behind them. We kick the speed up to stretch out the peloton. I'm yelling at the guy in front to keep it moving as we come through the last corner but he starts to fade and pulls to the right. I hit the apex of the corner and drop the hammer for the last time, hoping to spring our group free and get Alex a clean set of wheels.
After 5 seconds I don't see any shadows below my wheels. The sun's low in the sky and at our back... there should be long shadows... I look over my shoulder and see a huge gap. Crap. I had ridden off the front of the field and no one was coming around Couzens and Alex. I pressed on hoping to open my advantage from this stupidly far distance. The cells in my body burning the leftover Stumptown Tart that I had so glutinously consumed the day before. My lungs and legs seared. I looked down at my HRM and was running close to 105% of my season's max.
And then it happened.. a clear moment in the anaerobic pain induced haze when I looked up and saw the finish line 200m ahead. I wanted to sit up and pack it in. I reached for the gear shift to ease the pain in my legs and actually went to a bigger gear. In that instant, the frustration of chasing and failing time and time again turned into "if the rest of you are content to race for 4th, I'll make sure you finish at least 5th." Ten more seconds of effort, ten more seconds of pain will guarantee that I finish ahead of the pack and give me a small nugget of satisfaction for the night.
The race ends and we all roll back to the registration area. Mike thanks me for the bridge to the break then apologizes to his break mates for piping them in the final sprint. Alex, Couzens, and Larry from 343 comes over and congratulates me on my finish. Friendly recounts of the night are flowing all around. Due to hotspots I end up tied for 4th with a guy who was in the break, so I take 5th anyway. ;) Such is the life of masters racing.
Traci helps me pack up as I chat with some of my competitors. In fact she packs up almost all my gear. I feel bad, but I'm so thankful of how incredibly supportive she is when I'm racing.
The drove home is fun and we are both in a good mood considering its after 8pm and we haven't had dinner yet. We stop at Freddies for some chocolate milk. Sometimes its good to go visit an old stomping ground to let the familiarity of it all allow you to let it all hang out and see what you can do.