I've let a month go without updating the blog, so I'll apologize to the one person out there still checking in, probably (hi, Mom!). I spent a good portion of the last 6 weeks finding a job, criss-crossing the country, generally getting a sense of what the well-heeled (I now, finally, understand that phrase) traveler feels like on a regular basis. But I have a job, in Portland, OR. Unable to move to Portland, ME, just yet (I'd have to pick out a headstone if I did that, and I'm not ready for that particular level of commitment), I've settled on the other Portland, a city which was named on the basis of a coinflip (the alternative was Boston; can you imagine? Boston, OR?).
Aside from the job search, there's been teaching, training, and the first stirrings of the racing season. After the ill-fated 3/4 race in Central Park at the beginning of March, I didn't get in a bike race until the Marblehead Circuit Race at the end of March. The next opportunity was the Turtlepond Circuit Race, near Loudon, NH, on April 12th.
Turtlepond is basically a road race, w/an 11 mile loop repeated a number of times. I was in the 3 race, and we went around 5 times, climbing the start/finish hill 6 times (just for fun, they make you do that right from the start). I've done this race several times now, and know that if the pack stays together for the finish, I don't have a chance of getting away on the final climb. I decided I would attack the hill each time and see what happened. Cat 3 racers are notoriously low on pain tolerance, and I figured if I got a bit up the road, they would let me go.
The first time up the hill I found myself w/a small gap, but got caught on the descent. Someone else took a shot going up the road, but it was on the rolling section of the course, and Boston Road Club took up the chasing responsibilities and closed the guy down. The second time up the hill, I jumped off the front about halfway up (the hill is about 1.5 K, and pretty steep; I'd say it averages 10%, w/my limited ability to estimate grades). On the descent, a guy from the aforementioned BRC came across, and we started to work. About five miles later he introduced himself as Kevin, and thus began one of the shorter, more intense friendships of my life. A two-person break is a shaky break, and I put in a bunch of work on the flats, while he paced us up the hills.
To shorten this up, when we came around the backside on the last lap, a bystander let us know that we had about four minutes on the field. I'd been right. They hadn't wanted to work to bring us back, and had settled to race for third. Kevin gave me the win on the slopes of the final climb, and I had my first real Cat 3 win.
I was feeling pretty good about winning for the next two weeks, when I entered the 1/2/3 race in Sturbridge, and promptly got my butt handed back to me. Ah yes, my legs were saying, this is what racing really feels like. Second to last trip up the hill, and the group danced away while my pedals felt mired in concrete. Bye-bye, I said, and turned around to ride back to the parking lot. This, I've learned, is called "having a biological," and that's exactly what it felt like. Just as your bicycle will sometimes simply stop working, my body stopped putting out the necessary effort to keep up with that pack. As someone who normally feels like a pretty strong cyclist, this was humbling.
But fear not! More humble pie was on the way! Just a week after the Sturbridge/Palmer fiasco, I popped the cork on the triathlon season, and popped is just about the right word. I race this little sprint race in Brunswick, Maine, every year (it was the first Triathlon I ever did), and it's pretty much feast or famine. I've won twice, and had about everything go wrong the other few times (one memorable year I missed my heat start, flatted, and destroyed a pair of crankarms before one-legging it back to transition). This year wasn't quite as bad, but it was close. After a good swim, for me (around 6:00 for the 525 yards), I ran out into the 50s and rainy weather, hopped on my bike, and felt that dreaded clack, clack, clack of the valvestem hitting the ground. I'd flatted. I waited in transition for about 4 minutes for a spare, and finally hit the road, where an official quickly cited me for crossing the yellow line. Two minute penalty. Racing mostly on anger and frustration at this point, I hopped off the bike with my calves cramping in the cold and headed out on the run. It was one of my better runs for a 5K in a triathlon at 17:48, and I crossed the line 3rd. Pulling myself back up to the podium after so much adversity was nice, until those two minutes from the penalty dropped me to fifth.
But that's racing, no?
To bring you up to speed, I'm feeling good in my preparation for the Columbia Triathlon, next weekend in Maryland. I ran a 1:19 half-marathon on Saturday, on a hilly, windy course in Alton Bay, NH (Northeasteners, think Timberman Country), and just jumped out of the pool after a strong swim. Things are coming together, although it's good to remember that they can easily go wrong.
It's also good to remember, with the natural disasters of the past week (cyclones, earthquakes, tornadoes, yeesh), that we do have a larger responsibility to help those who need it, and that our training regimens can suffer a few lost days if you can find a way to assist those who, right now, can't eat or find shelter for their families.
As the foolish AMC Winter Caretaker from Lonesome Lake told me, foolishly, last week (and I foolishly repeat), stay safe.
Interview: Mat Stephens Readies for His 2018 Dirty Kanza Defense - Mat Stephens heads to the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200 as the defending champion. We chatted with him before his title defense at the premier Kansas gravel race. T...
18 hours ago