Monday, March 22, 2010

The slinky race

I realized today that I don't really have a pain face. I had never thought about it until I mentioned that today was the hardest race I've ever done. And someone said, "Really? It didn't look like you were hurting that bad." It upset me for a minute. I thought about it. And I realized that I've been trained since I was three years old to perform stoically: to seem serene even though you are breathing heavy and close to vomiting. Roller skating is a pretty-type sport. A lot closer to dancing than to bike racing. You put on a face, you perform, you leave your emotions (and your grimaces) in the pit with your coach.

On top of this, I'm not a vomiter. I didn't (I'm told) vomit as a baby. In my memory, I can only think of two times it's happened: after a bad chimichanga at the Rio hotel/casino in Vegas, and after an accidental overdose of acetaminophen after having my wisdom teeth out. If I was a vomiter, today would have been a vomiting day. Instead I've been stuck with this low grade stomachache that persisted for roughly 6 hours after the end of my race.  

But that being said, I don't think I've ever been more happy with a bike race result. Of the 40 minutes we were racing today, I was dangling off the back, yo-yoing between on and off, for roughly 35. But not only did I finish with the pack, I was genuine, coming-across-the-line-somewhere-towards-the-middle-of-the-group pack fodder. Considering I got dropped during both Rutgers races, sat in a van fixing people's problems during Grant's Tomb, skipped Stevens, DFL'ed* during the circuit race yesterday, and spent the grand majority of today's crit thinking I was mere seconds from from popping off and being pulled, I'm ecstatic. 

Today was really a show of who has been doing their top-end and jump intervals. And who has handling skills. There seemed to me to be three groups in the pack: the first third was simply plain stronger than everyone else, or had a good mix of strength, pop, and handling skills; the second third had the pop to jump after each turn and catch back on the pack; the last group had fantastic skills, but not so much pop. There were a few of us who were having trouble getting back to the pack on each turn, but going through the turns without hitting the breaks caught us back up every half lap or so. Then, invariably, we would come to turns 2-4, and the middle group would hit the breaks (hard), sending us back 30 feet and we would once again have to pop and sprint in order to hang on. Back and forth, like a yo-yo. Or a slinky.

I remember looking up at the lap cards when 12 to go was showing and thinking that I might last another lap. Maybe two. But somehow, I worked through it. I finally caught a break when there was a crash just before turn 6. I had to skid to avoid it, and thought I had been gapped permanently, but ended up getting a lucky break and the pack decided to take a half-lap rest. Since I had momentum coming up to them, and knew there were only two or so laps to go, I just kept going, and tucked in right towards the front of the pack. I am not sure those girls have ever seen me before. My intention was to help my teammate up there if I could, but it took roughly 10 seconds for me to realize that it probably wasn't going to happen. I just hung on to strong wheels for dear life and glided in for a well-deserved 18th.

*DFL = Dead Fucking Last, a position I cherish in hilly races, considering DFL > DNF (did not finish)

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