Monday, 28 April 2014

Quabbin Reservoir Classic

Especially when the drive to a race is long, you do a pretty good job of fooling yourself that it's going to be nicer weather than it is. Boy was this the case on Saturday: 41* and dropping, with increasing rain, that will be a fine day on the bike, right? Then, when you open the car door, the grim reality smacks you pretty hard.

Quabbin is a race that a lot of people talk about, it seems to have a big following. When registering, I found it kind of hard to stomach the $55 entry fee. Seems excessive, but there were about 400 people signed up, so maybe they all knew something I didn't. Getting there took nearly two hours, which is more common in New England that what MABRA spoils you with. Had it not been for the painful entry fee and that I really wanted to race, I'd have bailed on it. The fx clearly spelled misery, and boy did I have a lot of stuff to do.

Time on bike has been regular but not been nearly enough, and the weather has SUCKED this spring. It's tough to get into good race shape without racing, and what's the point of doing all this training if you aren't going to race, so you go race. I brought enough clothing, and wore it all: bibs, wool socks, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, long sleeve jersey over short sleeve and arm warmers, aero-therm vest (best thing ever) over that, plus lobster gloves, knit beanie, and neoprene booties. The neutral start was a bit chilly, but past that I was fine.

5 miles in, I looked back to get a sense of group size, hit a nasty series of potholes while looking back, ejected a bottle (first time ever) and nearly broke both thumbs. Can't build wheels now thanks to a murdered right thumb. Two miles later, a tiny little piece of glass flatted my rear tire. EXACTLY what happened in Green Mountain 2012, a slow clincher leak - what even is that? The SRAM support guy had already had a customer or two, so it took about 2.5 minutes for me to get rolling again, at which point the question was, do I even bother. 58 miles of almost certain total solitude didn't sound too great, but neither did waiting three hours for the wheel car to get home (course is 1 loop) and missing out on my training. What was I going to do, go home and ride the trainer?

I had no idea that I was capable of what I did over the next two hours, and I'm still jacked from it. The watts are the watts, and for some people they would constitute a recovery ride, and for some they'd be a vo2 effort, but for me they were big, but mostly long. I did what I thought I could maybe do for an hour, for two hours instead. I passed a lot of people and small groups, but never saw the main field. Finally one guy jumped out of a group that I passed and we rode together for almost the last hour. 5k out from the finish, I wished him well, bonked, and creeped the rest of the way home. Shadoobie, shattered, shattered.

MABRA has had some incredibly sad news yesterday. I'm reticent to eulogize or talk much about it, but Chris was a person I really enjoyed. I remember a few years ago, his first year of racing. Every year there is THAT messenger who decides to race, and this was his year. We were in Lost River for July 4, staying with Jay and Audrey, working on the race prep, and Soda was there too. The weather in the 4th was terrible, like 60 and raining. Soda and I decided to just go up and over Howard's Lick, doing the front and backside climbs, and call it a day. Up the front, I was pasting him and feeling pretty smug about it, and then I got up to the high spot of that climb, where you go down before the final press back up to the barn. The road was in bad shape and wet as hell, but Soda blew by me going about a million and six, laughing and loudly questioning my manhood. When we went up the backside, I DRILLED it and made sure to get enough padding to last down to the barn, which would inevitably be the unofficial finish. Even though he was at least a full switchback behind me at the top of the climb (maybe a minute), it took all of my nerve to go fast enough to hold it down to the barn. It was one of the most memorable rides I'll ever have, and a few weeks later when we both got caught behind a crash turning onto the finish at Page Valley, racing each other was all we had left to do. I've never gone harder but he had a talent for short efforts and took it by a length. There's a picture of it buried on an old computer, me definitely holding back a big old barf but smiling nonetheless, Soda determined but a look of pure joy on his face. I'm afraid that the world didn't afford him too many such moments in his entirely too brief life, but I'm glad to have gotten to share a couple of them with him. Peace, brother.

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