February 26, 2006.
It was a chilly morning but the wind couldn’t have been more calm for a brisk 12.4 mile time trial. During my drive to the race in Vancouver, Washington, I flopped between thinking of all the preparation I had done the night before and what lay ahead of me.
Weeks before the race, I had registered with OBRA to be a licensed racer for the year in Road, Track, Cross Country (XC), and Downhill (DH). I have my number plates and number tags, even a card to prove my license!
Saturday afternoon, I started taking all the extras off my Trek 1000 road bike like the OnGuard U-Lock, carrier, bell, fenders, headlight, GPS, reflectors, pump, and under-the-saddle bag. It dropped in weight from a portly 35.5lbs to 25.5lbs. Still kind of heavy as far as road bikes are concerned, but that’s due to my use of a heavy duty cassette (rear cogs) and heavy aluminum wheels with steel spokes for commuting.
I then gave the bike a good washing to get all the sand and road grime off the frame, wheels and brakes and lube-up the drive train and make sure everything was in good working condition.
Then I saw the damage. The front and rear tires have taken one heck of a beating in the past 8 months of heavy use and as a result of rocks being pinched between the tire and the road, large chunck of rubber had been torn off exposing the threaded radial inside. This was not good for racing and most definitely not safe for commuting.
I quickly hopped into my car and drove up to River City Bicycles where I knew from previous visits that they had an excellent choice of tires. After considering three different 700×23 tires, the Continental Ultra Sport, Specialized Armadillo, and Continental Gatorskin, I opted for the Continental Ultra Sport (blue tread) since each tire was only $15 a piece as opposed to the other two models that were $35 a piece.
After returning home I finished wiping down the bike and cleaning the wheels when I noticed another problem: A broken spoke. That’s BAD. Seeing that it was on the drive side of the rear wheel, I wasn’t going to take any chances of riding on it since it could very well cause my wheel to untrue itself and put extra strain on the other spokes, I rushed out with Connie just as she was arriving around 5pm. At this point, I knew all the bike shops were closed and my only option for getting a new spoke to fit was at the downtown Portland REI store. Luckily, Connie noticed the Bike ‘n’ Hike that we were passing was still open. We hopped in and gave the mechanic the story and walked out with a black spoke that works but doesn’t match the rest of the silver spokes. Oh well, it worked just find and is barely noticable.
I then finished preparing the bike by changing the tires, replacing the spoke, truing the wheels, lubing the drive train, gathering all my clothes and gear for the next day and making sure it all came together nicely with a quick test ride around the block.
I was ready to race the clock.
We pulled up into Vancouver Lake Park, admiring all the cyclists that were out and about getting warmed up, preparing their bikes, or coming in off the course after riding their race. I was getting quite excited. I was already anxious enough as it was from the emergency part replacement the night before but was getting really nervous about any other parts failing since I still had a few shifting quirks in the rear gears.
We checked the times to see when I was due to start my run only to have me show up a full minute late at the starting line and had to immediately take off before resetting my cyclometer to record ride time and distance.
Away I go!
I wasn’t too far behind the rider ahead of me for the first mile or so, but after we rounded the first two corners and into the long rolling course, he broke away and left me in the dust. After a couple of miles, another rider passed me…then another…then I swear that a couple of motorcycles had passed as well, but they were just some racers that had some high-end bikes with rear disc wheels, aero-helmets, and carbon bike everything. I was already crusing at an average speed of 19mph but felt like these guys were passing me at 29mph. I was feeling like I was keeping quite a good pace for myself but then felt ashamed to think I could compete against the likes of these lightweight racers that could easily out-pace me on the flats and hills. But I pressed on.
The nice 54ºF overcast weather we were having felt pretty good, didn’t get too hot and not too cold, but my head did sweat it up a bit from the fleece cap I wore under my helmet.
After about 6.5 miles, I turned around at the end of the road and was photographed by someone and saw the race official mark my number on the clip-board as I charged off back to the finish line.
I continued to keep my 19mph pace, occassionaly getting up to 22mph but never dipping below 16mph for more than a few seconds. I was breathing hard and my legs were burning, but there wasn’t any pain that kept me from pushing harder, I just couldn’t push any harder without going anarobic.
I hit something. I don’t know what it was, a rock, a piece of wood or roadkill, I don’t know. But it jolted my arms and wrists enough that I had to slow down for a minute to see if there was any damage to my front wheel. I rode on without a flat or bent rim.
After 35 minutes of intense riding, I could see the last corning that led to the finish line off in the distance so I tried to pick up the pace a bit and try to pass the fellow that had been about 150 feet ahead of me for some time but I couldn’t seem to pass. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a closed course and the occassional vehicle did pass on the narrow, two-lane road, but this was a dump-truck. It got right passed me and proceeded to slow down to 15mph before rounding the corner and slowly gaining speed again.
This sucked for two reasons. I had to slow down considerably so I no longer had a chance to overtake the other rider, and I had to put some distance between the truck and myself as to not get penalized by the officials for drafting the truck. This probably hurt my time a bit but I think I was already pretty low in the standings.
I crossed the finish line at a sluggish 17mph but had no idea what my time was going to be. I could only estimate that I had taken about 40 minutes total. I didn’t find out until later that night.
I then rode back to my car, packed up the bike and put one some regular clothes and we started heading home for the day. Then, about 2 miles before the expressway, I ran over a steel bolt that lodged itself in my rear-left tire. Great. There goes another $130 to an unexpected expense. I needed that money to help pay for my first Portland apartment.
We then drove on the flat over to a Burgerville, had a bite to eat while checking the phone book for some kind of tire repair place. I put the “doughnut” spare on the car and then we found a Bridgestone tire shop, but I wasn’t prepared to pay $140 for a single tire. I opted to just ride the spare home to Milwaukie then look for a tire during the week since I rode my bike Monday through Friday rather than drive my car.
I headed home and had a nice and relaxing shower then passed out for about 2 hours with some well earned sleep as I had short-changed myself the night before with race-anxiety.
Shortly after I woke up, they had posted the final times on the site. I placed 80th out of 80 Category 4 & 5 riders. Woohooo! That’s the second time I placed last, but the difference between myself and #79 wasn’t more than 2 minutes. A rather small difference compared to the 12-minute difference from my first mountain bike cross country time trial at Stoney Creek, MI in 2004. I felt this race had gone much better and I had made great strides in my physical performance.
I guess my only big mistake was that I didn’t put my Profile Design clip-on aerobars on the handbars to give me better aerodynamics and possibly improve my time. Oh well, it was a good learning experience.
I can’t wait to do another race. The “Mudslinger MTB”
Anyone care to help pitch in $1,100 for a new Trek 1500 road bike (20lbs) so I can have a race bike and keep my Trek 1000 as a commuter bike?