(Photo by Matt Masten)
We arranged a late checkout from the hotel yesterday in Lawrence. By we I mean Mike and by arranged I mean "paid 50 bucks." But it was nice being able to race at 4:15, head back to the motel, get cleaned up and head home.
That minute or two of reflection in the shower (Which was only hot, by the way. Seriously, it couldn't make cold water.) was great, but it was the first in a series of second-guesses and laments on missed opportunities. You know, like after every bike race — unless you win.
Saturday was not great. The race was held not on the KU campus, which is hilly and beautiful and all, but at Haskell Indian Nations University, which is neither as hilly nor as beautiful. The technical aspect of racing was much higher, instead. And it wasn't a technical course, really, but rather it had a couple of technical spots that demanded a clean line and good speed, and I don't think I got the second one right all day. I was in the same boat as a lot of others, because on the times where I got pretty lose to nailing it, the two guys in front of me didn't, and opened a big gap. I'm sure i did the same for those behind me at least once or twice.
So, anyway, after chasing at 30-some mph for a couple of laps, catching back on and hoping for the best, I finally got to the point where I couldn't get back on. There was a lead group of four, the man bunch, and then my bunch. And then stragglers here and there. It was not my best day.
After waiting more than 24 hours to race again (during which time I wandered Lawrence, visited the record store, and rode around a bit), we lined up Sunday afternoon to go again. I spent the bulk of the early afternoon in the sweet, sweet air conditioning of the hotel room, trying to convince myself I wanted to race again.
Because I definitely didn't want to. I was tired of being away from home, not psyched on my Saturday performance and not ready to go feel awful for another 50 minutes. That's a rough way to go into a race, by the way.
I went to Starbucks and got a cup of coffee about 90 minutes before the race, had a little snack and began the process of convincing myself that bike racing was awesome. By the time 4:15 came, I was back in it and ready to go. Part of that came from confidence on that course. It's a fast course, but one that's easy to pack-surf and wait for an opportunity.
It was easy to move around on the course, even with 50 guys in the race. And it was clear from the beginning that nothing was going to get away. I hung out in the back half for a bit, just killing time. About halfway through I moved up into the top 10 and tried to stay there the rest of the way.
With two to go, Pat and I moved up another wheel or two and tried to go hard ahead of all of the points where the bunch usually pushed up from behind. I was fifth across the line with one to go, and held that until the last third of the lap.
This is where survival mode comes in. When I felt the bunch coming up to swamp us, I should have gone. It was at most a one-minute effort left. But because I was thinking about surviving instead of going for it and trying to take a top-5 or podium spot, I didn't do anything. Hell, I didn't even have a plan. I had nothing in mind for when this situation came up.
I lost a few wheels then, and a few more down by the fast, flat part with two turns left. By the time we hit the finishing straight, the opportunity was gone. We rode in with the main bunch and finished 25th or 26th or something like that — well out of the money, but feeling OK.
I should know better than to come to a race without a plan. But Saturday's race made me think about just getting through Sunday, and my Sunday attitude was non-productive. I have no idea if I would have survived even 30-seconds going full-gas on that last lap, but trying is better than waiting and waiting and eventually doing nothing, right?
So that's the end of survival mode as the main mindset in a race. I'm going to try to relegate that to, like, plan D or something. And on we go with the rest of the season.