Friday, July 20, 2007

Up, Down and All Around

Sometimes life throws you a curveball, you just hope that it’s not coming from Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson, even after they retire! This time it wasn’t really a hit batter, it was more of a strike out, but Jami has made up her mind that things are over. That’s a bummer for me, no doubt. I’ll be moving in with teammate Brandon Archibald soon.
Anyways, I went to Nationals and got a respectable but not exactly what I had hoped for 9th place in the time trial, 30 seconds back of the winner. I went as hard as I could, I do not question that. The top 3 were separated by .24 of a second! They calculated out the difference between first and second was less than 5 feet at 30+mph over nearly 15 miles, amazing! Okay, so we did 78,144 feet of racing and the difference between first and second was 5! Second place went 99.9936% as fast as first place and lowly third was all of 10 feet behind second or 99.98% as fast as first place. The timing was very accurate as well since we rolled over a sensor at both the start and finish lines. Had I done one of the better time trials of my life, the win would have been very possible. I’m pretty sure that the problem is that I’ve lost a bit of weight lately and that won’t help flat course time trialing. Oh well, that’s life. That night, we had to go pick up one of our teammates that was flying in for the road race. He was slated to show up at 11:30pm and the drive is a little over an hour from Seven Springs to Pittsburgh on open roads. We found out that the road we needed was completely closed for the weekend and the detour was extremely slow. Even a local bus driver had a tough time coming up with a re-route for us. End result: we get back to the condo at 3am and none of the partying to show for it. Luckily we had a couple days between races and nothing major to do but kill time (sleep). The road race went better and worse at the same time. The form was clearly there and a great place was definitely possible, but an ill timed flat on the second of three laps effectively took me out of the race. Oh well, that’s life… did I say that before somewhere? The racing went alright all things considered and the trip was fun too. The condo we were staying in was at the top of a ski hill that had a two lane alpine slide! How cool is that?! And what do bike racers do when in any competitive situation? RACE! It was on like Donkey Kong. I won round 1, but was taking a picture at the start of round 2 and lost out on the quick start and even messed up the picture trying to make up ground. After alpine slide racing, we found out that Somerset County, PA is a dry county other than at the Seven Springs resort which bought up all of the liquor licenses, so if by any chance you ever decide that visiting Seven Springs is in your future, BYOB or drink cheap beer for good beer prices.

In the between time from the time trial to the road race, we did some riding on the local roads and we went down a decent that can only be described as AWESOME! I hit my new max speed on a bike down it, 64.9mph!
After the road race, the condos went from hustling/bustling to cleared out and empty. It was all over, we packed up our bikes and headed back to Pittsburgh for the night before flying out the next morning. We had a night to spend doing whatever in Pittsburgh, so we decided that a quick bite and hitting the bar scene would be the way to go. To do that, it required driving around aimlessly for a couple hours. Not really lost I guess since we didn’t really know what exactly it was we were looking for. At some point, our stomachs desire for food took over the desire for just the right place and we found some random place instead. As for the bar, it was random too and did the job. We even got to taste Pittsburgh’s famous Iron City beer. The next morning, we found out that the original jet that was planned was not available and the replacement wasn't as big. The people first in line that actually got seats (us) were holding tickets that just became worth more than their weight in gold. We traded out the flight for a different flight plan which resulted in free tickets to anywhere in the U.S. Now we get to take two more riders to Chicago for Criterium Nationals. By the way, I’m not going to stop racing all together, just reduce the amount of vacation days I use to travel to big pro stage races that just kick me around anyways. I'll use those days to enjoy other things in life. The other major stipulation is that I’m not going to be half as strict about life and training. I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes me a better racer and a better person in general. Anyways, I’m back in the Treasure Valley, or is that Tragic Valley now and the biggest race in Idaho is about to take place in downtown Boise on Saturday night. 13,000 fans and some of the best racers in the U.S. will be there to make it hurt. Pro men start at 8:30pm on Main St and go in squares for 90 minutes at break neck speeds. Soooooooooooooo much fun. Come on down and watch us mix it up!
See ya out there-

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Out With A Bang

A pinnacle in my life is about to take place and I know that it’s going to be a whirlwind of crazy emotions. Not only am I going to quit cycling all together, but I’m ending it all after the biggest race I’ve ever done in my entire life. The Elite National Time Trial (individual effort over a specific distance, fastest time wins) is on July 13th in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. It’s the kind of thing that kids dream of when they are out back in their yard pretending that they are the great Bambino (Babe Ruth) pointing to the outfield calling his home run shot or on the court singing the “like Mike” tune in their head as they fire away a three pointer. Instead of being 10 and in the back yard, I’m 27 and have based everything in and around my life on being as fast as humanly possible on a bicycle. The competition is as good as it can possibly be in the U.S. and I’m in as good of form as I have ever been or likely ever will be. All systems check. All cylinders are ready to be fired in a symphony of intensity for 14.88 miles over rolling terrain on Highway 219. It will likely take just over half of an hour to end everything that I have focused on since I was 14. 30 minutes to end 13 years of desire, sweat, focus, dedication, financial loss and an enormous amount of hard work that has cost me many other desired things in my life. Words can’t really describe how much I want to win this race. The odds are somewhat stacked against me as I have been beaten by other guys in the currently registered field, but on the other hand, I have beaten every single one of them on some occasion in my life. Now I just have to beat every single one of them on July 13th. It’s a huge thing to ask for and I’m not in any way expecting to win, but I am dreaming about it. Everything about the course fits me. The elevation is identical to what I live at. The temperature is similar to the Treasure Valley’s. The rolling hills are what I time trial on every week and grew up training on in and around the small town of Kendrick, ID. The only off thing is that there could be humidity that I’m not used to; please don’t throw me off humidity! Luckily Seven Spring is somewhat inland of the coast and won’t be as full on humid as, lets say, Philadelphia.
All of the cards will be laid down and the dealer will finalize the results. Then I go home and go into a new phase in my life. Focusing on being an outgoing, outdoorsy, fun loving guy is what I am going to transfer my energy to. Life will be dramatically changed and the intensity focused on all sorts of other things. #1 will hopefully be my girlfriend of the last 8yrs if I can somehow earn her focus back on me. If you were wondering why I’m changing everything about how I go about life, here’s the answer. A cyclist at the top level is so narrowly focused on cycling that life steadily becomes that same way. I knew there was a problem developing and I wasn’t doing anything to fix it since I was so motivated for the next big thing. In my career as a cyclist, I’ve won more races than most and that motivates a guy to keep doing it. At some point though, the competition will be good enough to beat ya. In Idaho, I have to travel to find that competition. Traveling just to race takes a lot of time out of a person’s life and strains relationships with everyone who doesn’t partake in the same passion. After traveling extensively for the last three years, I know my physical limits. The opportunities to travel more just keep opening up. If you read my last blog about Indonesia, you might understand why I have kept it rolling. As of last Thursday night, the single most important person that has ever entered my life told me that she is no longer motivated in keeping me around for another day. This not only put me over the limit of my waning desire to keep the wheels rolling, it shattered the core of who I am and what I want for the future. Maybe it’s comparable to when a crack addict finally realizes that their addiction is ruining their life. That is what I’m dealing with as I write this letter.
The physical attributes that I have worked so hard for on the bike are still there, but the will that built up that strength seems to have deflated. I keep trying to force motivation back into the engine so that Nationals doesn’t fall off track, but it’s like trying to pump up a tire that has been punctured. Thankfully, all of the important training to gain speed for Nationals has already been completed and I’m pretty sure that I can put a patch on my flat tire that will hold just long enough to do 30 minutes of full throttle, all or nothing racing. When that race is done, that patch will detonate and the flood waters of the Johnstown Dam will come rushing out.

If any of you know my girlfriend Jami Johnson personally, would you please put in a good word for me because my words just can’t be enough right now.

Somewhere around 2pm on July 13th, every last little bit of who I currently am and what I have focused on for my entire adult life will be flowing out of me onto the beautiful rolling roads of Pennsylvania.

Thanks for reading.

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