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I may have mentioned on the blog a time or two that I occasionally race bicycles. What you HAVEN’T heard me mention is how I do in those races. That’s because there’s a big difference between competing, and being competitive. And while I love the former, I usually come up short on the latter. There are a couple reasons for this. Here’s the first:
You see, weight lifting and bicycling aren’t necessarily complimentary. So while I can fill out a cycling kit, anything above the waist is just ballast. This is why “real” cyclists have to have a soigneur to open their ketchup. I love the fitness that cycling brings, but I love other kinds of fitness, too. So I weight-lift, and my cycling suffers. (But I do like to open my own jars, so it’s trade off I’m willing to make.)
My second problem with cycling has to do with the length of races. I’m a fast-twitch guy competing in a slow-twitch sport. My ideal cycling race would be about 15 seconds long. I’d totally dominate. But sadly, there are no cycling drag races. 40-60 mile races are typical. (Unless you’re my friend Steve, and then 140 miles is typical.) So, while I could hypothetically out-sprint my friend Steve; the problem is, I can never hang on until the end of the race to do it.
Fortunately, I’ve found sort of a middle ground in cycling: The Time Trial. These are the races you see where everyone wears the funny helmets and rides the bikes that look like they came from outer space. As far as bike races go, time trials are short. I’ve never had one go longer than an hour. They’re also pretty safe, since everyone goes by themselves and just races the clock. Time Trials rarely go uphill, so that upper-body-mass thing doesn’t penalize me. Time trials also require you to ride the bike all scrunched up in an aerodynamic position. And since I’m overly flexible, this works to my advantage.
But the unfortunate thing about time trials is that they are extremely uncomfortable. Competing in a time trial requires you to convince yourself that you can take more self-inflicted suffering than you think you can, for longer than you think you can. It’s just awful. The entire race is a mental struggle to convince yourself not to give up.
Since they’re so awful, naturally, time trials are the only kind of bike racing I have any aptitude for. Because life is cruel that way.
So with that as the backdrop, it won’t be hard to understand why I was drawn to the Utah Summer Games in Cedar City to compete in their time trial. It was only 10 miles long! On a good day, that’s just 22 minutes! Heck, I can do anything for 22 minutes, right? I signed up, and while I was at it, I signed up for their road race as well.
Stef and I headed off to Cedar City – a few hours away – on the day of the time trial. On our way south, we both noticed that it was quite windy. Wind is bad for time trials, because you can’t use your best (and most expensive) aerodynamic equipment without fear of getting blown off the road. TT bikes are fast and aerodynamic, but they’re not super maneuverable. I really hoped that the winds would die down before the 7pm start. They didn’t. Oh well. At least it was the same wind for everyone.
So, at the start, I had to change the wheels out on my TT bike for a less aerodynamic but more stable pair. Bummer. But changing my wheels meant I wouldn’t have power data during my ride. (Watching your power output is a good way to monitor your effort while you’re doing a time trial. It also gives me a mental “carrot” to chase while I’m grinding it out.) I felt like I was flying blind. Stef’s advice was “just go as hard as you can. If you throw up before you finish, that was too hard.”
My group was small, and I was feeling good. So I followed her advice and just went for it.
Apparently that worked. I averaged 20.6 mph on the way out to the turn around. This was into a brutal 30mph headwind (actually not exaggerating). On the way back, I was flying at 35-38 mph. I crossed the line and waited (im)patiently for everyone else to finish so I could see how I did. Turns out, I won my little division, and took second place overall among ALL competitors. Since the field included a bunch of college kids (30 years younger than me), I thought I did pretty well.
The Road Race was two days later on Saturday morning. We waited it out at the Cedar City KOA. As far as semi-urban campgrounds go, it was OK. BUT…
We were in a campsite next to these people and their rented RV. I think they were from Stink-vania. (Or maybe one of those other Eastern European countries that I’ve banned from even viewing our web site because they’re populated exclusively by hackers.) They spoke in a language that sounded like phlegm. They smoked. Constantly. They grilled constantly too. Only they didn’t grill food like normal people do. They grilled petroleum products. Seriously. Like “roasted lighter fluid”. Nine hours a day. The odors coming from their campsite were so noxious, that we had to keep all our doors and windows closed most of the time to avoid headaches, nausea, and all those other symptoms they list on the side of the lighter fluid bottle. We almost bailed and just stayed at Wal-Mart.
Thankfully, Saturday morning eventually arrived and we bade farewell to the Stink-vanians. The road race that morning included hills, so I was a bit less confident of my performance. But at least the field in my age group was again small, so I had that going for me. The course was 40+ miles, and it took me just under two hours to complete it. Because of the hills, I was pretty happy with that result. I did well enough for 13th overall, and a solid first place in my age group. As a by-product of winning both the TT and the Road Race, I also won the Omnium for my age group. (An omnium is where you get points for finishing in certain races, and they add them up at the end.) So I left the weekend with three medals.
I want to stress that this was a HIGHLY IRREGULAR occurrence for me. I rarely win anything on the bike. In fact, I had only won one event, ever, before this. So I gotta soak it up when I can get it. But any way you slice it, it was good first outing for me wearing the new Winnebago kit, so I’m glad for the podium pictures.
Then, we took a trip
Since it was predicted to be 113 degrees pretty much everywhere that weekend, Stef and I bee-lined it for the beach! Right after that road race, I got a celebratory burger, and then we were off to Malibu! (I’m allowed to eat tasty unhealthy food if I do well in a race, which, as I’ve said, is almost never.)
We arrived at Malibu Beach RV Park before dark (also highly irregular that we arrive anywhere before dark) and set up in our camp site facing the ocean. Fortunately, our site that night was perched high above the ocean, which gave me a several hundred foot buffer between our RV and that dreaded enemy: sand.
Let’s talk about sand, shall we?
If you follow our Facebook page at all, you know that Stef teases me mercilessly about my aversion to sand. Some of it is true, some is exaggerated. I will – on occasion – walk on the beach. But what I won’t do is walk on the beach while we’re staying in the RV. Here’s why: When you’re living in a space that’s about 100 square feet, everything gets amplified. This includes sand. In other words, if a grain of sand gets into your RV, because everything is so close, there’s a good likelihood that you’ll step on it. There’s a good likelihood that it will get into your sheets. There’s a good likelihood that it will find its way onto your toilet seat, into your toothbrush, your clean clothes, and that peanut butter and jelly sandwich you made on the counter.
Stef just doesn’t get this. I try to explain to her why sand isn’t good. “Stef, it’s abrasive! That’s why they glue it onto paper and use it to destroy things. It’s called SANDpaper for a reason!!!” It just doesn’t work. Maybe she can’t feel sand the way I can. Maybe she was raised on “chunky” peanut butter growing up. (By the way, what idiot came up with chunky peanut butter? “Hey guys, I’ve got an idea! We can ruin the smooth, creamy, buttery consistency of our peanut butter by mixing in this crap we swept up off the floor of the plant!” I mean, really? Nobody wants “chunky” regular butter, why is this OK for peanut butter?)
Like I said, Stef doesn’t get it, and I don’t think she wants to. Imagine a 9-year-old child. That’s Stef at the beach. “Oh wow, look at those rocks!” (runs off through the sand in her $150 running shoes without thinking to take them off) “Hey, those people down there have a RADIO on!!” (runs off the blanket through the sand and returns to the blanket 45 minutes later covered in water and sand) “I found a CRAB!!!” (runs, sand-covered, into the RV to get a dish for water for the crab, getting sand on the floor, on the counter, in the cupboard, and on the dinette seat beneath the pump switch in the process)
You get the idea. So, when we’re in areas with sand, unless I want to wipe my bottom with sandy toilet paper, I have to be hyper-vigilant. Imagine trying to stop the impetuous 9-year-old child from tracking sand in, and you’ll understand what I’m up against. So, when confronted with that situation, I at least don’t make the problem any worse by engaging with the sand myself.
But back to the trip, we stayed a couple days beach side, where I swept a lot and fixed a rattle coming from the roof of the RV. (No sand up there!) We also got to do some cool ocean side riding on a bike path that’s adjacent to the PCH. Look! Pretty fantastic, right?
Then we headed inland to Golden Village Palms RV Resort Which Is Not Near Any Sand. We had a blast there, and I plan to do a full video review of the campground (if you can even call it camping!). So I’m not going to say much else about it here.
I will say that we had a hard time leaving Golden Village Palms RV Resort Which Is Not Near Any Sand. But we had to get back home, because this past Saturday was the Utah State Time Trial Championships, which I also wanted to compete in.
THIS was the race I had actually been training for for several months. I hadn’t told Stef that I was training for this race, because I wanted to be able to act like it was no big deal if I sucked. You might think that it would be hard to hide several months of intervals so hard you vomit on a stationary bike in your basement from your significant other. But Stef and I work out pretty hard most days, so around here, that’s easier to do than you think.
Once again, we took Lance to the bike race. I got there early enough to set up a trainer and warm up. This should have tipped Stef off that I was focusing on this race because I rarely warm up, but I think she saw a lizard or something and got completely distracted. That was OK because at least she was there to help me put on my skin suit – and I actually really do need her help to put that thing on it’s so tight.
Unfortunately, they ran the TT in alphabetical order, which meant I went first in my division. That’s a real disadvantage in a time trial, because you don’t have anyone to chase. Once I started, it was just me, my private world of hurt, and 27 minutes. I don’t really remember much about the time trial, except there was a white line that I pretty much followed, and I don’t think we ever got that tail wind.
At the end of the day though, whatever I did was enough, and I wound up winning the thing. But most importantly, this meant we got to go out for barbeque and fries that evening and I got to eat like a pig.
Also, apparently, I nap with my medals on.
Now, we had some misadventures with Lance after the race. I will get to that, but it will be in a separate post because this has gotten really long. So, that’s basically what I’ve been up to the past couple weeks. Well, that, and more tinkering with the RV, taking sewing classes, and prepping for the Winnebago Grand National Rally in a few weeks.