Mount Hamilton Report - May 25, 2008 (Masters 45+ 4/5 race)
By Ed Price
Dear Friends, Family and Teammates,
I felt like dropping out. My legs felt the pain of every pedal stroke. Where was the top of the climb? What appeared to me as a good idea only an hour ago now seemed like a bad one. What was I thinking?
As many of you know, I missed the last several races due to exhaustion and fatigue. Right before the Sea Otter Classic my legs felt dead, even on easy rides around town on my electric bicycle, and if your legs hurt with an electric motor helping something is wrong. Twenty years ago I would have pushed through the fatigue and raced despite how I felt. But as I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I realize it is important to listen to your body and my body was telling me that five months of hard training and two months of racing were catching up with me. I was having a hard time sleeping, had no appetite (which is very unlike me), was losing weight (but also muscle mass), was irritable, and always tired. Work seemed like "work" when usually I breeze through the day. I lost pleasure in daily activities. So I rested and rested, slept 10 to 12 hours per night, cut back on my riding schedule and recharged my batteries.
Near the top I could see a group of three riders just up the road. After looking back and seeing riders one-by-one strung out in a long line I knew that if I didn't get up to that group of three, my race was over. Somehow I found the strength to go around the rider in front of me, told him to "get on my wheel" and we made the junction to the three riders at the very top of the climb.
I started to feel better the third week of May and after one good workout I decided to race
Mount Hamilton after all. It was with great trepidation that I arrived at the start of the race. I had no idea how my legs would respond to racing with only one good quality workout in the last five weeks. We arrived at the start of the race very late (25 minutes to spare) and I barely had enough time to pin on my number, and make it to the start with 30 seconds to spare.
I was dead last in a long line of 75 riders on a very narrow road that immediately goes uphill. I don't remember what I was thinking when I rolled past everyone in the other lane and parked myself on the front line just as the whistle blew for the start. Normally I like a good long warm-up but because we were late, there was no time, and my legs felt it right away. So I set a very slow and easy pace on the initial climb and because the road was so narrow, no one could pass me. One rider tried to accelerate but I refused to follow him and when he realized there was nobody on his wheel, he slowed and was caught.
I knew the race would come down to the main climb (3 miles and 800 ' elevation gain) just past Junction at mile 23. I knew the race was flat to downhill after that and if I didn't stay with the lead group; there was little hope of catching them later. Once the climb started however I knew there was no way I could keep up the pace they were setting without "blowing up" and I lost contact about half way up.
The five of us crested the final climb together and after a brief descent, we organized ourselves into a single paceline, taking 10 to 20 second pulls into the wind and then dropping to the back. I shouted encouragement to the group, scolded anyone taking too hard a pull, and even changed the direction of the rotation because of the wind. No one missed a single turn at the front and I started to feel better and better as we gathered momentum, first catching a group of two and then then three. We caught Bob's group and finally we caught Matt's group. When we caught the last group our numbers had swelled to about 20 so I stopped taking pulls and sat at the back waiting for the sprint at the end of the long descent on Mines Road
In the last two or three miles a group of four got away on the winding descent. I was "stuck" behind a poor descender and by the time I went around him, the group of four was 30 to 40 yards up the road. I didn't want to tow the group up to them and then have nothing left for the sprint so I sat on the front waited for help. Suddenly, Bob went flying by and towed me up to the group with about 500 meters to go. I started to sprint in about 12th place and ended up in third, almost winning the sprint for the second group on the road. Based on reports that the lead group numbered 10 to 12, I finished between 13th and 15th; however my official place was DNP so either I was disqualified or they missed my number because of the two riders who passed me on my left (the finish camera was on the left).
Matt rode a very strong race and was the best climber by far. Bob also had a fantastic race and was clearly stronger than me on the climb and without his help, I am not sure we would have caught those four at the end. Thanks for the lead-out. Great teamwork.