Monday, April 9, 2012

Lost Hills Road Race, 3/31/2012

By Eddy Price

"Eddy, you have to wake up, it's 4:15 a.m. and you told Jim Moran you would meet him at 4:30 in Aptos  to drive him to a bike race at Lost Hills... remember" my wife shouted in my ear very early Saturday morning as I lay in a deep sleep. It took a few seconds for my brain to process what she had said.

Then I remembered, Jim Moran, my good friend, personal training client and new member of our club-team and I were driving to the Lost Hills Road Race near Bakersfield. Our race started at 9:00 am, it was a three-hour drive, so we had to leave Aptos at 4:30 a.m. to get there by 7:30 a.m. and I had promised to drive Jim in my truck.

I hate early mornings. Normally I wake up between 8:00 and 8:30 am and I stay in bed until I can't keep my eyes closed anymore, which might be up to 45 minutes, or around 9:15 a.m., but 12 to 15 times a year I awake very early in the morning, long before the sun rises, to drive several hours to compete in a bike race in some distant part of Northern California.

My alarm, set for 3:30 a.m. either hadn't gone off or I had slept right through it, but within ten minutes I had dressed, gulped down a cup of coffee, made one cup for the road, inhaled a bowl of oatmeal, packed my cycling clothes, and loaded the truck, arriving only four minutes late in Aptos where Jim and I had arranged to meet.

This was to be Jim Morans first road race and I had been on the lookout for flat road races as a gentle introduction to the sport. I didn't want Jim's first experience to be next week's race at Copperopolis, where the road is flat and smooth for only 50 yards before the route turns left, enters the "pave" and tackles an eleven hundred foot climb.

Jim called me three years ago to start a weight-training program, spotting my name on our team's website and finding my phone number in the yellow pages under my personal training ad. Jim was turning 60 soon and wanted to get in better shape, so his birthday present to himself was six months of personal training sessions with me at my studio in Aptos. We progressed from the gym to weekly training sessions on the bike and last year Jim took the plunge, reading everything he could on training (Chris Carmichael's book was our Bible), watching everything he could find about cycling on YouTube, purchasing a new Cervelo bicycle, competing in the Swanton Time Trial Series and, the final step every male takes towards being a competitive cyclist, shaving his legs.

We arrived at Lost Hills at 7:35 a.m. There was no rain, but it was very windy. Because of the low turnout, they combined the 45+ Cat 4, 45+ Cat 5, Women, and Open Cat 5 together, which amounted to about 30 riders total. The course was a four-corner, 27-mile rectangle around the oil fields of Lost Hills on dead flat roads with very long uninterrupted stretches, as far as you could see, and a four-mile section of dirt road directly into a 30 mile per hour headwind thrown in for good measure.

The race started very fast with a nasty wind from the left. Naturally, the riders at the front stayed as far to the right as possible, so that those behind wouldn't have much shelter from the wind. The only place where I felt a tiny bit of protection from the 30-mile per hour wind was as far to the right as I could possibly ride, so that is where I tried to stay. The problem was the road had zero shoulder and a rough "edge" and frequently I would end up in the dirt for a few seconds, putting my cross skills to the test, but endangering no one because I was riding in last place. The other problem was that every one wanted to ride to the right of the rider in front of them and with 30 riders, this wasn't possible.

I was riding in last place, suffering like a dog and wondering why in the heck I thought this would be an easy introduction to road racing. I rode at the back for the first four miles until I had to start to close gaps that would open in front of me. The third time this happened, I got "mad," not at the rider opening the gap, he was doing the best he could, I became mad at myself for not being more proactive.

So, I moved left of the group all the way to the center-line and motored up to the front of the group, settling in to forth place. Funny thing, the wind was no worse riding to the left of the group than riding as directly behind the group. Near the front, the draft wasn't any better, but at least I wouldn't have to come around the rider in front of me when he cracked and fell off the pace-line.

I eventually cracked right before the 9-mile tailwind section of the course. At that point there were only four riders in front of me. I kept them in sight until we turned right, hitting 36 miles per hour aided by a wind of equal speed. The headwind leg of the course began with a three-mile section of dirt road, dropping my speed to 10 miles per hour and the four in front of me pulled away slowly.

When I crossed the finish line with one lap still to go, I almost quit. The wind was at its strongest, I was riding 8 miles per hour pedaling a 34 x 23 gear combination and wasn't sure I could manage another lap.  Thankfully, the wind died down to a relatively calm 20 miles per hour and I started to feel better. I held 5th place the whole second lap, riding 68 miles in 3 hours 15 minutes. I was so tired that I was barely able to ride the three miles back to my car from the finish line. I even had to close one eye because I was seeing double and it wouldn't go away.

Jim Moran finished only ten minutes behind me, placing a fine 7th in the 45+ Cat 5 race.  It was remarkable considering he was gapped within the first few miles, but he rode strongly, eventually catching a rider from Oakland and they rode together for quite some time. Jim even had the smarts to wait for him several times because he knew they could make much better time working together, but eventually he rode away from him.

I purposely didn't enter the 55+, thinking it was too hard a category, but I would have won because there was only one rider in the group and he finished behind me. Still, 5th place is my highest ranking in several years, and along with my 6th place the week before at the Salinas Criterium, it means that I won two tee shirts on two consecutive weekends. All that pain and suffering for two tee shirts. Yes, I know it sounds crazy and maybe it is, but it keeps me sane.

Ed Price

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