Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ken Woods Memorial Road Race Wrap-up: Pain

Here's the deal:

I came to this bicycle racing thing from being a baseball player. Being in condition for baseball consists of repetitive, but not overly exhaustive, actions. The more repetitive actions you can get in, the more refined that your baseball skills will be until you reach the point where you maximize your baseball abilities.

For a pitcher on a college baseball team, these repetitive actions include lots of throwing, running, and stretching. And none of it is all that grueling. You know how to throw and you work on different pitches from time-to-time. Running gets you in shape, but you're not trying to break any land-speed records or anything -- just get in some decent miles. And you stretch a lot, before, during, and sometimes after a workout. That's about it.

I never had to challenge -- or even get within eyesight of -- my maximum pain threshold. Never.

Throwing a baseball off of a mound doesn't bring you anywhere near that pain threshold. And if it does, you should quit, because you're injured.

But bicycle racing isn't like that.

I heard Bob Roll speak at Freewheel Bike on Friday night. One thing stuck with me: you will never be a good bicycle racer until you understand what it is to feel near-intolerable pain and learn how to deal with it.

Now, keep in mind, your pain threshold is all relative to each individual and situation. The pain Bob Roll felt while trying to complete the three week-long Tour de France is much different from the pain I've experienced while racing a bike.

But, it's pain nonetheless.

And I'm still learning how to deal with bicycle racing pain.

Yesterday was the Ken Woods Memorial Road Race in Sogn Valley, Minnesota. The 42 miles went something like this:

It was raining all day long. So, before the start, I went out to get warmed-up with a teammate. This warm-up left me cold, wet, and cold. At the start line, I was looking around to see how many people were shivering. A lot.

Then the gun went off and we rolled out. About ten pedal strokes in, teammate Cuban's chain blew off his bike. He was ahead of me and looked confused, so I yelled to him that his chain had snapped. Day over for Cuban.

[photo caption] Cuban pulling his broken chain out of his gearing. His $25 entry fee got him about 25 yards of racing. That sucks. (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)

The rest of us motored into the wind for about a mile, then took a right-hand turn into a left-to-right crosswind. I did my best to tuck in behind another rider to get the wind off.

Then we took another right, producing a wicked tailwind. And the peloton took off. I don't know whose idea it was, but racing down a road at 36 mph in cold rain isn't necessary. As the field was splintering, I was just hanging onto the back of the lead pack for dear life.


But I knew that if I could hold on for only a few minutes the pace would slow. And it did, and I held on.

I held on all the way to the big climb of the race.


This pain I couldn't overcome. My breathing grew more labored and my legs demanded more oxygen. Oxygen I didn't have. I unhitched from the main pack, dreams of a top ten finish disappearing.

Eventually, as I began the second of two laps for the day, I fell back into the first large chase group of eight other riders, including the token old guy who barks paceline orders for miles and miles but doesn't ever get the paceline to work and really doesn't do a good job of pacelining himself. I hate those guys.

In the end, four of us dropped the other riders. As we went up the big hill for the second and last time, I grabbed a wheel and let the lead guy pace me up. After falling behind two riders by the top of the climb, I stood up and raced back to them, eventually dusting one in a quasi-sprint while the third guy let me pace him to the line where he finally dusted me. Whatever. I may have finished in the top 20, but the results aren't out yet.
[photo caption] The author lets a Lake Superior Cycling Club rider pace him up the final climb. Thanks, guy! (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)

But I did well for myself. I know that I can hang with any category 4/5 rider on the flat ground. If I can ever handle the pain enough to climb adequately, I could get myself in the mix for some field sprint finishes.

We'll see how that goes.

[photo caption] Pain. (photo courtesy SkinnySki.com)


Blogger Andy said...

Way to hang in there, Tuffy.


Sun Apr 30, 06:39:00 PM 2006

Blogger AdamB said...

I've got a weight vest I can lend you. When I first moved here in October I filled it with 10 pounds and took it to the Lowry Hill area because that was the only hill I knew.

Even on little anthills like that, you can really feel the difference.

It was supposed to motivate me to lose 10 pounds. It didn't work, but it did illustrate why Big Dumb George is 6'4" and 165.

Mon May 01, 06:47:00 AM 2006


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