Here it is, the middle of October already. Where has the year gone? It seems like last month I was freezing my arse off up in Monterey at the Sea Otter Bicycle Classic, but in reality that was back in April. It being the fall season now, it’s time to freeze my arse off again. I don’t look forward to fall, but I welcome it. I like the holiday season, because with it comes a new year. Ironically it’s hard to believe that the New Year will only be 2003. I’ve been in 2003 mode since May of ‘02 – planning press launches, media events and writing press releases for ’03 models and product. To me it feels like January 1 should bring in 2004 instead of 2003. Sound confusing? It is for me.
This year marked almost the first full year that I focused all of my attention on mountain bike racing instead of motorcycle AND mountain bike racing. Actually from January to March, I still had aspirations to do both. However, in March when motorcycle racing became more of a struggle than a reward, I decided to switch to pedaling full time. I got a late start in my race training and in the spring I started averaging 150 to 250 miles per week on the bicycle. I missed the season opener due to lack of fitness but by May I had a good fitness base. I went on to win one series championship, and finished fourth and fifth in the other two I contested - after missing a round of each. Burnout and fatigue did set in about four to six weeks ago, but I think that’s because I tried too quickly to build up a fitness base in a short amount of time instead of pacing myself. Instead of peaking in September when it would have been nice to turn it on toward the end of the season, I peaked around July. I’ll know better next year.
Of all the training rides I did this year, my favorite by far is Tuesday nights on Sunset in Redlands. Aside from a District 37 Enduro, I can’t remember the last time I looked so forward to (and was so up for) an athletic event. It’s like anticipating the end of high school football two-a-days, which meant it was time to put on full pads and go “full speed.” Before everyone grew and I was considered average size, that was the day of football practice that I looked most forward to. That was the day that the trash talking stopped and from then on out, it was your body that did the talking.
Tuesday nights on Sunset are similar. You ride down to Hogi Yogi, the ride’s meeting place, around 5:15 PM and the entire time it’s in the back of your mind that in one hour you’ll be suffering like you’ve never suffered before. Your stomach may even be in knots because if you’re not feeling tip-top on the way down there, the chances are you’re going to get dropped and that’s just bad for morale. Around 5:55 when you get to Hogi Yogi there are usually already about 30 guys there waiting for the ride to begin. There’s not a lot of trash talking going on because we’re not a high school football team, but there is a definite vibe - a vibe of uneasiness that is disguised by conversation about last weekend’s race or someone’s new wheels.
Meanwhile, as each new rider pulls up, adding to the group, you examine their stature and debate to yourself whether he has the ability to control or affect the pace. Most riders you’ve already sized up at a prior ride and you don’t worry about them, but there are always a few guys that can and will make the next hour of your life a living hell, if you’re not up to it. You pay attention to whether that select few is present and let out a silent sigh of relief when just one of them doesn’t show. You wonder if someone lets out the same sigh of relief on the nights that you don’t show.
The ride starts out slow, but before long your heart rate is pegged and you wonder which will explode first – your chest or your legs? You sit behind a fast group of about four or five and look back to see that there is only one more behind you. The rest have been thrown away like junk mail and even though you still have your current group to deal with, a feeling of invincibility runs through your body. If you’re not careful, that same feeling can be sucked out, twice as fast as it were achieved and you too can be left for dead. But on those Tuesday nights when everything goes as planned and you endure enough pain, suffering and hell to wipe out an army of main stream men, you go to bed with that invincibility. And you wake up the next morning wishing everyday were a summer time Tuesday.