I tried to do my first Omaha "race ride" last night. They call it "Wednesday Night Worlds." Since the shop's blog lists the jumping-off time at 6:00, I rolled in at 5:50. I could have asked the shop's manager to confirm the departure time since we talk twice a week, but no....
Of course, the group left at 5:45. Two very fit guys in Alegent Health kits chased with me. We averaged 24.5 down the length of the Keystone Trail and 26 along Wenninghoff Road, but we never saw the group.
Thanks to Vaughn and Nick for sticking with me in the hills; Vaughn is built just like Max Jenkins: long femurs with no body fat, and Nick reminded me of Tyler--big legs, built for power. They just killed me. Tore my legs off and ripped them apart. However, they also didn't want to leave my fat old ass alone in the wilds of northern Douglass County, so they waited at the top of every hill. All 1,000,000 of them. Damn.
These two could have caught the group if I hadn't been with them, and I tried to send them ahead a few times since I had a map, a phone, a taillight, and plenty of food. But that famous Midwestern hospitality won out. So they waited. A lot.
We finally sighted the group down near the Boyer chute, but I detonated in a crosswind and fell all to pieces. Nick caught on, while Vaughn waited and towed me back into town.
My old Tuesday/Thursday race rides in Davis followed pancake-flat roads for 40 miles. I sometimes got dropped in crosswinds or sat up to avoid huge packs of sketchy buffoons, but if I'd been training well and recovering smart, I could rotate, pull through, even win the occasional sprint with the elites and pros. But this Wednesday Night World's route climbs 1540 feet in 48 miles. I may never finish with the lead group. Ever.
So, lessons learned? The fast guys here are just as fast as the fast guys in Norcal. Sure, none of them are actual professional riders, but they're all strong as hell. My days of rotating through pacelines on flat roads are over; if I want to keep up with the racers around here, I'm going to have to forgo a lot of muscle & fat and drop down to 180 or so. During my best season in Davis, I weighed 190 and won a few sprints in flat crits and rolling road races, but I still got dropped badly on even moderate climbs. Right now, I'm at 203, and my back still gets really twitchy under power. I think I'll stop all the lifting, add some more yoga and core work, and spend the next three weeks riding lots of long, slow base rides. I'll never be able to follow 125-pounders like Vaughn up the hills, but maybe I can consolidate my losses and not implode on every steep pitch.
But for now, my base is crap, my anaerobic threshold is way too low, and my body has too much fat. I may not race until June or July, but I'm going to re-build my aerobic engine and hopefully let my back heal a bit more before I start doing real intervals again.
As I struggled home through Midtown in the dark, griping at myself and getting lost in negative self-talk, a Prefontaine-coined aphorism occurred to me: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
I realized that I've been coasting a lot lately: my academic work is half-assed, my dedication to healing my back and training my legs has been inconsistent, and worst of all, I've been sleepwalking through my family life.
No more. I'm setting my hubris aside and admitting that everything I've ever achieved came not from any natural talent but a fervent dedication and obsessive drive. Sure, I can lighten up a bit; some balance between my roles as dad, husband, scholar and athlete will help keep me sane. But I'm done wasting time and dabbling in things. I WILL finish this damn archive chapter by the end of May. I WILL file the damn book by the end of the summer. I WILL weigh 190 by the end of May. As for the family stuff--well, that's a bit more personal, no? But I'm going to renew some promises to THEM, too.
Sometimes, getting your ass handed to you is a very, very good thing.