Feb 22, 12:57 AM by Steve | Cantua Creek Race Report

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I almost didn’t go. I’ve been sick for two weeks since Boulevard (before, actually) and I may have just bagged the whole thing. By mid-week, I felt halfway decent and figured I could get some decent training in, if nothing else. My sights, I should say, were set low.

To make things more interesting, Jeff, who I was carpooling with, had to work late Friday and we decided to make the early morning trek rather than drive late at night on no sleep. My day started with my phone’s alarm clock buzzing in my bed. I threw all my crap in my car and hit the road at 3:45. Made good time and pulled into a primo spot at 7am. Most importantly, we hit the porta-potties before the line grew to epic proportions.

I never really bother warming up for this race because it never starts on time, begins with a promenade to the course, followed immediately by a rolling descent. I rolled around a little bit chatting with people, then lined up at the start, and promply waited, and waited, and waited. There was a stream of tractors parading by, so presumably we had to wait for them to get off the course. Finally we started, and the parade out to the course was even slower and more boring than usual. We hit the descent and barely sped up, it seemed. Everyone was on the brakes and I worked my way to the front. I don’t really know what I planned to do there, so I sat second wheel for a while. But my frustration was growing, as I had to keep braking when the front guy kept coasting the descent. Eventually the frustration and boredom grew too big and I put in a small dig on the downhill. I felt someone on my wheel and a short time later I realized there was just one.

I looked back and we had a huge gap. The field had not responded at all. That was probably a smart move on their part because it was really early and it was a long race. Also, anyone who knows me knows I always attack too early and blow my wad. But, it turns out, it wasn’t such a smart move because I never came back. I got third, with several minutes on the field.

Third? But you said only one guy went with you…

I really hadn’t planned on a 70 mile break that day. Even as I rolled off the front I really wasn’t thinking I was even going to try to stay away. I was just screwing around. Bored. Frustrated. Warming up. I told my breakmate this. I forget his name; I’ll just call him Webcor. “Let’s just do tempo and see what happens,” he said. “Ok,” I responded, we won’t go too hard, stretch our legs and eventually we will get caught but we wouldn’t have really killed ourselves out there. The gap grew and grew and we hit the first turnaround unmolested by the field’s view. On the way back it was some time before we saw them, and when we finally crossed paths, 3 minutes had already elapsed since we turned around. Even without considering our tailwind on the return leg, that meant we had a 6 minute gap on the field. It was still a long way to go, but thoughts of success actually started to enter my mind. These thoughts wavered as it was quickly becoming apparent that Webcor was having difficulty. He was taking shorter and shorter and weaker and weaker pulls, and I came to realize that I was making a big mistake. My mistake was that I not committed. I doubted myself and I doubted my chances and I was afraid to fail. But I really had nothing to lose, I had no chance outside of the break and if I didn’t fully commit myself, mentally and physically, I had no chance in the break either. So I threw my chips on the table and took over the bulk of the work. I would succeed or I would blow up trying. All in.

I had a crisis of faith when I dropped Webcor on the hills up to the turnaround at the end of the first lap. It was more of a tactical quandry, I suppose. Webcor was not very far behind, it seemed, and I thought my chances would be better with him. Keeping him would allow me to rest from time to time, even if I towed him most of the way. But how much time would I lose and was the tradeoff worth it? I wavered back in forth between waiting and just going, until I saw two guys bridging up approaching the turnaround as I was coming down. I knew that they would eventually catch me and bring some extra horesepower, so there was no longer any point to waiting. I continued at my tempo pace, and as it turned out, it took quite some time to catch me. When they did, they brought Webcor back up with them, making us a total of four.

We shared the work pretty evenly, each taking pulls around a minute long. Things were looking good until we spotted the field behind us. We continued for a bit, taking furtive glances back, noting that they were closing fast. It was a good effort we thought, but we were caught. We soft pedaled waiting for the catch, then it came and they rocketed past us. But wait, it wasn’t our field, it was the masters 35+ race! A glace back told us that nobody else was in sight, so we hit the gas again, holding station some distance behind the masters. At the turnaround, it was clear that our hesitation had cost us some time but we still had several minutes on the field, and we pressed hard on the return leg.

And that is where I started to hurt. A minute started to feel an eternity on the front and eventually I relented and started skipping pulls. One of the newer arrivals, Mat, offered me some food but I still had some. That reminded me to eat, so I did. It didn’t really help and I continued to skip and shorten pulls. Unfortunately we lost Webcor to a flat, so it was down to just three of us. The climb back up to the turnaround ending the second lap was actually a relief, as we all just did a steady tempo and I started to feel better. On the descent I got some rest and was able to resume helping a little on the way back out. But I faded quickly and had to stop working or I feared being dropped entirely. I took Mat up on his offer for some food and took a few pulls here and there but mostly just sat in. It was pretty much the same story on the way back the last time. Our lead was holding pretty steady but it looked like there were some groups trying to jump off the front, and it doesn’t take much for a motivated pack to quickly eat into a small and tired group. The junior, Reese, was starting to show signs of wear as well, so I tried to take a few pulls when I could and give them a little more chance to rest. At the last crossing of the 5, at the base of the climb to the finish, the field was still nowhere in sight. I knew we had it sealed so we didn’t hit it very hard. Mat had been a beast, doing by far the most work on that last trip back, so we all just kind of cruised into the end and congratulated each other on the crazy break that worked.

Special thanks to Mat the beast and Reese for towing me around for a lap, my teammates John Extra Cheesy and Ben, and the entire Tieni Duro juniors for blocking.

Epilogue: There was a protest and it took forever to get the results sorted out and official so that I could take my shirt and prize money and go. I knew that they couldn’t give me my shirt before then, but the smalls were almost gone and I didn’t think there would be any left. In perhaps my most brilliant tactical move of the day, I asked them to set one aside for me, and they did. Score.

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