Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Instinctual Gambler

There are times where the sixth sense kicks in and if you don't listen to it you're bound for trouble. Other times it's that little voice in the back of your head that won't be quite and keeps nagging you to recognize the obvious of the situation. Either way, if you're stubborn and don't listen to what your body is telling you, you might just be setting yourself up for something that won't be that enjoyable. I think as you mature this is a skill that you learn to use more often. Gut feel, instincts, sixth sense, call it what you will, I know my kids aren't listening to their instincts so I'm praying it's something they'll eventually develop. And nothing to their fault, but their dad (aka me) almost acted in the same way during yesterday's Menlo Park Grand Prix.

This crit is pretty straightforward. Four corners with the shape of the Indy 500. Not much room between corners 1 &2 or 3 & 4 to make moves past riders, but long straightaways that had
you either hammering in the wind or seeking shelter from it, or as the case on the back straight, flying down the course at 31mph and not catching a soul. There's some potholes along the way, nothing too bad. Then again, I can see those from a mile away with my vantage point on the bike.

After arriving and signing in, my teammate and I walked around and took in the sites. There was a weird feel in the air. Hard to identify at first, but in retrospect, it was probably due to a crash or two (foreshadowing for sure for the rest of the day...). As we're warming up, we see a guy roll by with a cantaloupe-sized strawberry road rash on his shoulder and think, "Ouch!". We dismounted a few minutes later and got on the course for a lap or two before our start time. Nix that idea...

Coming down to turn #3 there are two fire engine
s and an abmulance. From what I could see it looked like two women from the race before ours had gone down hard. Come to find out the officials had to neutralize the race and were about to restart. We quickly got off the course and watched the 5 lap shootout that ensued. Weird, but that's the same thing that happened last year in the cat 4's race when there was a crash near the start/finish line. That instinctual sixth sense was starting to fire up big time.

The women finished successfully and we line up for the M35+ 3/4. From the get go this was a hard race. My Powertap data shows that for my 20 minute max effort, which just happened to be the first 20 minutes of the race, that I was effectively racing at 10% over my threshold the entire time (...thanks normalized power for the reinforcement). I hung mid-pack and tried to chill, but did launch a nice little bridging attack about 10 minutes in. Another local racer I know got on my wheel and within 20 seconds we had bridged across to a break of four guys. I thought we had a good group of guys from well-represented teams and this break might work out. Nope, we got caught three turns later.

Given the chest cold I was recovering from, I didn't have much in the tank at
that point. I eased off and went to the back. Ten minutes later the hair on my neck went erectile when I saw the accident fifty yards in front of me unfolding. A bunch of guys went down right at the start/finish line (which was pretty dangerous...this really deserves it's own post). Immediately the race was neutralized and folks were recovering. A teammate of mine, the same guy who raced with me the year before and "enjoyed" the restart fiasco of doing 5 laps for the glory, rolled up and said, "I'm thinking of DNF'ing. This is just like last year and it's not going to be good." Wow, for a second it sounded like my sixth sense had been reincarnated into a bike racer who looked a lot like my teammate!

It didn't take me long to weigh the costs/benefits of the situation. You already had a pretty aggressive group of riders, who were about to get 25 minutes of rest since they had to bring out 2 stretchers for the injured, and then they'd probably only have to race a few laps for the eventual finish (come to find out afterwards they raced seven laps). Nope, not my cup of tea.

We found the
nearest official and told them to DNF our numbers. I felt like Kenny Rogers...this was the time to fold'em:

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run.

You never count your money when youre sittin at the table.

Therell be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

It felt so strange to do, but it felt right. On the way out a few other folks asked what I was doing, and I doubt they could see it in my eyes (ok they couldn't...I was still wearing my sunglasses), but the zest for racing was extinguished and I wanted to part of any ensuing carnage.

I have never DNF'd before and it felt strange to not at least roll across the line at the end knowing I made it through the whole race. But man, the vibes I was picking up just didn't feel right and I wanted no further part of that, no way, no how. Spooked, a degree. Should I have toughed it out? Maybe, but what purpose would that have served?!? Hell, even the family was there to watch, and I know I didn't want to have them see me involved in anything bad.

So you leave and live to tell about it. As news came from other teammates in races later in the day, there were some bad accidents in three out of the four remaining races. Much love to those who are nursing injuries this morning...heal quickly. They'll be other races on the horizon...


velogirl said...

Todd, thank you for racing and I'm glad you followed your instincts. We're already working on improvements for next year to make the race safer.


Tall & Manley said...

It wasn't an easy call to make, but given my health, the mo-jo in the air and what I experienced last year it turned out to be the best decision given the situation. I'm excited to hear what changes you have in mind for next year.