Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Now I Know Why New Mexicans Don't Like Texas!

Well, the El Paso Stage Race was a bust! Things started off well: we got hotel paid for to entice teams to attend. We made good time getting down there. After that, it was all down hill (or should I say uphill!)

Saturday was an uphill TT, which was the east side of the Franklin Mountains. If you're as big of an Arrested Development fan as I was, you know anything with Franklin in it has got to be good. Not this time, hombre. Four miles uphill with more than an 1,000 feet of elevation gain. There were lots of pitches at 8%. I knew this was going to be an all out hard effort, but once it was over, I'd have the rest of the day to hang out. Since I've been running, my climbing skills have all but dwindled. I knew I wasn't going to be a strong contender, but it was a good chance to get some intensity.

Sure enough, I was right. It took me 18:27 and my average HR was 178 with a max of 182. I finished 12th of 14. The top guy finished in just under 16 minutes. Everyone that I came down with (Silvio and Rod) was a bit depressed with their respective results. I knew I wasn't going to pull a magic Contador and kill, so I was fine with my time. I'd done everything right in prepping for this: good warm up, good nutrition, relatively good sleep. I was tranquillo

We were done by 11:00 AM and spent the rest of the day checking out El Paso. We went to a movie, spent some quality time at Barnes & Nobles, consumed the local cuisine (P.F. Changs). Went to bed at a good time.

Sunday's road race is where things went downhill (uphill). The course was 2 44-mile loops that included 2,500 feet of elevation gain per lap. I didn't realize there was so much elevation gain. One of the people I came down with said there wasn't that much climbing. Had I known there was that much climbing, I, honestly, would have stayed home.

Our team formulated a strategy. We had positions 2 and 3 on the GC. We had 6 people on our team. The 1st position on the GC only had 1 team mate. We were going to take it easy up the first climb and then spend a lot of time attacking the opposing team in the valley to get one of higher placed team members in a break. That was the plan. But...

We had one rogue team member (I'll leave that person's name anonymous) who decided to attack from the get go. Did I mention it was really windy that day! It was windy. Anyways, when the first climb started, this "teammate" attacked forcing the leading GC team to chase. Now, one point that needs to be made is this team consists of mountain bike riders that specialize in climbing. That's why our plan was to attack on the flats in the valley. The first climb popped two of the team mates (myself included) off the back and others as well. Other teammates were in the red from mile 1 to mile 6 of an 88 mile race. Team strategy out the door.

I crested the climb about 200 yards back with another rider from a different team that I've had a bad history with. I once got gapped with this rider and he made me work to bridge back and never helped. When we got to 30 yards from the back of the group, he sprinted for all he was worth and got back in the field, I was spent and never made it back. Bad history!

So, at the the top of the hill with this rider, I threatened him that if he didn't help to get back to the group, I'd kill him. If I recall correctly, my language was a little more colorful. He got the message. We descended down the west side of Franklin mountains trading rotations. I later looked at my GPS and we were traveling at 57MPH. Don't worry, I have a few life insurance policies to cover the kids college tuition.

Once in the valley, we chased for about 5 miles trading rotations. We got back on.

I spent a few miles recovering, then out team leader (Doug) told me it was time to start attacking the lead GC team. One after another, someone would go off the front directly into the headwind, and the lead GC team would chase to bring back the flyer, only to be met with another flyer. Silvio went, then Josh, then JR, then Doug, then me, then we would do it again and again. The GC team would pull each one back. Then we turned east again toward the Anthony gap hill...ugh! We were directly in a headwind. I couldn't figure out the wind. It was everywhere, yet we never had a true tailwind. The climb up Anthony Gap was strung out and in the gutter. This climb is long and gradual with a steep hump in the middle. At that steep hump, Josh accelerated, and I was gapped again. I tried to keep the pack close so I could bridge back on the other side of the hill. Unfortunately, this was the last time I saw the pack until after the race. Over the hill, they were gone. I put my head down and pushed for all I was worth. The gap still grew. When I turned south to El Paso, the group was still pushing the gap up. I continued to pursue, until it became evident I would not get back this time. I was not happy.

I continued up the Franklin mountains again hopeful I'd see the group snaking up pass in front of me, but I couldn't see anyone. I spoke to the people at the neutral feed zone, and they said I was at least 5 minutes back. They also said the field was split up and Silivio was off the back. I decided I didn't want to go through the valley into the headwind and up Anthony Gap again by myself. So, I pulled the plug and got a ride back to the start line. I don't like to DNF, but, up to this point, I got a good workout and knew I wasn't going to help the team anymore.

Back at the start, there were a lot of unhappy campers. I, too, was disappointed. Up to this point, I had good experiences with my races. Now this!

One thing dawned on me during this time: at the end of an Ironman, when you finish (regardless of your time) it's a very positive experience. The MC calls your name as you approach the line. You're greeted with a metal, hugs, and applause. It's like a giant group hug. Road racing is anything but that: Unless you cross the line first, you're nobody. And, crossing the line first may garnish contempt from others on your team (like if you ignore team tactics) or competitors because you were too strong.

Silvio pulled the plug on the race the second time up Anthony Gap. Once he got back to the start line, we drove home and lamented our poor performances with a stop for Italian in Las Cruces. It was a tough weekend!

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