A huge thanks to Brian on Team ALS-C3 and Ethan on Team Wooly Mammoth. We got dropped halfway through today's race in Copperas Cove and worked together for about 5 minutes. My heart rate monitor said I was maintaining 193 bpm, but it didn't feel like that, not exactly. It felt like I had no heart, but rather like I had a French plaza full of transit workers on strike stuck in the middle of my chest--they're pissed to begin with, but when you cram them all in there they start with the bottle throwing and pounding on windows and shouting French vulgarities--it hurt. We finally caught up and then the crosswinds kicked up. Of course, at this point, the whoosh from a dandelion petal falling to the ground would have felt like a gale.
The crosswinds kicked up and sent us all scurrying to the shoulder. We were on the backside of the course by this point, with rural roads and no center line. The wind was coming from, somewhere (exhaustion had spun my internal compass like a drunk at the roulette wheel), and sending us all over to the left shoulder. I was so desperate for a draft I fully expected to see Rumpelstiltskin, the Devil, and the Goblin King, on the side of the road putting the finishing touches on a contract--I tell you now I would have signed it. I never found my draft, only a soft and crumbling shoulder. I could hear pieces of it, grabbed from the soft rubber of my tires, flung up into my bike's downtube. It sounded like hope, dropped from shoulder height onto the sidewalk.
Luckily the engines at the front slowed their pace and let me take a sip of water and put my eyeballs back in. Soon enough I was back to daydreaming. Like Hemingway's Santiago thinking about the baseball, I was thinking about how I would write this blog post. I was trying to come up with a pneumonic device to remember a metaphor for how bad my lungs hurt on that earlier bridging effort, when the 1 kilometer to go sign came and went with out any notice. My calculations, another of my distractions on the bike, put me at 4 miles out. So when the sprinters shifted and stood up on their pedals, I said to myself "Oh my, they sure are jockeying for position early. I should pay attention and see how this plays out before I make my move." At that moment I saw the finish line tape across the ground and the mounted camera and officials table.
In the end, despite glazing over like I was in a Sophia Coppola movie, and despite ribs bruised on the inside from pounding lungs, I managed to finish 36th out of 100, less than 2 seconds off the winning time. I couldn't be happier with this first race. It shows me how far I still have to go, but it also reminds me that I can still spin them pedals.