No, it was riding in a race. Specifically the Senior Games Texas State Finals. You know that excitement you feel when all of your training comes down to the Big Game? I had none of that this year. I didn't want to be there. Of course, I had to be there in order to qualify for Nationals next year in Birmingham. Top four finishers in my age group qualify. Rather than racing for gold, I was racing for fourth. What a poor attitude. Here is how things went down.
First, my training has not been going well. We'll get to that later. The weather forecast indicated spotty showers Saturday, with possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon and heavy rain and thunderstorms on Sunday. The usual San Antonio itinerary of 10km Time Trial followed by 20km Road Race on Saturday morning and 5km Time Trial and 40km Road Race on Sunday wasn't going to work. With urging from many participants, the 40km was canceled and the 5km moved to Saturday at 2pm.
I drove down from Round Rock Saturday, leaving at 5:30am. The windshield wipers stayed inactive, giving me a sliver of hope. Dashed as I left I-410 and turned west on Hwy 90. It was only a drizzle, but I knew it was a portent of things to come. First race was at 9am and my start time was 9:17. I arrived at 7:30am and did normal pleasantries and got checked in and picked up my timing chip. At 8:15am I started warming up.
My normal warm-up consists of a half an hour riding the course on my road bike, a short rest, then drag out the TT bike top things off and be ready to race. About ten years ago I purchased rain pants from REI and have used them maybe twice when caught out on tour. I warmed up in rain pants and jacket, with a bike hat under my road helmet. The wind had come up. I was not a happy camper.
We had ten guys sign up for my 70-74 age group, and at 74 I was the oldest. I had to be faster than six. Truly, I was confident I could do it. So confident that I decided to leave the TT bike in the car, safe and dry. In my six years of ownership, the bike has never, ever been wet. There were other considerations that made up my decision. The course is generally a three-mile loop with two corners, which in good conditions can be taken at speed (with the more adventurous not even getting out of the aerobars). This year construction trucks traveled on the road (not on race day) and had left a thin layer of dirt, and in one corner a few blobs of dirt. With the rain, it turned to mud. I had aerobars on the road bike, and it had just been overhauled (thanks BSS) and was silky-smooth. Originally I evaluated the group and figured I would be racing for silver. With the weather and bike change, fourth was pretty much a lock.
So, I took off my rain gear and put on my aero helmet and got ready to race. The drizzle let up just in time, but the wind did not. Without the TT bike, my time suffered. But unlike some riders, I did not hit the pavement. I lost a minute and a half over previous races on this course, but still came in third.
Most years I do both time trials and the 40km road race. The road race is just to get in a good work-out. Sometimes I'm even competitive in it, but usually I get dropped in the last km. This year I saw no reason to stick around to race in the rain, then drive back to Round Rock in heavy showers. Therefore I departed after the 10km award ceremony.
Back to my training. For over a year I've been complaining about losing strength, especially not being able to hang on when the road turns up. Could it be that I'm finally getting old?? I had a slight eureka moment last week when talking to Shannon Burke. I was explaining that twenty years ago I could do twenty push-ups and maintain firm muscles but that morning had completed 274 (see my work-out schedule) for the same outcome. Shortly thereafter, I realized I had been doing the same training regimen, more or less, for the last five years. Yes, old age is catching up to me. 'Tis a fact of life, you have to work harder to maintain. At least for the next year, until Nationals, I have to find a way to work harder (this is no easy task, in that I feel as though I'm working as hard as I can now).