Friday, August 17, 2007

A full week....

A massive family reunion, a streak of back luck, a quick jaunt out of the country, and some pretty good bicycling form have made this an interesting week. I arrived in Lovell, Maine on Wednesday the 7th of August, after taking the redeye flight (Boise to San Francisco to DC to Portland) the previous night. I’ve learned a thing or two about redeyes, and downed some sleeping pills before boarding, so I arrived feeling refreshed and alert. My grandmother picked me up at the airport, and we drove, albeit 5 mph under the speed limit, straight to her tiny cabin on Heald Pond. I was the first of nearly thirty relatives who would make the trek to rural, inland Maine for the reunion. Upon arriving I hugged my grandfather, took a few casts off the dock, and built my bicycle so I could take a quick spin.

While riding along the well-paved, mica-flecked roads that surround Heald Pond, the burden of my upcoming challenge weighed heavily. In three days, on the morning of the reunion, the town of Lovell was scheduled to hold its second annual Tour de Lovell bicycle race. I was the defending champion, and nearly everyone in my mother’s extended family would be in attendance. Most of my family members were not familiar with the intricacies of bicycle racing, so there was only one acceptable outcome: simply placing well or posting a good time would not be sufficient – I had to win, and win by a lot. Last year, it wasn’t hard to break away from the "field" of 40 or so (picture an eclectic blend of mountain bike tires, aerobars, panniers, some vintage helmets, and lots of hairy legs), and solo it in for the win. But I’d been hearing, mostly from my grandparents, that this year’s event was supposed to be much larger, and that several "very serious looking" riders had been spotted "previewing the course" earlier in the week. Despite these warnings, I still assumed I would be the strongest person to show up – my worry was that some fluke would take me out of the race, and my family just wouldn’t understand.

With the criterium national championships right around the corner, my coach wanted me to keep my training up. I did a 20 minute power test two days before the race. The test went great; I posted a new PR, averaging 440 watts for that 20 minutes, but in the final seconds of the test, I heard my tire go flat. Not wanting to ruin what was sure to be a killer average power, I just kept riding once the tire lost pressure, completely shredding the tube. I had a patch kit and Co2, but no spare tube, so I was forced to walk to a nearby house and phone the cabin for a ride. This earned the question from a few of the relatives "what would you do if you got a flat tire during the race?" to which my only response was "not finish, I guess".

The following day, my bad luck continued. While in the middle of what was supposed to be a rather grueling sprint workout, I snapped my chain mid-sprint and went careening into the ground. I destroyed one of my two remaining jerseys, gave myself roadrash on my ankle, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, and broke my helmet. It was late in the afternoon, and there are no bike shops anywhere near Lovell, so I quickly called around, and found a sports shop in North Conway, New Hampshire that was open late. Two hours of driving, and $50 later, I had a shiny new chain on my bike – a Dura-Ace chain, mind you, not a SRAM.

To be continued…….

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