Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Team PedalPlay's Rider Jason Betz WINS!

We just made it back from an eight day pop-up vacation that Hurricane Gustav helped us plan. We were packed and ready to leave for the first race of the Texas Fall series the Friday before Gustav came ashore when we started second guessing our decision to drive west of here. Visions of driving the opposite direction of the contraflow plans, heading face-first into a hurricane, and trying to find a hotel room in East Texas while caught in limbo definitely helped me decide that we should at least think again about going to this race. Having family near a great bike trail, being already packed (bike included), and the need for dry trails and good weather pulled us east instead, and we decided to spend our Labor Day weekend in Alabama.

We spent a very relaxing weekend at my dad's overeating and not much else, then decided that Labor Day should be spent doing just the opposite of labor. I headed off to The Swayback Bridge Trail in Wetumpka, AL for a great ride with a guy who I'd met at my disaster of a race in GA a few weeks earlier. Lucky for me, this guy was not only a local, but a fast local. I had a great, hard ride at Swayback, and a much-needed distraction from the weather channel. I also got a chance to play with my new Garmin GPS/HR Monitor. Of course, I don't know what the numbers mean yet, but I'm heading in that direction of study and hope to use this new tool to get a little faster.

After leaving AL mid-week, we made a short stop in BR to access our damage. We were lucky I suppose. A fence and lots of limbs down in our yard, a damaged commercial door at my shop, and a total loss of all smoothie ingredients at our Smoothie King from the long power outage were all that we had to deal with. From what I've seen and heard, we got off easy.

Hoping to avoid gas lines, traffic, a hot house, and generator noise, we decided that we would head to Oxford, MS a day earlier than originally planned for the 5th race of the South Central Regional Championship Series. I've looked forward to this race pretty much since I left it last year. The trail is absolutely incredible to race, and the town has some really great restaurants. Good trails and good food. What else to you need? Good beer? It's there too. Good coffee (NOT Starbucks!)? Got it in Oxford. Good football? Well, some things can't be duplicated outside of Tiger Stadium.

Friday morning, I headed off to ride my favorite trail of last year's series in the Clear Creek Recreation Area on Sardis Lake. Part of my fond recollection of that race came from the trail itself, and the other part came from the epiphany I had while racing it that I was actually competent enough to race with the guys I was racing with. I didn't win there last year, or even make it on the podium, but I felt good and I felt fast, and had I not broken a chain, I think it would have been my first podium away from the home trail.

My ride went well with the exception of a(nother) broken spoke on the I-9 Ultralights. These wheels are amazingly light, stiff and have instantaneous engagement. They also don't appear to be very durable under my destructive body. I've broken spokes, and have had to have them trued multiple times. In their defence, they are also meant to be a race set, but I just can't make myself ride my Mavic hubs anymore when the I-9s feel so darn good. I guess it is time for a new race wheel-set, maybe something a little less delicate this time.

Early Saturday, after an enormous breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, I got a call from Oxford Bicycle Company to inform me that my wheel repair was complete. Wow! That leaves time for a ride! I first had to clean and lube this machine since I was racing the next day and was full of nervous energy. (And my wife was taking my daughter dress shopping. No thanks.) When they returned, I headed off for more Clear Creek. I usually wouldn't ride so much before a race, but did I mention that I really like this trail?

Sunday, race day, my nerves awoke before I did, but I really think that they may finally be easing up a bit. I think it has a lot to do with me finally establishing somewhat of a routine for race morning. I got to the race venue a little later than I normally would have liked, but I was able to squeeze in what I had to believe was a good enough warm-up. Time to race!

Looking around the at the starting line, I missed the Mobile Velo jerseys and my new-found competition, Keith Moore from Florida. In their absence was many faces that I don't normally see. I just colored them in my mind competition, and tried to focus on what I wanted to do. 3-2-1, go! I had a great start, getting clipped in very fast, and was sprinting towards the single-track in first place. I don't normally want, or like, the hole-shot, but I actually wanted that at this race because I had a secondary goal. I wanted to beat last year's course record of 47 min, 35 sec. I didn't do it. I think my fastest lap was around 49 minutes, but I don't know the official lap times.

My first lap went very well. I was able to maintain my first place start, even though the second and third place finishers stayed close for a while. (Of course, in my mind, they were still right behind me as I neared the finish line two laps later.) I swear, every time I heard brake noise, I thought they were closing in on me. Dig deep, I kept reminding myself.

The second lap only differed from the first in that my legs began to scream at me on every slight incline. By the time I actually made it across the finish line, cramps were close, but stayed just enough back to allow me to ride hard to the finish.

Woo Hoo! First place! I did my little sandbagger dance afterwards, causing my legs to cross the border into Cramp-land, and then watched to see who would follow my lead across the finish.

I can't wait until next year!

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