While sleeping on Saturday night, I decided to do Spring Hill the following morning. I looked at the race a month ago and dismissed it. Chileno? That’s flat and windy – no way! Rollers? Forget it, I need hills! Last week the thought of Spring Hill reoccurred: a tune-up race for Pescadero, could be fun. Less than stellar workouts and dead legs pushed the race back into obscurity. Saturday (5/30/09) I watched Lisa do well at a crit, it was nice, exciting, yet somehow tranquil because there were no crashes and the constant droning from the nearby freeway was soothing. Racing looked appealing and if I got dropped I’d ride those roads on my own. Heck, I did three consecutive solo 100-mile days out in that wind and those rollers in 2007, so this wouldn’t be the first time.
There is a decent amount of uncertainty that comes along with race day registration and Spring Hill did not disappoint. The lines were long, the categories full, and the morning a bit chilly. After endless waiting I was put on a waiting list and told to come back in 15 minutes. Rumors disseminated, announcing that the race was running 30 minutes late, then 40 minutes late. I ate and drank, put on my kit, and returned to the check-in. “We can’t tell you yet, maybe wait another 10 to 15 minutes,” the registrar is friendly, but doesn’t seem quite willing to open up the list and boot one of the no-shows and give me his number. The start is fast approaching, other categories are being sent off, and my anxiety level heightens considerably. I figure I’ve got 10 minutes before the M45+ (open) group leaves. The trainer is not an option anymore for warm up and I’m contemplating riding up and down the road a few times. Unfortunately, I still don’t have a spot!
The women behind the counter finally relent to my pitiful presence and assign me a number. One of them even helps me pin the (two) tags to my jersey. We create wonderful little drag chutes that later flap around on the downhills and the headwind on Chileno. I rush over to the pack of M45+at the start, it’s an ‘Open’ field, not the usual Cat 4/5. The starter gives a nice dedication about a local rider who succumbed to a neuromuscular disease that predominantly strikes males in their 40’s(ALS). On that somber note we roll out and start up the first hill. The pace feels brisk, but not blistering. It’s about a mile, followed by some bumps and another hill. A bit over 4 miles into the race there is a nasty little power roller on this otherwise gentle uphill slope. My legs are on fire and the lack of warm-up costs me dearly. I desperately try to hang on, but the legs won’t budge another inch per hour. [Note: solo I went 0.5mph faster on this very same roller on the second lap and 1.0mph faster on the third lap – I would not have lost contact at either of those speeds] I watch the group crest the top a few yards ahead of me and descend away on the blistering descent about 5 miles in.
I get caught and passed by a couple of guys at the start of Chileno, losing their wheel in the process of trying to hang on. Finally someone comes around who is more speed compatible and we agree to do 2 minute pulls. We start passing some of the dropped W3/4s. On the last (long, gradual) hill we pass a guy from Z-Team. I tell him to latch on. He declines, but when we hit the descent he’s there anyways. Turns out he’s busted his rear derailleur cable and his choices are down to 39/12 and 53/12. I secretly praise the fact that I’m riding a compact, but that turns into a curse as ‘Z’ puts it into overdrive and time trials the short tailwind stretch on Tomales Road. I drop off, but my previous riding buddy sticks with ‘Z’ a bit longer. I’m incredulous when they both pull off into the parking lot. Wow, one lap down, two to go. I settle into slog mode: pace and keep those pedals turning… The M55+ pass me, the Juniors hammer by. A group of three W3/4s dangles out in front of me. At this point it’s the carrot I need to keep me going in the wind on Chileno. They paceline a quarter mile ahead of me and I hardly make up any ground. Then there is some discord and they split. I close in catch one, who (unbeknown to me) latches on. I catch the second one (Mouse), who turns around and yells:”you can’t do that!” Bewildered I look around to see the other W3/4 behind me. The two of them fall back, but a bit later they’re back and passing me. This is rather awkward, since we seem to be going roughly the same speed, but shouldn’t work together. I keep the pace and they fall back. Up over the last hill on Chileno, down to Tomales Road, pick it up in the tailwind, and pass another group of W3/4. I’m in the zone and start thinking about the potential first ‘DFL.’
Ping, ping, ping, ping????!!!!! This doesn’t sound good! I slow and get off the bike to discover a broken spoke on the rear 303. I quickly rap the spoke around another and hop back on the bike. Hmmm..., my thoughts go from the potential DFL to the potential DNF because of the mechanical. I briefly consider riding the remaining lap with the busted spoke. The trusty, old Zipp rim seems to be holding up pretty well. No wobble, no need to adjust the brake pads. I decide to ride the couple of kilometers back to the parking lot and swap out the Zipp for my training wheel.
Third time up the starting hill I still see Chris K. sticking a bottle in my face at the feed zone. It’s good to see a friendly and familiar face in less than ideal circumstances. That sort of thing keeps the spirits a little higher, puts a little more energy in the mental tank. Thanks for being out there! I cruise the third lap and get passed by the 3s (on their 4th lap) on Chileno. Go Scott and Eric (took 3rd! Congratulations!)! Unfortunately they sit up a bit just after passing me and the follow car brakes and slows me. Thanks buddy...
At this stage of the race I feel like I’m not just DFL for the M45+, but the race in general. Most riders have left by the time I roll past the parking lot and start the last trip up the starting hill (to the finish on top). There’s a spectator coming down the hill with a large ‘Touchstone’ sign, and she raises it as I go by. I’ve got no idea who she is, but thanks for being there! A little push over the finish line and the ‘race’ is done. 69.7 miles and a bit over 3800’ is what my Polar reads. Most of it was solo, in the wind. I placed 52nd out of 53 finishers. Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up!