Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where's The Podium? #3: Steel City Showdown - 18th

The Steel City Showdown was a criterium through and through and an amazing event at that! Part of the 2011 ABRA Criterium Series, people from all over came to race this unique, challenging course and I loved every minute of it.
Nathan and Sean hustling to get race ready.
The day's events started with the men's Cat5 race in which IUP Cycling's David Watkins, Sean Morahan, and Nathan Graham opened things up. Their race set the bar high for the day's suffering to be experienced by all. Sean hit the deck early on at turn 1, but hopped right back on and continued his race in well appreciated IUP fashion. Unfortunately the pace was just too fast for Sean and Nathan to stay in, but for first time racers they went into it with a fight and are looking forward to more racing at IUP. David, on the other-hand, was working well to stay in the front group of this race and hung on for a great 7th place. Describing the race, he mentioned how well aware he was of his efforts and that of other competitors. His positioning was perfect throughout the race as far as I could tell and I'm sure his parents - who came to see this interesting sport their son has so readily gotten into - were very proud of his efforts.

The men's Cat3/4 race for me was set to go off following an exciting women's Cat1/2/3/4 race and finish. I was getting more and more excited as the start-time drew nearer and my legs were feeling as well as I would expect them to. As usual, I was probably one of the few in my race to "have at it" with no arm or leg warmers. Though I got a few comments questioning my sanity and offers to have me borrow extra warmers from friends, I knew this was nothing to worry about and my warm-up did plenty to get me feeling well warm and ready. At the start line I was feeling happy and jittery from the free espresso provided me by Big Bang Bike's tent (thank you much!). I was also happy to be meeting and joking with some future teammates of Whole Wheel Velo Club that made the trip north-westward to race this!
Me cheesin' with future teammates of WWVC
The race started with a half-lap neutral start, but one wouldn't have been able to claim anything neutral by the jostling for position taking place right from the start. I will say I've had worse clip-ins and my position from the front line was unfortunately lost, but I knew it was going to be a tough one for me to get out front anyway. I was aware of my mid-pack positioning and decided to sprint up the hills of the bridges to regain positions and try to keep myself off the back. These sprint-like efforts were sucking my energy, but I knew it was all I could do to try and put myself up there. I found my efforts to work up to the front semi-rewarded, though absolutely energy sapping. I tried to recover well through turns only to punch again so soon. Eventually my efforts began to really take their toll and I popped off the back of a lead group sucking wind and knowing there was nothing more I could do but keep turning the pedals as hard as I could.

What a feeling! I hated and loved it. The more it hurt, the more my thoughts turned into a reflection of my cycling aspirations. I've got a long way to go, but I was right where I wanted to be. My body was aching - begging me to stop - but I wouldn't dare (just like everyone else). Eventually, I found myself suffering with a great intensity that I will say had many contributors to it, but I won't go into that mess. The intense suffering was awesome. I could feel my whole body screaming and I just wanted to keep pushing it. Questions in my mind of whether I could actually finish this race were quickly driven out and I wouldn't rather be doing anything else. I began keeping in mind to not panic and make the best of what was happening around me. Flying through corners, testing limits, chasing gaps, and all the pain gave me such a great feeling - I need to do more crits.
Eventually, I found myself working hard to stick with a slowly forming chase group. I worked on the front when I could and was quickly put in my place by that wind. There were a few sketchy moments of my bike and I whipping from that wind, but it was taken in stride as there were more things I had to worry about than the uncontrollables dished out by the powers that be. The lap cards were a welcome reminder that this suffering did have a commencement and I tried my best to keep my spirits up. It turned out to be easier than I expected. Again, my appreciation of the suffering I was experiencing was great and I found myself drooling, snotting, and sucking wind like the best of them. I thought it best to cheer on the crowd and let my teammates watching and supporting me know that I was having a blast despite any pain-face I may had been displaying. The cheering I gave the crowd actually helped me get a little boost of adrenaline and I could hardly believe a little gap I established on my group at one point. Upon realization of this gap I told them "I don't mean to break-away or anything." I'm sure they understood and I slipped back into the line keeping in mind the race finish was quickly approaching. Ben Hay took the sprint of our little group and I passed a few riders that found a sprint not entirely worth a full effort, or they just burned out.

Turns out I finished 18th and I will accept that with optimism. I set a goal to not be pulled from the race and wherever I was to finish would be where I finished. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved a better placing. I would have loved to be in the lead group. I would have loved to mix it up with the strong-men of the race, but this is my first crit of the season, first cat3/4 race of the season, and it won't be the last. Out of the nearly 80 starters (so I heard) to this crit, to come out top 20 and being in the less than optimum condition I was in from misfortunes of my idiocy yesterday and this morning, I am a happy camper. I wanted to experience this event and it really was everything I expected.
I would like to thank all those who helped make this event possible and as great as it was. Another "thank you" to David's parents for generously giving David money to buy us all a post-race meal. (Dick's Diner, you dawg!) I would also like to thank the help and support from Jason Plank and his girlfriend Kelsey at our race. Unfortunately, her camera's battery died before she could cover more of IUPs racing, but we look forward to seeing what she did get and I will be adding what I can at a later time/post. This race was to be IUP Cycling's biggest with respect to atmosphere and we look forward to racing it for years to come and results to boot. I hope to convince David and the other IUP cyclists to start up and maintain blogs and keep IUP Cycling's going after I'm off to other things. I understand I post this on IUP Cycling's blog with a great lean towards my race, but that's just how it is until they step up and write their own accounts, ya dig?
By the numbers: Well there aren't any to speak of on my end. I cannot seem to find my bike computer and I can only imagine my average heart rate was somewhere around 176bpm with a max of around 202bpm. Who know's, folks. This 45 min race was a good one! Official results can be found HERE. And for those who don't know, I did in fact break my trainer yesterday working an interval. I will be hopefully acquiring a new one that won't break and that will be "all that" for my winter training and warm-up needs (another post will update about this situation shortly).

Again, thanks for reading, I will update (and edit) as I see fit, and do please share your thoughts in the comments section. They are much appreciated.


  1. First Crit race of the season and coming in 18th out of around 80 is not too shabby my friend. You are only going to do even better as time goes on my pizza loving friend.

  2. Thanks for reading and the encouragement! I think only 26 were able to finish(at least that's what results show). What a race!

  3. Well just being able to finish then makes it even more awesome!!

  4. Dick's... an IUP Cycling classic. Future sponsor? I think so.