Reed College Faux Prix

What would I do without my friends?

Last year and this year, they’ve helped me stage a pseudo but otherwise full-on ‘cross race, so Rhonda and I could get in a serious training effort as we prepare for ‘cross worlds. Yes, life in general is easy with such willing (and clearly none too bright!) pals, but their help yesterday made one hour of my life very tough—that was the point, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rhonda and I, like last year, needed to race this weekend in order to maintain our training schedules. I, of course, had completed an overload period of racing and training (15 days straight of one or the other) while at ‘cross camp, the last race being on Wednesday, January 4th. I took three days off the bike after that in order to travel, rest, recover, and get healthy, and then I jumped into a week-long training block of fairly high volume and moderate intensity. While Rhonda hadn’t done a true race since nationals, she did go to Seatac on New Year’s Day to “race” with Dale and Ann Knapp, and she has otherwise followed her training plan closely. Both of us figured that a true, 100% cyclocross effort yesterday would rightly remind us of the pain that we’ll surely endure next weekend at the Zonebeke C2 and the Hoogerheide World Cup. You hate to get soft, ya know?

Well, there was no chance of that. The other day I laid out a circuit along the fringes of Reed’s campus that featured much of what ‘cross typically throws at you, and, better, I recruited some ready and willing accomplices. When “race day” arrived, Rhonda and I were ready, having prepared like we would for any other race, what with the previous day’s openers and recoveries followed by the race day breakfasts, course inspections, and warm-ups, and so on. We all started together. The plan was for Rhonda to go for 40 minutes, and Jonathan Myers (my very longtime friend and training partner and, dare I say, coach and mentor) and Jeffrey Struck (another longtime friend, riding partner, and fellow Team S&M member) would shadow her, essentially racing against her the whole time, giving her bodies to chase, pushing her to keep up the intensity. She’s pretty fast right now, so they were able to go at their max and still not get rid of her. However, for the sake of my own quality workout, we added a special ingredient to the recipe. Shannon Skerritt (also an old friend and very regular training partner) and I discovered last year during the same undertaking that the best way to help me “race” was for him to, first, help me start really hard but then, in order to keep the pace high, regularly cut the course on me, therefore always giving me somebody to chase. We also had Jeremiah Swanson (a new friend and Sellwood Cycle Repair’s new mechanic) out there to do the same thing.

All I can say is that it worked brilliantly. This deep in my season I’m pretty strong, so it’s asking (and expecting) a lot of a good friend—even a great racer like Shannon—to go toe-to-toe with me for 60min., just to help me train. He hasn’t been racing, or even training hard, for over a month and has had no reason to. But when he cut the course on me two times per lap, forcing me to chase and close—believe me, I was in the red zone, just drooling and snotting. The toughest section was at the top of Steele St.: Shannon and Jeremiah would take a head-start up the climb, and I would chase and finally close the gap at the top; there, the course made a slow turn on a wet-pavement-dime, so I had to reaccelerate on soft grass and punch it down a pea-gravel path to get back on terms with the relatively fresh riders, only to then be led into a run-up. Shannon’s so quick while I’m really not, so the acceleration after the long uphill grind was brutal. I knew I was laying down a good effort when I actually laid it down on that turn, on the sixth lap of ten—yup, I crashed on the pavement, bending my derailleur hanger. I was trying to lap Rhonda, who was determined not to be. I got up quickly, ineffectually bent it back, and resumed the pursuit, but she made it in before me. I still had four laps to go, and my motivation was waning. Fortunately, on the second to last lap to go, Jeremiah cut the course behind me, raced up to my rear wheel and tried to pass me before the course dipped into the woods. At the 50min. mark of a fake race, that is what you need in order to dig deep: I used nearly all I had left to lumber out of the saddle and giv’r enough to keep him at bay. And yet my pals weren’t finished with me. I came upon Jeffrey (who had stayed in the race) in the woods, where he verbally taunted me, daring me to pass and thus lap him. After going around him, I regained the enthusiasm necessary to ride-out the final two laps.

What a great bunch of guys, to go out there and suffer with me, all for my sake! What’s wrong with them? And what’s wrong with me, for that matter? What’s right is that my pals are willing to help me out, and, in turn, I give ‘em my best.

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