Yang came looking for me the next morning (see previous CCC post). Yang wears very similiar outfits to the grim reaper I found out. Stage 4 - DNF
What started in Saturday afternoon's crit continued to chase me down like a junkyard dog on holiday. This chase was in my head; just never could wrap my coconut around the CCC. Still trying to sort out why not. Eventually it was one of those "neutral feed zones" that took it's toll. The chaos caused me to unclip, the boys up front hit the gas as if their water bottles were needed at a 5-alarm blaze, and boom I was off the front group. A 2K chase in TT position ensued, but I had done that the morning before, and now the legs said no way, not into a head wind.
Before that I was actually talking myself through it - forced myself to get up front, helped chase a couple short lived attacks, sat on race leader Dave Zimbelman's wheel, for much of the next lap, then we climbed to the feed zone, and there, a really aggressive race twittered my brain with a whole lot of questions about fighting this much and then it was "lights out in the 'mental' engine room". Unfortunately Mr. Liggett, there was not going to be any digging into suitcases,... or bags, or knapsacks, or any other carrier, for courage. Not since my second marathon many moons ago had I "hit the wall". In this case the legs still worked, the head was banging and the wall wasn't giving in.
This was by far the most aggressive and talented field (115 strong) I raced in all year. The USA Nationals this coming week in Bend brought a number of Elite Masters in - and they filled the CCC field and definitely amped up the level of racing - looking back Elkhorn seems rather pleasant.
My goal this year was to come to every race with a lesson to learn. And in each I can say that has happened - I've definitely improved. Perhaps CCC had no clear enough goal, maybe blame the heat, or the cracked frame the night before leaving through me off, in the end this was in my head. And I guess the learnt lesson is bike racing is really a head game. As much as we like to think it's about pedalling a bike, it's really about pedalling upstairs, clearing your focus, and determining your success.
My consolation? After hitting the wall in that second marathon I went on to run my faster ever 26 miles in my third. My goal this season was to learn, so I could be competitive in 2010. Maybe 2010 is my new third.