Kruger’s Kermesse Race Report 8/28/2011

Published 2011-08-29

Let’s just get this out of the way: I hate excuses. I have no shortage of excuses for my performance yesterday, and I thought of them all while I was being passed (and then lapped). But there’s only one reason I finished where I did: twenty-two other guys rode their bikes faster than I did.

Seeing the actual results for the Kermesse has colored my memories of the race itself. I hated the race more than I remember hating the race. At the finish line I was certain I was DFL. It was brutal and demoralizing. So I was surprised to find early this morning that I actually finished #23 of #46.

Note: Although this race was billed as a “kermesse,” it was more accurately a crit on dirt roads. I expected a cyclocross race minus barriers, but “crit on dirt roads” is probably the best way to describe what happened (minus drafting tactics, natch). It wasn’t very technical, there was no climbing, the pace was inhuman, and I was totally unprepared.

What happened

I rode out to Sauvie Island by way of a warmup. Probably too much of a warmup (Excuse #1)

Pre-registered riders had callups so I staged #2 (alongside Thom). I thought to myself: “just because you were born on third base, don’t think you hit a triple.” I vowed to start at a red line effort and keep that pace, which for the first (of six!) laps I largely did. So: I started way too hot and had nothing left in the tank for the gruelling middle laps (when I usually start gaining. (Excuse #2)

Speaking of heat: it was hot. (Excuse #3)

Staging near the front completely altered my psychology. Usually I stage near the back and spend the race picking off weak riders. It’s easy (for me) to chase down prey, but it’s demoralizing to be (repeatedly!) chased down. Twenty-one guys passed me and it felt like all forty. In fact, I was sure it was all forty. By Lap 5 I was no longer in it to win it, I was in it to finish. I had way more gas left than I thought I did, but I talked myself into losing. All because I started at the front. (Excuse #4)

My cheapo gloves wore a blister on my left hand somewhere around Lap 4, at the exact spot where my index finger contacts the hood. (Excuse #5)

I finished grumpy and a lap back. I was thankful to be pulled off the course. I was reminded of when I threatened to pull off my second consecutive DFL at Mt. Tabor seven years ago: an event so humiliating that I DNF’d and tried to throw my (then-new) Vanilla down a ravine. (Jenny stopped me.) That was a childish reaction, and for seven years I’ve been far more ashamed of my DNF than my DFL. For six years I avoided bike racing altogether, out of shame basically. Yesterday at Kruger’s Farm I confronted another potential DFL and I thought to myself: My kids are watching me. It is more important to finish than to win. I might not — might never — be a “winner” but I will never again be a “quitter.”

Speaking of my son: he kiddie-raced on his scoot bike, as per the custom, and raged again. They had the kids ride maybe a quater mile on a rough two track through the beating noon time sun. He powered the whole way with a smile. Under the shade of a spreading oak he received a sticker as a prize (a reflective tractor sticker, natch) and drank the better part of a pint of water.

The race was not wonderful. But it was a wonderful day. Ellen was down for the weekend and spectated. Aprés-race pizza and beer with my family in the shade, roasted corn on the cob, and the comradeship of fellow middle-aged riders and their families.