Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ironman Lake Tahoe–Robin

September 22nd, 2013 – Lake Tahoe, CA
Swim 2.4m – Bike 112m – Run 26.2m

12:29:29 (1:08:05-12:55-6:51:33-3:45–4:13:11)


10th / 71


FRIENDS - Caryn Galeckas, Daniel Perkins, Dave Campbell, Dave Leroy, David Tarkington, Faron Reed, Jami Min, Kevin Magna, Lee McKinley, Leslie Bull, Marco Campagna, Nikki Losee, Paulo Medina, Sara McKinley, Sherwick Min, Suzanne Hartley, and Tana Jackson

FCA TEAMMATES – Alex Hamlow, Aaron Osborne, Bryan Botma, Daniel Perkins, Darryl Dabbs, Doug Wilson, Gary Brasher, Jason Ford, Jeff Finch, John Wilson,
Katy Rosane, Kenny Lane, Missy Shepherd, Roy Payne, Todd Arjes

Wow, it’s a cold morning!  I try not to think much about it. I pull my Special needs bags (for the bike and run) from the freezer.  Special needs are items you can pick up along the way during the race.  I’ve got bottles of frozen Sustained Energy in both.  Surely it will warm up today.  Pastor Dan Perkins meets up with Dave Campbell and I at our cabin.  We all walk to the start and drop off our special needs bags.  Next I go to my T1 bag. It rained yesterday and the strings of the bag are frozen and hard to undo.  I put some toe warmers under the toe covers of my bike shoes and leave an extra pair of running gloves in the bag.

WP_000839Next I head to my bike.  There is ice on the bag covering my seat so I shake it off. I fill my aero bottle with Hammer Perpetuem and put another on the back.  I turn on my Garmin and head to body marking where I have to shed my warm layers to have my numbers put on…burrr!  I run into Tana, and Troy takes our picture.  Her smiles always remind me to smile.  I tell Troy, “I don’t think I have enough layers for the bike”.  As I open a bag of gear, he spots my plastic rain coat.  “Add that to your bag.  It will be easy to put over your other layers”.  I agree and head back to my T1 bag.  I put on my wetsuit and try to get warm.

30 minutes before my start.  I head off to use a porta-potty.  Standing in line, I realize it will be better to run to the cabin.  I start thinking about how cold I’ll be riding the bike with a wet jog-bra and bike shorts after the swim in freezing temperatures.  Totally dry clothes might help me stay warm.  At the cabin, I decide to wear a swim suit instead and put the jog-bra and shorts in my T1 bag.  There’s not much time left and I have to take a wetsuit off and put it back on.

I run back to T1, find my bag, add my shorts and jog-bra, and hear the canon go off which means the pros have started.  Got to get to the swim corral!  Before entering, I pray with Troy and the girls.  This is comforting!

I’m so glad to be wearing socks and old running shoes as I find my group of “1:01 – 1:10” swimmers.  There is ice in places on the sand and others are dealing with frozen feet.  I look up and see the snow capped hills around the lake…very intimidating!  I start to tear up from fear.  I see Troy standing on the sidelines and I run to him and hug him tight.  “I’m scared!”  He reminds me that my main goal for today is to give God my 100% effort.


130922_imtahoe_swim_startThe cannon goes off and the first “sub 1:00” group enters the water.  As my group starts moving through the starting chute, I’m confused.  I thought we were starting separately but a volunteer tells me the swimmers are continuously entering the water.  It’s surreal to be calmly walking with 100 racers through the shallow water into the fog.  It’s 100 meters before it’s deep enough to swim. 

Finally I start swimming and , wow, the water is cold on my face!  As the water deepens, it feels warmer.  I cannot see ahead of me but I trust the main flow of swimmers and follow them.  Soon, I see a yellow buoy, I’m on track.  The fear of being swum over creeps up as more swimmers close in around me.  I immediately pray and ask the Lord for a calm and clear path.  Just when it looks like I’m stuck, He opens a path and I move forward.  The buoys just keep appearing one by one, too [this was an answer to Troy’s prayer because, from the beach, it appeared it was impossible to see the buoys].  There is no struggle to get through!  Wow, Lord, this is crazy!  You are sooo good!   The first loop of the swim continues this way.  The Lord opens a path and I swim through.  I get hit on the head and kicked a few times but it’s very minor. 

I wonder how Desiree Swift and her dad Bob are doing out there in the kayaks assisting swimmers!  I hope it’s going smoothly!

130922_imtahoe_robin_swimI head out for loop 2 and feel more confident.  I think about stopping briefly to check the time on my watch but I feel the Lord just telling me to press on.  I begin to push harder and focus on keeping good technique with my stroke.  I’m amazed at how I continue to pass people and feel comfortable.  The sun comes out and it’s bright!  Now, I’m glad to have my tinted goggles!

Soon enough I can actually see the swim finish!  Yeah!  I swim until my hands scrape the sand and then walk/run as fast as I can to shore.  I pull down my wetsuit and check y time.  1:06!  I don’t remember if I started it as I crossed the chip timing mat, but I know it’s close enough.  Yeah!

I run into transition, grab my bag and a volunteer helps me get my wetsuit off.  Into the women’s changing tent.  It’s dark in here, and busy.  Lots of layers are being put on around me!  I start trying to get myself ready.  There is no volunteer available to help me.  I struggle to open my frozen bag with my frozen fingers.  I got it!  As I attempt to put on the first jacket using Troy’s tape trick, I mess it up and find my arms stuck.  A volunteer helping a woman next to me sees the problem and gets it on me.  I do better with the 2nd jacket.

WP_000844As I leave the tent, making the long run to my bike, I am so grateful that all of my clothes are dry!  Getting my bike, I hear Michelle Ridder’s voice.  She’s volunteering.  I give her a big hug and she tells me she wiped the ice off my seat.  Amazing that ice formed again while I was swimming!


Exiting, I see Troy and the girls smiling big!  Okay, here we go!  I’m so glad to have bundled up.

Mile 10.  Getting passed by some guys.  Clearly some have prepared well for the cold and others have not.  I almost shiver every time I see a guy with bare arms and/or legs!  It’s sunny but still darn cold!

0475_18598I pass the Special needs station and see Michelle Restani and Stephanie Holloway from our weekly track workout.  I know they have a long day ahead!  I’ll see them when I stop the next time I go by.

As we head towards Squaw the sun disappears…burr!  I pass the Squaw turn off and see Rich and Leonie Alesci cheering!  Leonie is wearing her orange Dutch wig…love it!

Mile 20.  Jami Min flies by.  I tell her good job but no response.  I then notice that she’s got bare arms and legs.  She must be freezing!  I catch up to her as we make the turn to Truckee. I can tell she’s in trouble.  “I’ll give you my jacket at the next aid station”.  I take off and hope the next aid station is soon! 

The sun is out again as I pass through downtown Truckee.  What a great crowd here!  They are really excited to see all of us!

In a few miles I reach the aid station and stop to wait for Jami.  A few minutes later I see her and shout for her to pull over but she doesn’t see me…bummer!  I take a quick potty break and sprint to catch up to her.  I pull up alongside.  “Pull over and let me give you my jacket.”  She stops and I help it on her.  “Hang in there!  I’ll be praying for you!”  I take off and pray that the plastic will create needed warmth!

Mile 30.  Soon we turn off into the very “private” Martis Camp area.  This is a real mystery to us because we weren’t able to preview it in training.  The climb starts off gradual and increasingly gets steeper.  I’m still feeling chilled surprisingly!

I arrive at the FCA Endurance Aid Station run by Reno FCA Huddle Leader Marci Zavala.  I also see Phoenix huddle leaders Debbie and John Foster!  Awesome seeing them! 

I know that Troy and the girls are up ahead!  It keeps me occupied as the climbing continues! 

Dan Perkins passes me.  “Go Dan!”  He’s already shed his layers and looks really comfortable climbing. 

130922_imtahoe_robin_bikeThere is Troy at the top of Martis!  Yeah!  I wave and he is excited!  Once he can hear me, I say “Pray for Jami!  She’s really cold.  I gave her my jacket.”  Anna and Dylan, Michael Cook’s son, chase me to the top. 

Mile 40.  Surprisingly, I’m not far from Dan as we complete the climb up to the Ritz.  I have fun descending this part and trying to keep up with Dan!  A year or more ago, this would have terrified me but now it’s fun.  I’m surprised that I’m passing a lot of riders!

Finally, turning back onto Hwy 267, it’s time to grind!  Dan takes off and I decide to let him go.  I need to save something for the 2nd time around!  This is much harder than I remember!  I also didn’t have Martis in my legs when I trained up here last month!  I’m actually feeling a little hot!  It’s nice for a change! 

I should be at the top by now!  Finally, I see more spectators and they are telling me I’m almost there.  Yeah!  I see the top!  Thank you Lord!  Now I can fly!  What fun this is!

Back to Kings and out for one more loop!  Still a lot of miles to cover but feeling like I’m going to finish this thing!

0475_10046Mile 50.  Back to the flat!  My goal of averaging 18mph is shot.  I’m close to 15mph.  I’m getting passed up by some riders I’m sure I passed on the climb.  It’s not bothering me because I’m meeting my goal of giving God my 100%. 

Tana goes by as we go through Tahoe City.  I ask her how Jami is doing and she says she didn’t look good.  I say goodbye and she takes off with a smile. 

I make it to Special needs and get my bottles.  Drat, they are still frozen!  Lord, please help work this out.  I decide to take a potty break and remove my leg warmers while I’m here.  As I take off, I see Michelle and Stephanie and they cheer for me.  Michelle is wearing a huge curly, black wig.  It makes me smile!

Mile 60.  I pray that my bottles will thaw out enough soon for me to get some nutrition. 

I see Leonie and Rich again jumping up and down as I pass Squaw.  Love it!  I grab a water as I pass the aid station.  I take the opportunity to eat my Coconut Larabar.

Mile 70.  Back to Truckee!  Another fun moment passing through downtown!  It’s getting warmer and I think about Jami.  I hope her day is going better!

One water bottle has thawed a bit and I am able to get some Sustained Energy but not much.  I will have to get a bottle of Perform at the next aid station.

Mile 80.  Back in Martis!  I’m really warm this time.  Time to ditch my 2nd jacket and a frozen Sustained Energy bottle at the FCA tent – that will lighten the load!  First, I grab a bottle of Perform, then I look for Marci and the Fosters, but I don’t see them.  I stop and ask a gal with an FCA visor if she could give my stuff to Marci.  Her name is Estelle.  We have a nice chat and it’s hard to leave without feeling like I’m being rude…I am in a race and I must go!  I thank her and I’m off!

As I pass a rider, I hear “hey Robin, it’s Kevin”.  Kevin Magna!  He’s in the zone pushing this hill.  "Good job Kevin!  You have your kiddos waiting for you!” 

The Perform is really sweet and I sip it so I don’t get a stomach ache.  Lord, please guide me in my nutrition!

I make it to Troy and the girls who give me big smiles.  Michelle Ridder and John K are here, too!  Another boost!  I ask about Jami.  Troy tells me race tracker says she’s moving well again!  Thank you Lord!  They tell me Tana is just ahead and I figure they mean far ahead.

Again up to the Ritz and a really fun downhill!  And, again, I find myself passing riders even on corners!  Wow, God, I cannot believe it’s really me flying like this!

Time to climb Brockway one last time!  I remember Troy’s note that this hill is my friend…ha, ha!  Yes, like an old painful friend!  I actually feel like I’m moving a bit better this time.  I catch some folks that passed me on the flats. 

Mile 90.  The top seems to come sooner than the last time.  Yeah!  I start the fun, fast descent.  This time I’m passed by a woman!  Wow, she’s flying!  I haven’t been passed by a girl on the descents yet. I’m impressed!

Kings Beach one last time!  I won’t see this until I come home to sleep hours from now.  I daydream about what that will be like.  I come up on the girl that flew by me and I realize it’s Tana!  I should have known!  I tell her good job and that I’ll see her soon…I know she’ll pass me back somewhere!

At the aid station I grab another 1/2 banana.  I got about 1/2 the Sustained from the frozen bottle.  The rest is still frozen, which means the temps haven’t warmed up much!

0475_22576Mile 100.  Is it true?!  I made it to 100?!  This feels good and lifts my spirits again!

I pass Special Needs and see Stephanie one last time…yes!  I continue on and look for the pros on the run course.  I see some women almost to the end of the first and longest loop.  Wow, do they look good!

Finally, I make the turn to Squaw!  Looking forward to the run!  I see Dan going out.  “Alright Dan, you’re running!”  He wasn’t sure if he could run at all because of chronic heal pain.

Mile 110.  Boy the last few miles always seem to take forever!  I want to run!  I see Leonie and Rich stationed on the first part of the run.  I wave and they wave back. 

T2, yeah!  I dismount and I’m very stiff.  I hobble to the changing tent with my T2 bag and find Debbie Foster waiting.  I’m the only girl here and I get the VIP treatment…nice! 


130922_imtahoe_robin_runGoing out I take a potty break and get lathered with sunscreen.  Ready to go!  My legs are feeling a little better.  I get big cheers at the Tri Club Zone from Karen Messersmith and Liz Kollar (Ironman TriClub coordinator).  It takes a mile to feel good.  I run past Leonie and Rich and give them big smiles and high 5s!

Then I head out on the out-n-back.  I ran this a month ago but didn’t know where the turn around was.  The course circles the ritzy hotel and I’m surprised to find a hill back here!  That’s going to hurt the second time around!

5k.  Despite the first mile, I’ve been able to run around 8:30pace.  I feel great but I know so much can happen WP_000862from here on out.  I realize that I forgot to pull out my “Praises” bookmark that I made!  Every mile I wanted to praise Jesus for His blessings!  Time to get started!

Troy and the girls are waiting for me at 89 and Squaw.  Anna grabs my hand and we run together for a moment.  Troy asks me what to pray for.  “Pray that my hamstrings and stomach hold up.”  What a great guy!  He tells me that Dan is up ahead and running…yeah!  Now it’s onto the Truckee River Bike Trail.  I see Lee McKinley already heading back from his first loop.  Wow!  “Great job man!”  He’s got to be in contention for a Kona slot! 

0475_2797710k.  I continue to feel good and my miles are under 9 min.  I’m not too interested in the Heed I’m carrying.  Instead, I’m preferring the Sustained Energy which I usually don’t care for as much.  I take some pretzels along the way, too.

15k.  I’m still running strong but I feel a little queasy and I am also a bit hungry.  I decide that potato chips sound good.  I ask for some at the next aid station but the girl holding them isn’t paying attention…bummer.  I hear her say I can get them when I come back…how long will that be?  But then I hear someone say “do you still want those chips?”  Yes, I say!  A older guy sprints to catch me.  “Wow, thanks so much!”  Yum, these are good!

I realize that I had dropped my Praise bookmark.  Maybe I’ll find it on the way back.  I do remember some of them so no worries!

Dan Perkins is coming back from the turn. I tell him good job.  He’s still running and pushing through! 

I eat more chips at the next aid station and ask for broth but it’s not ready yet.  I know the turn around is just ahead so I tell the guy I’ll get it on my way back.  I make the turn and head back to the broth.  It doesn’t taste as good as I expected but it will do.

I see Dan ahead.  He’s taking turns running and walking…all I can think is I need to pray for him.  At the same time, Dave Campbell flies by going the other way.  I slow down to pray with Dan for his run.

A little further I see Paulo Medina running strong.  He tells me he’s going to catch me and I tell him that he better.

20k. I feel like my energy is dropping.  I continue to try to eat what seems appealing like chips, grapes and broth.  I just need to hang on!  Soon I look down and see my Praises bookmark on the ground.  Wow, I pick it up and it lifts my spirits!

I make it to the run special needs and decide to pass it up.  But someone holding my bag stops me and I reluctantly grab some more Sustained Energy.  I probably won’t drink this but 0475_43226maybe it’s good to have it.  I wish I put some arm warmers in there!

Okay, feeling worse and worse.  I walk the short climb from the trail to 89.  By the time I reach the Squaw entrance, I sit down at the aid station and try to eat some more chips.  I get up and start walking and see Troy.  He asks me what I’ve been eating and drinking.  He sees I’m in trouble and tells me I have to eat.  I defiantly say “I don’t feel like eating!”  “You have to force it down.  Drink Sustained and eat a gel.”  I continue to walk in a daze and almost walk off the path.  He urges me to start running again.  I remember “100% for God” and I start to shuffle.

Lee McKinley comes alongside on his finishing stretch and asks if he can run with me.  I tell him yes and he takes a moment to encourage me.  I wish I had more energy to express my gratitude.  What a guy!

25k.  I begin to run again and force down a gel and Sustained.  I’m still running slow by the time I get back Leonie and Rich.  They do their best to encourage me. 

Going into the Squaw Village I begin to feel the fuel kick in.  Thank you Lord!  I hear people shouting my name but I don’t know if they know me or are just reading my name off of my race number.  It’s hard to look into the crowd when I’m just trying to move ahead.

30k.  I’m finally bringing my pace under 10min per mile.  Wow, God, back from the dead!  I continue to force calories down and start drinking Coke.  Usually I’m excited for Coke but it’s not pleasant. The climb on the out and back is tough but I run all the way up!  I’m getting more and more cold but I know I’m almost done! 

Here comes Dave Campbell and Paulo Medina.  Both look tired but they continue to run strong.

35k.  Troy is happy to see me running and smiling some again.  Anna is there too cheering me on with a big smile.  She’s still supporting me after all these long hours!  Troy says Tana is not too far ahead.  He encourages me to ask for a trash bag at the next aid station for warmth.  I try to get one but no luck.  I just need to deal with the cold…at the moment finishing is the more important matter!

I notice a girl ahead with an orange tank top is in my age group.  She has a good pace going so I try to keep her in my sights.  I see Tana coming back.  I hope to catch up to her.

The 2nd turn around is much closer!  Going from the trail to 89 this time I actually run!  Yeah!  Thanks God!  I’m closer to the gal in orange.

I slow down at the aid station at the Squaw and 89 intersection to get some more Coke and broth.  That gal is pulling further ahead but I need to keep on fueling.   I see Troy in the van and tell him he better get to the finish.  I hope they don’t get stuck in traffic trying to drive up to see me!

0475_3921340k.  I can almost taste the finish!  Wow, how good that is going to feel to be done!  I am so close to that girl and I can see Tana!  Entering the main parking lot of Squaw Valley, I come alongside Tana and tell her to join me.  Karen and Liz cheer me on again as I pass through the TriClub Zone. 

I’m right on that girl’s shoulder now and sprint ahead going into the Village.  Then she sprints back past me.  I wait and just before the last turn give it all I have and pass her.  There is the finish!  I look WP_000878up to God and smile.  I hear Mike Reilly say “Robin Soares, you are an Ironman!”  Thank you Jesus for this moment!

I see Anna and Ariel crying for me and I run over and we embrace for a long time.  What a special moment!



Age Group

Age Group Place

Overall Place






Overall Time

Lee McKinley










Michael Cook










Sherwick Min










Dave  Leroy










David Tarkington










Tana Jackson










Robin Soares










Faron Reed










Paulo Medina










Marco Campagna










Dave Campbell










Jami        Min










Daniel Perkins










Kevin Magna










Nikki   Losee F30-34 66 1429 1:34:12 16:36 8:04:24 8:10 5:53:41 15:57:03

Leslie Bull 










Sara McKinley










Caryn Galeckas F50-54     1:12:41 14:19 8:52:13 8:17    
Suzanne Hartley F45-49     1:37:33 17:20        



Age Group

Age Place

Overall Place






Home State


Bryan Botma









San Clemente CA


Todd Arjes









Gilbert AZ


Roy Payne









Sugarloaf Key FL


Doug Wilson









Healdsburg CA


Alex Hamlow









Oceanside CA


Gary Brasher









Tubac, Az AZ


John Wilson









Sonora CA


Jason Ford









Gilbert AZ


Katy Rosane









Anchorage AK


Missy Shepherd









Hermosa Beach CA


Darryl Dabbs









Clinton MS


Kenny Lane









Everett WA


Jeff Finch








Clinton MS


Aaron Osborne








Kansas City Missouri MO


Monday, September 9, 2013

Folsom Cyclebration 2013 (Troy)

September 6-8, 2013 – Folsom, CA
Fri – South Canal Time Trial –11.5mi
Sat – Challenge Criterium – 35 min
Sun – Road Bike Circuit Race - 40min

TT (Fri) – 3rd
Crit (Sat) – 12th*
C.R. (Sun) – 12th
Overall (Omnium) - 5th*
*unofficial results

Time-Trial 11.5mi

WP_000752Last year I remember this 11mi effort sucking everything out of me before the finish.  I hadn’t even taken a water bottle thinking it would be over quickly.  This year I have a new respect for the 11mi.  I’ll focus on being calm and efficient, not pushing too hard going out, in order to have something for coming back into the wind.  I see Victory Velo teammates, Lance Loveday and Todd Allington finishing their efforts.  Todd says, “It’s a 10mph difference coming back, no kidding”.  I get a short warm-up in.  I get all my stretching done.  I’m WP_000753in line for the start on time, unlike how I missed my start last year.  I’m focusing on God and hoping to be an encouragement to others.  If I keep my eyes on Him, I know whatever happens today, I’ll be happy with the effort.

It’s warm. Slight wind.  The start is on the South Canal near International St.  I have Heed on board.  Aero helmet.  And my longtime goal of 25mph (which I’ve never achieved).

Go!  Good start out of the gates (with someone holding my bike for me).  I’m off and soon up to 30mph.  That’s really exciting but I know I’ve got a tail wind and there’s a long 10mi left to go… so take it easy!  I’m trying to keep my legs light, the cadence up, and always thinking, “forward, forward..”  It’s a beautiful day along the canal and the this course is good.

There are 3 or 4 inclines to go over.  I try not to exert much more energy on them.. just loose a little speed and then ramp it back up on the descent.  I’m drinking at a rate to finish a large bottle by the time I’m done.  I’m happy with my average of 27mph, but I remember being really happy last year, too, on the way out.  I’m optimistic that I won’t lose much coming back (just like I was last year).  I see my 30sec guy ahead coming back slowly. 

Before I know it we’re already approaching the 180 turn.  My 1min guy, 30sec guy and myself all hit the turn at the same time.  One goes wide while I pass on the inside hugging the cone, and the next one I pass 100yds later.  Ok, 1/2 way done, been riding well, thank you, Lord, now it’s time to ignore the headwind and keep the efficient, light turn-over.

I’m happy to see I’m still maintaining  22 – 22.5 mph coming back.  I’m very happy with this.  Soon the tall guy in black with white compression socks flies by me.  I pick it up a little and use him as a goal.. to stay in sight.  I keep my head low and make sure my helmet shadow remains flat.  The guy in black gets far ahead and passes another guy.  That’s my 1:30 guy and I now use him as a goal.  The cool thing is that I’m at 25.2mph average!  I really think I can hold this.  But now the inclines approach.

The inclines seem harder coming back.  I stop looking at my average and increase the effort more and more.  I realize the wind may get even stronger towards the end.  But I feel optimistic, in control, and still comfortable enough.  I don’t know how my speed compares to last year but I feel I’ve paced much better.

Ok, 1 mi to go, it’s been a great effort and now I have to finish strong.  I’m not going to catch the 1:30 guy but still going to be a good time.  On the final bend, now able to see the finish tent, I ramp up the speed significantly.  My legs are spinning fast.  It’s working.. It doesn’t feel so bad.. just 200 more meters.. but now the muscles start screaming.. ow!.. with 100m to go I have to settle back down to the previous speed.. dying a little too soon.  I still stand and sprint the 50m for a good finish.

That last standing sprint took everything out of me.  Coasting down the path I can’t get enough air.. which is a flashback from last year.  It’s never that WP_000758way at the end of a triathlon.  Fortunately I finally recover and slowly start making my lungs and legs happy.  Now I can smile big as it’s SO good to be done.  I stop and pray.  Thanks, Lord, for letting it go so well and allowing me the feeling that I gave all I had.

My time was 27:53 (24.7mph average) and I placed 3rd!  It was the first time for me getting a bike race medal.  I got to talk to the tall guy in black, Lee Piercy, for a while.  He is a British triathlete and duathlon champion.

Criterium Cat 5, 35minWP_000766

I’ve done this course on Lake Forest Loop many times now.  But today they are going the opposite direction, counter-clockwise.  It took me about 3 times before I figured out the corners the previous direction, hopefully I’ll get them faster this time.  I got a good 5mi warm-up in riding to the start.  I rush to the start and realize I forgot to call Robin.  I borrow a spectator’s phone and get to connect with my loving wife before we start.

We’re off.  My strategy today is to sit in, now cover any attacks, because I know none of it amounts to anything until half way through.  Then I will look for them and also try to stay in the 130907_folsom_cb_crit_troy2top 5 for the final turn to the finish.  A couple guys do go off the front but I hold myself back and the pack does, too.  It doesn’t amount to anything.  In fact, after that, there’s not much excitement at all.  Everyone is really hanging back.  I try to get the tempo going a little at the front, but this guy, James, who looks like a good rider keeps coming to the front and talking.  I can tell he’s trying to distract anyone from working hard so that he can keep it together for a sprint at the end.130907_folsom_cb_crit_troy4

After a few laps they announce a prime.  This will get the group going.  By 1/2 way around, I’m in good position at the front but it appears no one knows about the prime.  Suddenly a guy goes and I match him and then it’s all out.  Around the final turn and I’m actually gaining on him.  Wow!  I won a prime, another first, but now I’m hoping I can hang on to the pack that just flew by me… I’m gassed.

130907_folsom_cb_crit_troy6Ok, back together now and recovering.  But I keep finding myself outside of the pack pushing wind.  And not utilizing the corners well.  And just not knowing who to follow.  It’s just not feeling like a really smart race.. but I am really optimistic still about the finish. After that prime sprint and remembering the Winters sprint, I feel if I can get into that 5th position, I’ll do well and finish in the top 7 maybe!

They announce another prime!  This is now exciting Cat 5 racing.. never had primes offered before.  This time I’m midpack coming around and don’t have a change.  But I note the guy that wins and plan to stay behind him until the finish.  I try to stay near him but still keep losing my position.  Starting 1 lap to go, it’s really going fast and I’m stuck in the middle of the group.  I can’t seem to find my way around.  Heading towards the last corner I know I’m too far back but 130907_folsom_cb_crit_troy7still am looking for every path around.  I head for the inside but get caught behind another rider in the turn.  About 15 back I jump an dig down deep… gotta give it everything I’ve got.. I know that even when it seems you’re not moving up.. if I keep pushing a lot can happen right before the line.  I catch a couple guys and finish about 12th.

I’m glad it was a safe race.. especially since there were some tight bunches in some corners.  But I didn’t get the strategy right and felt like I was out of position too many times.  Especially that last lap.  The prime was a great gift, though.. feeling what it’s like to cross the line first.  God is good.  Tomorrow I get a chance to refine my strategy.

Circuit Race, Cat 5, 40min

Robin and the girls are here to cheer me on :)  It’s a 2.5mi course with some tight corners and small undulations.  It all adds up to a more exciting race.  I thought a lot about strategy last night in bed.  This morning I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only so much I can do, especially without teammates, and that it is ultimately God’s will if I end up behind the right guys going into that final turn.  It’s a relief to be able to give it all to God.  I will try my best to study the top 5 and somehow to get near the front with them so that I can start the sprint with them.  I feel confident I can hold my place in the sprint.  If I can get a 5th place finish, it will really help my Omnium pts (overall placing for the 3 days).  But all I can do is try, the rest of up to God.

We pray before-hand and now we’re off!  Quickly the group settles into an easy pace.  James, the guy that talks to everyone at the front in an effort to slow the pace down, is at it again.  He’s a great sprinter and finished 2nd yesterday.  It’s funny, as soon as a couple guys push the pace, he works his way to the front and starts chatting, “So, where you guys from?  That last corner is a tough one isn’t it?”  And the pace slows back down :)

130908_folsom_cb_circuit_troyOn the backside there are 2 hard rights, followed by a left-turn round-about and then 2 more hard rights.  Usually the pace slows right before as we dip down across the railroad tracks.  This is where I move up, dive into the first corner and lead out through all the turns.  Coming out of them I see the group is strung out and there’s about 5 guys that catch me quick.  On the next lap, they announce a prime for Omnium points!  Oh, I really want those!  I take the lead through the corners again, which forces the pack to spread out and sprint back up, while I’m able to get in with the top 5 guys going into the final corner.   I’m in 2nd, I take the corner tight while the lead guy clips a pedal and moves out wide.  It’s just me and I try to go for it at 200m.  I make it 1/2 way before 4 guys come sprinting up.  It’s close but one-by-one they pass until I cross in 4th, missing any prime points.  I’m exhausted from that but maybe we can get a group out front now..  nope, we all get back together.

That sprint for the prime was a confidence booster.  If I can get into the top 5 again at that last 130908_folsom_cb_circuit_troy2corner and this time follow someone until 100m to go, I can place well.  The next couple laps I continue to lead through the tight corners.  The guys at the front appreciate it and let me back into position each time where I rest the rest of the loop.

1 lap to go.  On the backside nothing is casual anymore.  A lot of changing positions.  I find myself getting swallowed up.  But I remember yesterday and am determined to work for the right position.  I rub someone's wheel ahead of me.  That’s the most dangerous thing to do, but I’m ok.  I find an opening and go down the right side, near the road edge.  This sets me up for the first tight corner and I dive into the gutter and take the lead.  But my rear wheel slipped in the process.  Strange.  With my small gap I go back and forth across the road to disrupt the chase and then hit the next corner hard.  Again my wheel slips worse!  It’s going flat!  Heading into the hard-left round-about I quickly way the alternatives: lean hard and possibly slide out, or go wide and loose my position.  I go wide.  But I’m not giving up.  I’m about 10 back with another hard corner.  I go wide again because the last thing I want to do is slide out and take everyone down around me.

I’m breathing hard catching up to the group. They going fast but it’s straight and I can still ride my soft tire.  I’m out of position, about 15 back.  If I can make the final turn without falling, I think I can still sprint.  Carefully around the corner.. and go, go, go!  It’s a long 200m sprint with no one’s wheel to get on.  Just like yesterday I start too far back and move up only a couple guys to about 12th.  But it was a MUCH better race for me.  I felt like I made my positions this time and was never stuck out in the wind without a purpose.  This time I’m completely happy with my effort and I know that it just wasn’t God’s will for the finish I imagined.  His will is always best so I’m excited for next time.

Thinking back to that last lap, when I took a desperate line to the front down the edge of the road, that was probably where I picked up the goat-head in my tire.  Another lesson to learn for next year :)

This was my last Cat 5 race.  Next year, I’ll try some races as Cat 4.  But the main focus will be Ironman training!  Lord willing.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Winters Road Race, Cat 5 35+ (Troy)

August 24, 2013 – Winters, CA
2 x 24loops

Cat 5 35+, 2nd

Robin & I drop the kids off with Charity and head to Winters (near Davis).  It’s a 2-loop, 48mi road race.  Mainly flat with some rolling hills and one significant climb each loop.  Last year I thought I would do well but got dropped on the hill on the 2nd loop.  A couple weeks ago I started riding more to prepare for this.  The key ride was Mosquito Ridge with Shayne Marshall.  Other rides were mainly commuting to work where I work on sprinting to make green lights.  However, work also picked up these last couple weeks so I feel very tired going into this race.

We see many of our Victory Velo team members.  Lance reminds me of the advice he gave me – sit in and don’t work the hill on the first loop.  Last year I pushed hard to summit first on the first loop just to practice for the 2nd loop where I would try to get away with a pack.  The “practice” turned out to be my demise.

Beforehand, Robin prays for us, for safety and to be a light for God.  This part really hits me.  “How will I help others think of God?  How can I show how thankful I am to the Lord for all He’s doing for me?”  I conclude that I will first just think about how grateful I am and the rest should overflow from that.  I think about how much I love Robin and hope she doesn’t get hurt before her big Ironman (bike racing is much more risky than triathlons).  I blow her a kiss.  I think about how comforted I am knowing the Lord is with me and that He always seems to protect me and calm me in these races.  I realize others might not feel that way, but be scared, so I talk to some of them and share what I know about the course.  A guy has his number on upside down and I’m glad for the opportunity to help.  As we start, I pray quietly, and then encourage everyone to have a great race.  Ever since Robin’s prayer I feel more grateful and more concerned with others.  Maybe that will help “be a light”.

We roll out neutral. The motor waves us to start but we continue at a slow pace. I talk to a guy (PJ) that is good friends with Lance Loveday (racing the 1-2-3’s today).  Another guy I’d talked to that is new to this course, starts setting a fast pace at the front.  I now move farther back to the middle.  After miles I feel like I should tell him to pull-off before he ruins his race, but maybe it’s his plan.  He finally comes back and I encourage him to rest. He says, “Just wanted to warm my legs up. They feel much better now”.

The goal is to move back.  You can end up in the front pulling if you don’t watch it.  I use things like drinking or checking my bike to move over and drift back.  It’s funny that in the beginning of the race you try to move back, but later you struggle to move up.

It’s goes perfect to the start of the canyons.  I’m in last and now need to slowly move up in case a lead group attacks on the climb.  Little by little.. At the feed zone I’m well aware that this is where I got dropped last year on my 2nd loop.  It makes me attentive to the group ahead.  I’m about 20 back in a tight group.  It gets a little steeper.  An abrupt move ahead causes the guy in front of me to go down.  This is first time I’ve ever been so close to crashing.  Fortunately we're going slow enough.  I hit the brakes, then hit his down bike, but instead of falling am able to put a foot down in the middle of the bodies.  Thanks, Lord.  While the downed rider continue to cuss out the other guy, I calmly get my bike to the outside and start up again while re-plays of Tour de France crashes go through my head where the riders’ new goal is just to get clear and going again.

I’m back on.  I don’t know how much commotion it caused behind me, just that I need to catch up quickly.  The group seems like it’s just ahead so I didn’t loose much time.  But now they’re pulling ahead and strung out.  I realize that I’m at risk of getting dropped on the first climb!  I move up rider-by-rider and finally get within the top 10 on the climb.  It’s hard.  I focus on breathing deeply, pushing steady, but also staying calm and not forcing it.  Pushing too hard and getting tense can take life out of the legs.. like last year.  Some move ahead and some come back.  I summit and calmly ride over the top, still trying not to exhaust myself.

I don’t know how many are ahead but I’ll try to catch some on the descent.  I remember this well.  It isn’t too hard.  I pass one, than another in the first sharp turn.  I’m focused on the turns and continue passing people.  I make the last hard right turn really well, onto the flat road.  Now I try to figure out where I am.  I push towards a guy ahead.. but find out he’s off the back of another group.  I’m surprised to realize I had passed everyone and am in the lead.  But I need to be back in the group.  Looking back, I see a pack and sit up to wait to join them.  They go flying by.. it must be the 1-2-3’s. I don’t recognize anyone in my group and they just ride much better than us.  I look back again and see another group.  This must be them… nope, another fast group that goes by.  Where’s my Cat 5’s?  Should I pedal harder?  Did they get neutralized or have trouble?  I’ll go a little harder but I know I don’t have the ability to go solo.  Finally a Strava guy catches me and tells me, “I’m in your group”.  Great, back together again.  We’re cruising along but much faster now.  Someone says, “come on, we’ve got a gap”.  Sure enough it’s just 130824_witners_troy6 of us.  We take turns pulling.  I work hard to get a rotating paceline going and encouraging each other.  It breaks down sometimes but basically it’s going well.  I feel good and am excited to be in a break with 6 guys that all want to work.  The motor comes up and tells us we have a good gap.  Alright!  Although we each have to work at the front, It’s nice to have a consistent pace without anyone attacking each other.  We come through the finish area and start the 2nd loop.  The pulls are tougher now into the wind.  The motor tells us we’re 1 minute ahead!  I encourage the group to do shorter pulls so the line keeps rotating and we stay protected from the wind.  I’m feeling fatigued now.  We hit the first rollers and I’m feeling it.  I suggest going easier on the hills and am sure we’ve got it made with such a large gap.

Then the motor tells us the split again.  “1:35?” I say.  “No,  :35!  They’re right behind you!”  Uh oh. Time to work again but I don’t know if we can do it.  I’m struggling and don’t pull through very fast anymore.  What if we get caught at the hill and I get dropped again?  Here I thought I had 6th place wrapped up.  The group is great and we stay together through the rollers and the Strava guy and the tall guy continue doing big pulls.  The motor tells us our lead is :55 at the start of the canyon.  Things are good again!

I’ve been making sure to drink a lot to help the legs from getting heavy.  I’m holding onto the back of my group.  The guys are pushing the climb pretty good.  At the feed zone where it gets steeper I work hard and can’t go any faster.  If it was the main pack here I would get dropped.  Fortunately our break is a little tired by now and they don’t pull away.  I realize the hard part of a break is the steady work but the good part is that on the climbs there’s less surges.

It’s gets steep and I go into my zone of breathing deep, spinning and not panicking.  2 guys fall off the back.  I’m grateful for their help in getting us away.  But this hill will do that.  I approach the top (thankfully) and the 3 guys ahead push quickly over to the descent.  I take my time to save energy and know that I can catch them on the descent.  Having finished the climb I’m really excited because this was the pivotal point and all we have to do is continue working together to the finish.  It looks like 4th place at the least!  Wow!  Of course anything can happen.

I pass the guys on the descent and we re-group on the flat.  Pacelining again.  We’re of the same mind.  Although sometimes a guy will attack our paceline a little, that’s ok because it gives reason to sit in and not pull through.  I finish my Heed and eat some Cliff Blocks.  Ok, I’ll be getting more energy soon, keep pushing.  As we make a big right turn someone says, “only 4 miles”.  Ah, music to my ears.  It was feeling like forever.  With a couple miles to go we stop pacelining.  I minimize time at the front.  I’m impressed with the other 3 guys.. they do a lot of pulling.  The tall guy stands a lot.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be last but happy with 4th.  At 1 km to go I’m in 3rd position, keeping an eye on each of us.  I move to 2nd and now wait for someone to attack.  At 200m the tall guy goes 130824_witners_troy_finish2and I react quickly, stay with him and them come around in front to keep the Strava guy off me.  I’m sprinting and keeping my lead.  I can’t believe it.  I was sure they would blow by.  I dig deep, rocking my bike back and forth.  I see my water bottle shake loose and fly out.  I see the wheels staying behind me.  And then I hear fast wheels of the guy in back catching me and just beating me at the line.  But it 130824_witners_troy_finishdidn’t matter, I was 2nd and held my own in the sprint for the first time ever.

I thought about my friend, Shayne, today because we had talked about how you have to keep trying and someday it may all work out perfectly.  Today was that day for me.  The crash may have helped spread the group out.  6 guys getting away after the first climb.  Working together so well.  Being able to catch up on the descent.  And then having good position going into the sprint.

Thanks, Lord, for a thrilling race, and the opportunity to know what it’s like to sprint for first.