There is an old song off of The Police's "Zenyatta Mondata" album called "Voices Inside My Head" that I was always fond of. It is simple, a
repetitive, and in the end it just ever so gently fades off. Today I re-enacted that very same pattern on my
bike. Splendid! I so wish one
day to bring you good news, a little sunshine in an otherwise dismal (but so much fun and informative!) season for yours truly. I appreciate
the support provided by some of you writing me, but so far a smattering of top 10's mixed evenly with some spectacular failures have been
just a little below what I had hoped for. I suppose it is irrational to think that way, having laid on a surgeon's tables just in February of '02 with
a scope in my knee and rehabbing through that. I am often accused of having equal parts
neurosis and delusions of
grandeur, but all in all I
feel pretty good, just a little unlucky and still wet behind the ears. The more I get to know it, the more I see the true art that is bicycle racing,
and how it is a little bit an almalgamation of zen, fitness, true passion, and artistry. Lessons are learned every time you lace them up and
jump in a pack. It's like music...constant, fluid, never complete, never mastered.
And wouldn't you know it? I get to race in the rather cold confines of my old friend, the state of Wisconsin. Rather picturesque
Elkhorn in fact.
Some of you may recall last week's description of my somewhat tedious relationship with the state of Wisconsin. In fact, some of you wrote
and defended your fair state. I agree, it is beautiful, that's why we Illinoisans use it, get it dirty and let you clean it up. Adding more flies to the
ointment, it was the Wisconsin State Championship race, bringing out lots of good riders vying for their state's jersey and that oh-so-elusive
"champion." I took 7th in
its version in Illinois, but Wisconsin would not yet yield her success to me. And lastly it was a 4/5 race, mixing
at the line a field of 62, under sunny skies and 92 degree heat. I thought "a-ha," let's test the form against the 4's! But I failed to think strategy.
I had never been in a crit field that large. As the race started, it got pretty hot right away and things got single file. 60 dudes single file on a
one mile track with 6 corners. I was in the last third of the group and as I saw the front of the pack up and around the next corner I realized it:
I'll never get up there. Curses! Drat! Gadzooks! I'm saying to myself. I should have got up front right away and hid!
Again this weekend I am joined by my wily team mate Dave. Dave is 20. Dave went out last night. Dave doesn't look so good. But Dave is as
usual plugging away somewhere ahead of me in the line. I catch glimpses of him here and there. There was one area of tight opposite 90
degree turns and in a field that large, the inevitable came to pass: a big pile up. Somewhere around the 10th minute, about ten guys ate it,
and right in front of me and Dave. We lock 'em up and track stand around it, trying to navigate a safe path through with the other survivors. We
make our way through the pile of skin and swear words and try to get it together. The split comes from circumstance, as those fortunate
enough to be near the front quickly consolidate and put the hammer down, isolating those of us behind the wreck. Dave and I are in this
unfortunate group. We reorganize as best we can and carry on, lining up and trying to assess the damage given up to the lead group. It's
about 20 minutes into a 45 minute race and I hear it the first time
Dave is on the front and has decided to attempt a solo bridge to the front group. He implodes and comes backwards toward my position
rapidly. His lithe frame laboring on the pedals as he's trying to operate his asthma inhaler. Poor dude. He slips past the line and I drop off
with him a little, submitting to dragging him back up if he needs it, but he gets across o.k. on his own. "HeeeEEEEeeeey." I heard it again.
Our group begans trying to rally itself to work together and catch the lead group. We make treaties and boost each other with much bravado
and shouting, and start exchanging
pulls...and when my turn comes..."You can dooo it, man!" It sounds like Ren Hoek, from Ren and
Stimpy, a characterization of Peter Lorre's voice (the wierd east european dude in Casablanca and Maltese Falcon). Voices inside my head,
great, that's all I need. Last week, visions of the apocalypse, this week cartoon dogs. But I listen, it certainly sounds convincing. Yes, I can do
You're right, ya little bastard! Satisifed with the newly minted truce in our group and succumbing to the wish of the Ren in my head, I
start pulling like a mad man. I'm at 28mph and I just keep going, the voice egging me on. "Look at you...you are so powerful, you are so
magniiiificent!" It's right about here that my heart barges into the room and reminds everybody that it outranks everyone, including any sort of
delusional pep talk. It then proceeds to inform me that I'm roasted like a Thanksgiving Day turkey and it's time for me to recover... Nice job,
moron, I say to myself. The voice quickly leaps to the other shoulder and sides with the heart: "You Eeeediot!" In attempting to pull, which
apparently I did too hard, I isolated myself and I was baked from taking too long on my own up front. I managed to cling to the back of the line
as the others went to work and eventually caught me, and that's when the voices, and the whir of the wheels, and the clicking of the gears,
and the sounds of the breathing gave way to absolute, complete, unequivocal dead silence between my ears.
Picture this if you will: allow yourself to begin to faintly hear a very slow, passionate mariachi song amidst the speeding train of lycra and
composite metals. Nothing else, just the slow mariachi music rising...with that typical long whaling vocal going on, and the signature
oom-pah-pah kind of warped polka beat. This is what I'm hearing as a new distraction crops up: serious abdominal cramps. Why? No
clue...was hydrated to the gills. But sure enough I went from feeling A+ to feeling D- in a hurry with what felt like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee
drunkenly fighting over a girl in my stomach. I look down on the trusty ole' HR monitor and I am absolutely clipping (say it like Paul!). I'm
hanging on the back for dear life now, and the band is full volume in my head. I feel like I'm on an inner tube being pulled quickly by a boat at
the hard part of a turn, and all the reasons for falling off start to build; a slip here, a wrong breath there, and then all at once, Mexican music
its last stanza and me snapping around at the back like the frayed end of a rope. POP! I'm gone! My lips are flapping like bird's wings,
snot and drool plastered all over my face, as though I had just had a good cry in a wind tunnel. What a rush! Even though I had popped it
always feels great to push yourself to the limit in a simulated heart attack and come down from it. I watch the second group gain ground in
front of me as the gap increases. I check the clock, 30 minutes of a scheduled 45. I made the final selection of 25 riders before blowing
up....not too bad. It doesn't matter anyway, as the first group is unreachable, and there's someone clear of that group. Besides, I have
Elkhorn's finest mariachi band playing in my head. There would be no closing. On anybody. The horns diminish and it's sad looks as I meet
Dave and Ed. Ed came in to race the 3's, holding up our team's honor in the higher ranks where it counts. We have to jump in the mazda and
run home without watching Ed's race, as Dave's insides have launched a full scale revolt, and he is in need of some A/C, fluids, and rest.
week...a return to Elgin, Illinois, to attempt a good finish in the
Bridges of Elgin race, a fun challenging course that I managed a 16th
place finsh at last year in my first-ever race. Later the same day on the same course, is the International U23 team challenge, where young
teams from Ireland, Canada, Mexico and others will race. Great, I get to be humbled by children. Ole!