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December 10th 2011
Published: December 10th 2011
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This is a note I wrote myself to remember my first race. It took place in Korea in April of this year. It was a 22km hill climb on the east coast of Korea. Since I am in the middle of a 4 week travel binge I decided to post this before finishing my blog about Roma.. or Istanbule... or Budapest... Prague... the road trip to 14 different countries in 4 days. Hope this satisfies your blog fix. I haven't proof read this and I didn't originally intend to make this public so I hope nothing appears that I will regret?

April 9, 2011 6:05pm

Tomorrow I will race for the first time. My journey started 7 weeks ago as I started training after a 2.5 month hiatus. Training was not as good as hoped but I was able to drop to a weight reasonable for riding. Through riding and lifting I was able to look like a cyclist in 7 long weeks. Most weeks I rode 4 times and lifted twice with the occasional week of 5 rides and 3 lifts. I followed the plan giving to me by coach Ed from cycleU in west Seattle. When I started this I found that it was impossible due to my lack of physical fitness. So I adapted by creating hill intervals. Since this ride is 20km of climbing I decided this would not only get me into shape fast but would also prepare me for the specifics of the ride in kangwando. The last 3 weeks (weeks 5 and 6 were on, week 7 off) were seen with great improvement and great effort. Time spent by the cheongju cemetery and climbing the tour-esque climb that is the entrance to the fortress. I am unsure if my anaerobic fitness is where it needs to be but either way my legs look sharp. Skinny but sharp. Yesterday was a whirlwind. Thank god that my 4 o'clock CW class was canceled two weeks ago. It gave me a much needed extra 3 hours of prep time. Although I was called into work a hour early to prepare Sam for an interview for a school on jeju island. The day started with a ride and then disassembling my bike into the case. Two days before it was a day of panic as my rear 404 was not holding air. With some quick thinking and some extra care from my friend and team leader Mr. Kwak he hooked me up with a shop in cheongju that shipped him the wheel for overnight delivery. Friday he was able to send me emails of the progress he had made with the wheel. He had replaced the tire with a new one and there was plenty of time for the glue to dry. That enabled me to leave the old heavy clinchers in cheongju as a true training set. First stress was behind me. After packing and cleaning my bike the next stress turned out to be warranted. I had my bike in the case and ready to go but what I didn't have was a call van to put it into and thus take me to the bus terminal. Jason recommended that I have John write a note in Korean for the GS 25 clerk to call a call van service with ample instruction to pick me up at 7:30 in the morning. So Saturday I woke up at 6:50 and walked to GS and handed the clerk his instructions. What happened next I am still trying to figure out. Apparently the clerk told the van to be there ASAP. So when the call van showed up at 7:18 I was eating breakfast thinking I had time to relax. When I arrived at GS at 7:30 expecting a call van I only ended up with confusion. It was explained to me by John on the phone that there was a mix up and the GS clerk felt that I now had an emergency on my hands and was going to take me to the bus terminal using his own van! So that's how I received a free ride to the bus terminal. Only free after forcefully trying to pay the GS clerk/call van driver. He forcefully declined and I was there bags and crate in hand.

I arrived at the bus terminal and Mr. Kwak was there in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately my morning was spent hurrying for no reason as I would be forced to sit idle at his shop for nearly 2 hours (2 hours I would have appreciated for sleep). The night before spent tossing and turning. I was anxious to say the least. Excited may be an understatement. But even when not thinking about the weekend I was thinking about taxes and stress at work so either way I was not going to sleep immediately. Although that was after I fell somewhat fast asleep only to be awaken with an urge to pee. After relieving myself my mind began to wonder and thus the tossing began. Something about an irregular early rise leads to the inability to fall quickly.
The drive to kangwando, not the bus ride to Seoul is where my body decided to make up the sleep. Unfortunately as I did not have the luxury of a fully reclining seat as I had on the bus. Mr. Kwak and I were accompanied by a fellow team member and his son. Unlike Americans, Koreans don't often think about those around them in a tight space (probably due to the fact that tight spaces are usually what they are in so nothing special to consider). Either way the young boy sat behind Mr. Kwak and his father sat behind the 187cm American. To make things worse is the boy laid down for a good portion of the ride providing Mr. Kwak ample room to recline to a parallel to the ground angle if he decided to catch a catnap while driving. Siting beside him was the American with a size 310 shoe nodding off and slamming his head into the door on every turn.
The drive picked up after finally getting out of Seoul traffic and a quick stop for a much needed, overdue caramel macchiato. The drive was scenic as kangwando is indeed the province of mountains, lakes, and few people. Except for this weekend when more than 1,600 cyclist will converge on the costal town holding the years first bike race. I know there are multiple classifications but what I do not know is which classification I will be riding in tomorrow. I asked Mr. Kwak only to get the classic Korean response when struggling to either think of the English word or fully understand the spoken English question (the quick turn of the head while making a sharp 'shhh' sound out of the side of their mouth).

Either way I will be racing tomorrow with Mr. Kwak's cousin who is in high school. This is an interesting development for a number of reasons. First it was an immediate shock because I saw the scrony pimpled faced prepubescent and I thought to myself oh some boy riding his huffy needs to steal some air from this "sophisticated upscale pro-team sponsoring bike shop." And almost before I could finish my prejudices I was being introduced to the adolescent by the "sophisticated upscale pro-team sponsoring bike shop" OWNER, Mr. Kwak. He first introduced him as someone who I will be racing with tomorrow. Then mentioning he was his brothers kid, "cousin" the bike shop mechanic quickly assisted his boss with the correct vocabulary word. Then I find out that the bike that I had been drooling over earlier (the one showcased in the window display) was indeed my younger teammate's. This all carbon frame sat upon a set of Zipp 404s, along with an odd mix of top of the line compentry (Shimano Dura-Ace all around with a SRAM Red crankset). He was there for a quick fit and I quickly found myself admiring his poise and handle of this nimble piece of high end fiber. What was a shy polite pimpled face shrimp was all of a sudden a confident young mana handling a bike in a way that a pro would. Holding in place while clipped into his peddles without falling to one side of another for a matter of long seconds was an impressive feat (thought the 61cm pinarello frame owner who can't seem to turn around with out clipping out and climbing out of my saddle). All of a sudden I became even more afraid. I am going to get beat by a high schooler. When we were first introduced as teammates I arrogantly thought to myself, "hey what am I doing riding in the same classification with this punk!" Of course this probably was sparked because of the constant engagement of children seemingly his age for 6 hours a day and trying to remain "above" them at all times is necessary to maintain class control. So immediately I knew I was not on his level. And in a matter of minutes I realized indeed I was not on his level.

April 10, 2011 2:30pm

He ended his day on the podium finishing 2nd in his classification further helping his already stellar national ranking.

Race day started with 6.5 sleep deprived hours. But everyone woke up immediately ready to go. We were all very excited. The race was to start at 9:00 for the first classification (which I assume was the big boys (the PROS). We first had to ride to the school where the race was to start. That was a semi relaxing 20 minute warm up. But before we got out of the parking lot one of our 3 riders had crashed while maneuvering a corner. Scraped his elbow and his hand. We had our first blood. This warm up also served as a foreshadowing of the various levels of the three riders. I had spent almost 24 hours with one of the riders (the father who brought his boy along with him) and I tried everything to convince myself I would be faster than him. I took his kid as an example of why he may have the lack of freedom to ride hard and often. His smoking habit also played a significant role as he lit a cigarette at every chance. Although I had taken a small and insignificant mental victory with finding his various "possible weaknesses" this quickly turned out to be irrelevant as he quickly illustrated his skill gap by creating a physical gap (that was never closed) on the way to the race site. The other ride (the one bleeding as we left the hotel parking lot) turned out to be the only rider clearly under my riding ability. Of course the constant presence of his mother babying him at every step before the race did not help my confidence when assessing my weaker teammate. (side note: the iPad that I have been writing this on tried to autocorrect babying with banging - to experience the laughter that I received you may want to reread the last sentence while replacing babying with the iPads preferred 'banging'😉.

Although we arrived warm and ready to go we spent the next 40 minutes getting cold again. Standing waiting for things to start seemed irregularly calm. Mr. Kwak's cousin was very nervous and talkative. He told me 3 times that his heart was pounding. He was all smiles though he was clearly nervous. I, on the other hand, was taken back by my lack of nerves. All week long I would become nervous just thinking about riding and lost many hours of sleep due to my nervousness. Then the moment of the race I felt calm. Almost like I wasn't feeling like it was a race. And in a lot of ways it never felt like a race. As I sat I line listening to my iPod all of a sudden I was told to move up to the starting line. Of course this had to be relayed to me by Mr. Kwak and my other skilled teammate, who was set to start before me (leaving me with the certainty that I would see him sometime during the race). So me and my bleeding teammate headed to the line and were slowly moving in the line of "senior riders" when the gun went off. I of course was convinced it was the group before me but as everyone in the line began to panic ever so slightly I was assured that gun was for me. Too bad I was about 100 meters away from the starting line and wasn't even on my bike. Not the start that I anticipated for my first race but nonetheless the excitement of racing erased any feeling of panic, angst, or any other negative feeling that might have brought. I was racing. And that was the last time I felt like I was racing until the last 50 meters of the race. From start to finish it had the feel of any other noncompetitive ride I have ever taken part in. There was no peleton and there were barely groups of more than 3 riders. Of course these groups were up ahead in the distance given my slow start. I never caught the tire of a group that would have supplied a much needed draft. I was on flat ground to start the race and a fish out of water. I knew from studying the map and the elevation guide that the mountain wouldn't start until kilometer 11. So for 10 kilometers I would be forced to stay in my saddle and suffer the flats. I was passed more than I passed and before we got to the mountain I already made contact with my skilled teammate who probably started 5-10 minutes after me. I made up a few lost meters by tucking into my aero position heading downhill, during the 2 descents that we had. Besides the lack of a peleton I was losing ground and felt my calfskin starting to cramp as we approached the ascent of 843 meters over the course of 8 kilometers. What started as a race turned into a ride that was going to be a challenge to finish. The slow start mixed with the high volume of riders blowing past me forced me to push outside of my comfort zone during the beginning and I was afraid it would leave me with little left in the tank. The only thing that was on my mind was cramps. It was the only thing that was going to force me off my bike, and before the end I passed many cramp causalities along the side of the road trying to stretch out their spent muscles. So as I sucked down all of the Gatorade I had I thought about my future training and what I would have to do to avoid this in the future.

But as I could see the first slope of the continual ascent I started to smile. I love climbing. I love getting out of my saddle and mashing on my pedals while dancing on 2 inches of rubber. "I love it" I thought to myself. If my legs were where they needed to be I would have danced right up that mountain! But I was forced to pick a slower cadence and tried to conserve what muscle juice I had leftover, if there was any left at all. But as I passed more and more riders (while still getting passed as well) I saw the pain on their faces and I wished I was in more pain. Finally there was a rider Who I traded positions with about half a dozen times and as i passed him for the last time we looked at each other and he smiled. While smiling back I repeated what had been repeating in my head, but this time I said it out loud. "I love it." He burst into laughter as I was pleased he, at least, understood what I was saying. The rest of the "race" I was all smiles. Which again took the race feel away from it. But as we climbed higher and higher and as we maneuvered around switchback after switchback cramps became an afterthought as the wind introduced itself as my newest enemy. Not just my enemy but my bikes enemy as well. The 56mm deep wheels that I stressed over being ready or not disliked the wind just as much as I did. It made the simplest of things, holding my bike upright, a new difficult task. But not until the last 500 meters did the wind begin to show it's full strength. As we turned into our 2nd to last switchback we turned into the wind that was whipping over the peak. Now not only did we have to climb a steep switchback after about 10 steep switchbacks but we had to do this faced with a head wind that was more like a gust. It was a moment where my muscles were ready to give up and unclipping became a realistic option, if I didn't crash before I could clip out on my own terms. But as we approached our last switch back the end of the race was in sight. As soon as the wind subsided the energy from the hilltop crowd, the sight of the finish line, and the fact that my last switchback was behind me all led me to raise out of my saddle for one last long strong push and as I emptied the tank I blew by 3 riders pedaling in apparent quicksand and was able to make a sprint finish. It was over.

I don't know where I finished in terms of my group ranking or my official time. I was able to start my on-bike computer for the last 17 kilometers of the 18-20 kilometer race. I finished those 17 kilometers in 1 hour and 4 minutes. The fastest rider of the day finished a quick 20 minutes ahead of me and Mr. Kwak's nephew placed second in his division by finishing in 56 minutes.

I assume my official time was closer to an hour and ten minutes.

UPDATE: received a text message that i think (in Korean) says I finished in 1:06:28. 37/65 racers.


12th December 2011

Even though I don't know what most of that meant it was still exciting and I smiled through it all. Especially after you said you loved it to that rider and he understood! I love that you love it! And I love you and miss you! Keep your wonderful stories coming!

Tot: 2.61s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 15; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0284s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb