Photo: Tony Allen-Mills

Photo: Tony Allen-Mills
The Charge: First Race, First Climb

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Riding Circles at Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park Series "B" Race (Cat 4/5)
May 25, 2011
[updated with picture]
Distance: 22.4 miles (16 laps)
Duration: 55:41
Average Speed: 24.1 mph
Place: 19 of 50 (a full field tonight)

This one hurt.  I wasn't exactly sure why until I got home and took a look at my power file.  The pace was higher, the humidity and temperature were higher, the number of laps was higher.  I do recall wondering why the number 12 lap card did not seem to move much during the first 3 or 4 times around the circuit. I felt seriously taxed from the start tonight, however, so I just assumed that observation was a mistaken artifact of my generalized state of cerebral hypoxia. Guess I was right though as we did 16.

So Greenbelt is one of those kinds of races.  The whole thing is just a prelude to the ultimate question of who has legs left for the last 400 meters.  The rest of the race is about getting to that point alive and with some gas in the tank for the last-lap surge to the line. Tonight I had more left than I have before; although my placing was about the same, it nets out better for me in light of the larger field and increased workload required to deliver oneself to the line. So that's good. Showing improvement.  But let's face it, I've got a long way to go yet.

The Greenbelt B Race finishing sprint, May 25, 2011 -- LaRue in for 4th

Monday, May 23, 2011


A couple things:

Thing Number 1: I really chunked the math component of the post below.  I mean like simple addition.  I have concluded that I will let it stand as is and not try to fix it on the sly, even though probably no one has read it yet or would have noticed the correction.

Thing Number 2: I just learned that I will not be able to Ride Sally Ride.  Holy cow, with this sort of involuntary idleness, what's the point of all this training?  Greenbelt is the point.  I guess.  Not much of a point, though.

So with no real race reports to write for a month or so, be prepared my two or three readers for more vacuous babble like that last post, some pictures, some Greenbelt recaps, and if you are lucky, general blog silence.

Training Day Interludes -- Suffering Hurts, Sleep Heals, and Other Profundities

Warning: what follows is wonky drivel.  For your own good, skip to the pictures.
For a variety of reasons, I have found myself unable to race (other than the Wednesday night training series in Greenbelt Park) until Ride Sally Ride on June 4th.  So, that was a three week training block following the performance at Poolesville.  "Was," in that I am now one full week in.  If I were the slightest bit organized I would have taken the time to put together some specific work outs designed to maximum the performance benefit of the three-week period now at my disposal.  I did not do that.  But I have two weeks to go, so perhaps we should try to correct that now.  In that spirit, let us consider my training schedule beginning with Poolesville and working forward:

May 14 (Poolesville RR)
  •     Duration: 1:05
  •     Relative Intensity: 0.994
  •     Work: 750kj
  •     Score: 150
May 15 (tempo/threshold)
  •     Duration: 1:46
  •     Relative Intensity: 0.943
  •     Work: 1180kj
  •     Score: 173
May 16 (off)

May 17 (off)

May 18 (ride to/race/ride from Greenbelt Park)
  •      Duration: :42 + :50 + :54 = 1:46 [sic]
  •      Relative Intensity: 0.724 / 0.976 / 0.821
  •      Work: 346 + 541 + 486 = 1373kj
  •      Score: 43 + 83 + 65 = 191
May 19 (off)

May 20 (local hills)
  •     Duration: 0:58
  •     Relative Intensity: 1.0
  •     Work: 601kj
  •     Score: 110
May 21 (random hard effort explorations)
  •      Duration: 1:45
  •      Relative Intensity: 0.952
  •      Work: 1153kj
  •      Score: 174
May 22 (group ride)
  •      Duration: 2:35
  •      Relative Intensity: 0.836
  •      Work: 1490kj
  •      Score: 203
As we can see, in nine days I have taken three off the bike.  Treating Greenbelt as three distinct rides, I rode eight times during the other six days, which consisted primarily of efforts in excess of five- to six percent of my presumptive one-hour maximum sustainable rate of effort (that is, every ride except the rides to and from Greenbelt and the group ride this morning). By the numbers, in the stretch after Poolesville I put roguhly 9:30hrs on the bike, and burned 5,797 kilojoules of energy, for a "Bike Score" (akin to "Training Stress Score" or "TSS" as Hunter and Coggan put it) of 851 imaginary units of hurt.

Although plenty of the hyper-fit around here would find nineanahalf hours in eight days inadequate to their training goals, for me the number of high-intensity efforts made this a full calendar. I felt it on the ride this morning and every time I rise from a seated position since. Today was a real test. I was not suffering aerobically; it was purely fatigue. My legs could not sustain any hard efforts for long, even though my heart rate never popped out of its zone. My centers of power simply felt threadbare, the thin, stretched feeling that sometimes announces a cramp. Efforts usually within my reach were impossible today, like 8 ohm wire conducting 16 ohms of electricity for too long; the system may work for a while, but once the fatigue tolerance of the medium is exceeded, we are left with a cooked line no longer capable of carrying even the original 8 ohm load. In this analogy, toasted copper wire = my legs.

All of this leads to the simple conclusion that I need to work in a rough taper so that I arrive at June 4 reasonable fresh. Not that that likely crash-filled criterium is my A event or anything. But no one wants to race with legs like mine today (or mine any day, but particularly today). I need fewer intense rides, I think, and some longer, L3 type outings.  And I still have a few VO2 max hill intervals, two Greenbelt training race cycles, and a couple mid-week 2x20s to work in over the next 14 days, as well.  But hopefully it should not be too hard to mix it up while lightening up in advance of Sally.

During the "random hard effort exploration" ride I mentioned in my little training calendar, above, I decided to pay a visit in my suffering to some of the haunts I first discovered during certain aimless ventures on the road bike early last year. All within a mile, guarded on the one side by the grade up Stoneybrook Lane and on the other by the short but painful Forsythe kicker, lie a number of interesting structures with similar metaphysical importations. Like Mount Athos of old, those who wish to worship by bike must be ascetic and dedicated enough to suffer a few climbs to reach them.  First, the temple of the Latter Day Saints, a gold-tipped edifice to immortality rising brightly above one of the high points of the city.  Just down the road and across the crest of that hill sits another structure that to me resembles nothing less than a massive French Catholic abbey. But if so, it is a French abbey in startling propinquity to a red and black Japanese pagoda, suited for the temple residence of a reclusive Zen Buddhist Marylander or a nice restaurant (attention millionaire religio-metaphysics buffs: both structures are apparently for sale!).  If you have reached this point in my rather incoherent introspection on my week of bicycle riding, then you are ascetic enough and well in need of entertaining, so as a closing treat to you, I present for your amusement a few pictures of a few of the structures I chugged past on my Saturday ride:

The Washington Mormon Temple
(photo: Amanda Slater)
The Monastery Proper

The Walkway to the Lodging of His Holiness, the Good Abbot

Next Door, the Much Esteemed Pagoda
of the Sect of the Zen Buddhists (zoned for commercial use!)

Till next time, sincerely, with fond regards, etc.

P.s. So I did a little digging -- it did not take long -- and it turns out my wandering eye brought me into contact with what was formerly a fancifully planned resort and elite girls finishing school, a site for the solace and convalescence of military wounded, and now a condominium development.  Who knew? Probably everyone.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Greenbelt Exploits Reminisced in Miniature

Ah, I love Greenbelt.  Even when I can't quite hang on to the bunch sprint during the last 200 yards.  But leaving the job slightly early, riding out in a bunch through terra I-don't-go-there, an hour of racing followed by a swift ride home under a darkening sky is an incomparably pleasant way to spend an evening in the middle of a work week.

Greenbelt Park Series "B" Race (Cat 4/5)
May 18, 2011

Duration: 45 min
Laps: 13
Avg. Speed: 23.9mph
Place: 22 of 42
Crashes: 1 (not me)
Ejected bottles: 1 (not me)
Camper vans parked on 40mph downhill section: 1 (not mine)
Total Weds night miles: 48

Life is good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poolesville Road Race, or Slaughterhouse Category Five

Duration: 1:05
Distance: 22.5 miles (for me)
Result: 29/50 (with a big freaking asterisk)

This week I was fortunate to ride for a little while in what is widely considered one of the classics of the MABRA racing calendar, the 2011 edition of the annual Poolesville Road Race.  There are a whole collection of elements that make it a terrific venue -- rolling hills, chicanes, steep pitches, picturesque tree-lined country roads -- but all of that tends to be overshadowed in the lore surrounding the race by the nearly 2 mile stretch of dirt and gravel that transitions out of a ludicrous 90 degree turn tacked onto the bottom of a relatively short but sharp descent.

The perilous turn, photo credit NCVC
So I've tried to write this review about six times now.  Really there isn't much of redeeming value to say about the matter.  I lined up in absolutely terrible position, about 48th of the 50 person field, and couldn't find any real opportunities to change that before we hit the turn into the dirt. Entering the transition I saw it was already littered with two or three riders recovering from some mishap or other. I went through easily, locking on a safe line, nothing aggressive at all, and completed the turn.  Everything looked good, and I was ready to launch into the inevitable sprint back into position that follows every turn in these things when you're sitting in the back. But almost immediately things choked up. We had cleared the turn, I remind you.  Nonetheless, an "unaffiliated" rider toward my front left side suddenly veered to his right toward my wheel, while an NCVC rider on my right shifted left.  Stuck in the pincer, with about a dozen bikes behind me at this point, I had nowhere to go. The guy on the left took out my wheel, and I hit the deck.  I was back on the bike and chasing within about 21 seconds according to my GPS file.  But it was not to be.  By the time I was out of the dirt and had hit the short, steep incline that follows it, the field was maybe 75 meters out.  But the chase cost too much, and I picked a stupid tall gear up the climb that I couldn't push.  Race over.  The next 15 miles or so I spent solo-ing around at threshold or else in a quasi-but-not-really paceline of about 5 of us -- a nice group of guys -- that was as unorganized as it was futile.  The officials pulled us after the second lap, but placed us anyway.  So on paper I managed 29th of 32 scored riders, despite crashing and dropping.  Gives you an idea of the amount of attrition in the Cat 5 race, which started with a full field of 50.

Salted with Poolesville dirt.
So I'm really irritated with myself about this one. I felt strong going in, and was hopeful that I would be in at the end and able to contend for a spot in the top 10.  But I was entirely apathetic about grabbing a place at the start; instead I was off piddling around while the peloton lined up in front of me.  I knew better, in this race of all Cat 5 races, than to let myself get in that corner at the back of the field -- in fact I wrote up a little list of pre-race goals, the leading one of which was to hit the turn between 5th-15th wheel.  I also wish I had video of that crash, as I wonder if there was anything I could have done to avoid it. I suppose I could have gone into the gravel even slower, or failing that, not tried to surf out the choke point and instead hit the brakes hard and hoped no one behind me took me out instead.

On the bright side, I guess, I got to take a few pictures of my own race's finish -- not a good thing but interesting nonetheless.  So the guy who won it did so on a break he launched \after lap 1 and which finished thirty miles later with a 45 second gap on the group of 4 or 5 behind him, two of whom were his teammates.  He seriously destroyed the field -- not a surprise, really, considering that his time from the Wintergreen Ascent a few weeks ago not only was good enough to take the Cat 5 by nearly a minute and a half, but would have won the Cat 4 race and placed him 2d in the Cat 3s.

Chris Rabadi (Raw Talent Ranch) decisively takes the win on a lengthy solo break.
More Cat5 finish photos here.

The balance of my team had no better luck at Poolesville than did I.  Our rider in the 35+ field flatted out, and a crash, a flat, and a cramp ended the hopes of 3 of our 4 riders in the Cat 4 race.  Onward and upward, I guess.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Near Miss: Appointment with Reaper Rescheduled

Today I was involved in one of those incidents that makes you pause, take a deep breath, and take stock of the goodness of being alive.  At about 11:30 this morning, three of us in our team kit leaned silently on our bars at the intersection of Tuckerman and Old Georgetown, waiting for the long light to change.  Grant and Eddie had pulled up just behind the crosswalk, and I sat slightly behind them.  I was a bit breathless still from the flogging Grant had been delivering all morning, and really was not paying attention to much of anything around me until I heard a squeal of brakes from the highway to my left.  I looked up just in time to see an SUV hurtle into the front end of a sedan that had begun to cross into the intersection in anticipation of turning left from Old Georgetown to Tuckerman.  The sedan spun 360 degrees, striking the SUV again, I think, which caused it to be struck yet again from the rear by another car going in the same direction in the lane beside it (the sedan was then hit again by a car coming behind it).  All of these high-speed impacts, as the concepts of conservation of energy, conservation of linear momentum, and conservation of angular momentum would predict, resulted in a billiards-like chain reaction that ultimately caused the SUV to adopt a new vector -- one directly toward the three of us.  We each had a foot clipped in, were straddling our top tubes, and were hardly in a position suited to sudden evasive maneuver.  I think I yelled "watch out!" or something equally inane and pointless as the SUV quickly slid sideways toward Grant, who was the first of the three bowling pins in the line of its new path.  By chance and good fortune, the thing missed us, and instead went up the curb and onto the sidewalk.  It was a close enough pass that a piece of bumper that had come free during one of the collisions actually slid into Grant's wheels.

Foreground: Grant and the fateful SUV.
Background: Montgomery County EMS and what's left of the sedan.
The three of us dropped our bikes and rushed to the cars to see if we could assist the passengers.  I admit that I approached the sedan with some trepidation, hoping that the circumstances within would not be one the sort I would regret observing.  Fortunately, no one in any of the cars appeared seriously injured, although EMS ultimately took the driver of the sedan away on a stretcher after he complained of chest pains, seemingly from impact with his airbag.  (As an aside, I'll add that the passengers of that vehicle were  very fortunate to be driving a car made close in time to the year 2011, as when I reached them they were ensconced at all angles in airbags, driver's and passenger's, front and side.  Given the considerable amount of abuse that car took, it was rather amazing that the soft fleshy bags of pressurized meat and bone that were the human occupants could leave the scene of the accident nearly unscathed.)  Perhaps the most chilling thing about the accident I heard after the fact, however, when we were talking with the driver of the SUV.  He mentioned that he was going to turn right during the crash to avoid the next collision, but he saw us at the crosswalk and went up the curb instead.  I do not know how much control he actually had at that point, but Grant and I assured him that we really appreciated his decision not to turn right.  If it had gone even slightly differently, one or all three of us would assuredly have been toast.
The piece of bumper that reached us, with the SUV on the sidewalk behind it.
There's a few things I took away from this.  One, as Grant observed during our very careful ride home, it is often better not to know what did not happen to you but nearly did.  Two, never stop out front of the crosswalk or stop line, as I and other cyclists often do; should the worst come to pass, it is much better to have some space between you and cross traffic -- fortunately we did today.  Three, hug your loved ones; life is precious and fleeting, and ultimately we are all puppets of chance and fateful circumstance.  Four, none of this suggests you should live in a cave.

Stay safe, and Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Greenbelt Runs White and Blue

Well, that was serious fun.  The Greenbelt annual weekly evening come-as-you-are training series commenced, rain-free, Wednesday night.  I pre-registered for a 4-pack of racing goodness, and picked the "C" race because, well, this is my first season racing.  As is not atypical, I arrived at the venue about 60 seconds too late.  The motley crew of Cs had been unleashed.  So I scratched my head and, after some quick down and dirty negotiations, the good organizer permitted me to upgrade my 4 punches to the B race instead, at the cost of one extra punch.  Sold. It worked out well -- for the first time yet, I was able to race with members of the team in the same field.  I was filled with anxiety that I would get blown out the back within a lap or two, but I figured I might as well give it a try.

The field took off at a relatively mellow pace, somewhere around 22 or 23 mph avg I suspect.  I had never laid rubber to the course before, so that was fine by me.  Concerning the course: the only complication on the whole circuit is the single right hand 90 degree, which is not much of an obstacle.  I was able to find a line every lap that allowed aggressive pedaling through the apex without any sense that I was near to scraping asphalt.  The rest of the course couldn't be a more straightforward training venue.  A slight false flat rose out of the sole corner, leading through a few curves to a very minor uptick into the start/finish area, maybe 3 percent or so, that didn't impose much of a hurt, and which in turn was followed by a long, gradual downhill around to the sole corner again, during which a rider hardly has to turn the pedals and can easily recover.

My set of goals for the night were simple: (a) not to get dropped; (b) to stay the hell out of the way of my teammates who had ideas about capturing glory; (c) to try to assist if I could do so without running afoul of goal (b); and (d) if I was able to do something in furtherance of (c) without tripping over (b) that caused me to fail to accomplish (a), that would be acceptable as well.  I am a good soldier/domestique and ready to answer the call of duty when it comes.

So, as I was saying ... the field took off at a relatively mellow pace, permitting me to get a feel for the course during the first couple laps.  After that, the only significant exertions would occur immediately after the corner, where, inevitably, it was out of saddle sprint-fest for position, then sit up and join the pack for a trip up the ramp through the start/finish and the beginning of the downhill refresh.  Repeat that at 23-25mph another 10 times, and we arrive in the vicinity of the bell lap.  Meanwhile, the team was doing a great service to the concept of riding as a team.  For a change, I enjoyed a position that allowed me to witness the work unfold first hand.  What I recall is a very early break by Matt that drew out another rider, then a counter-attack by Corey immediately after Matt was brought back that drew out more.  A couple other breaks went off, but almost always teammates were sitting with them and not letting them get anywhere.  Then a strong break by a couple AABC riders (or maybe ABRT, I really can't recall) formed near the penultimate lap which showed some promise, but that too was brought back (Edit: by KARSTEN [happy now?]), and the peloton was together going into the final lap.  Two of our guys were positioned to go for it as we approached the last 200 meters of road before the line.  Unfortunately, there was a congress of riders surging for position, and John got bumped and shunted off course and into the woods, where I watched as he negotiated a 3' tall dirt berm that I would have loved to have discovered when I was twelve on my sweet Redline BMX bike -- back then, I would have tried for a cross-up and maybe a crappy effort at a table-top.  At any rate, John was fine, if done and frustrated, so I kept going, and watched with pleasure as Nate walked away from the field and took first and the right to the first B race jersey of the season.  In total, six of us rode the B, and 4 were in the top 11.  I was mid-pack the entire raced, until in the final approach I slipped to the back, but I made no effort at all to join the sprint at the line, content simply to finish with the group in satisfaction of goals (a) and (b), netting 18th of 30 or so starters for the night.  Besides John's bad luck in getting bumped off course, the only big alarm came when someone tried the ever-regrettable inside line on the corner in an effort to cut his way up the field on the turn; as expected, the riders coming across the turn cut off his inside position, where he was going way too hard anyway, causing him to hit the brakes, lose his rear tire sideways, and careen across the deck.  It really was a text book inside-suicide maneuver.  Hate to see anyone crash, of course, but it was kind of interesting to watch it unfold in real time right next to me.

Someday I'll be fast enough to fit in the frame of Nate's camera phone.
So, the "A" race.  We had two riders plus an honorary third.  Honorary member and Martin took top-5 places, while Dennis, who was away on a solo break for 5 laps, continued to hang tough and came through 14th.  Great night in Greenbelt for the team all the way around.

Hard to imagine a better way to spend a few hours Wednesday night in the middle of the work week than riding to Greenbelt and back, with an 18 mile road race tossed in the middle.  By the time I do the 16th of these things, if I'm not in shape I don't know that I can be in shape.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Concerning One Third of the Tour de Ephrata, Taking Place in Lititz, Where Whifs of the Malodorous Presage the Finest Post-Race Hamburgers

It was April 4th, a few weeks after Black Hills (a race in which I found myself time-trialing for more laps than I care to recall), that I registered for the Tour de Ephrata, more specifically the cat 4/5 field.  Because I fit squarely within the 5 part of that equation, I did not expect much.  But the idea of riding circuit on a 9 mile course in picturesque Amish country, and a stage race no less, was too temping to resist.

The days before the race were filled with other responsibilities that could not be deferred.  For that reason, Friday morning I had 3 hours of sleep, and Saturday, maybe 4.  Further, I would only be able to ride the road race and could not leave for Ephrata the night before as I had hoped.  It was going to be an expensive and painful one-day affair for me.  So it was that I arose at 4:30am on Saturday to get to the course in time for registration and a quick warm up before my 9am start.  I have to admit that the drive to Ephrata was frightening.  I struggled to keep my eyes open and more than a few times came nearly lost that battle and careened into a ditch.  But the cure came about half-way there, when I stopped at McD's for breakfast just to take the edge off.  It actually worked.  I made it to the event in one piece and feeling reasonably fresh.

The temperature at the start of the 4/5 race was around 48-50 degrees, and the wind was up and blowing.  It was a small field, twenty-six total.  Stands to reason, since there were three fields available to the Cat4s, and perhaps most sane 5s were not interested in spending ninety big ones to ride in a 3-stage race especially against any 4s who wanted to beat up on 5s for upgrade points.  I marked one of the 4s, who had won a podium spot in the cat4/5 race at SoYoCo, so my plan from the start was to watch him and follow when I could.  Turns out I was right -- he won the road race.  Sadly, I did not manage to stay on his wheel.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

 After the neutral roll-out I found myself mid-pack for most of the first lap. As in other races, the pace seemed awfully slow.  It was a pleasant enough ride, some small talk, plenty of helpful voices calling out impending turns.  Gradually we reached the middle part of the course, where the wind came hard from the front and then the side, slowing the pace even more.  The same two or three riders were pulling up front, and no one made any real attmpt at a break.  Given all this, just in advance of the single real climb at about mile 6 or so, I was surprised that my Garmin was telling me that my heart rate was far higher than I expected.  I figured it must have been the wind, but it was not a welcome sign.  (A photo taken right at that point in lap one shows me wearing the sort of snarl that suggests I was hurting, although I really wasn't feeling it; maybe the camera just caught my bad side.)

Ill-tempered midget or optical illusion?
The climb rose up out of a sharp left-hander and continued for about a half mile, gaining perhaps 140-feet in two steps of maybe 5 to 9 percent, with a short flat section in between.  A young boy with a camera watched us pass from his porch.  The first two laps I spun up in my big chainring without too much trouble holding the cadence.  The group finished the climb in about the same time each of those laps -- 2:09/2:11 for me.

Shortly after crossing the finish and beginning lap 2, or mile 10 if you prefer, apparently someone else decided we were going too slow as well.  The motor marshal pulled alongside and told us we were neutralized for a while.  He almost caused a crash when he did that, since the guy he shouted to swerved, sending the chain reaction down the line, but all was well, and we stopped for a 2 1/2 minute pause while the 50+ masters class swept by.  It was unfortunate, as several riders had fallen off on the climb and were able to rejoin the peloton.  No one had attempted a break before we were stopped, so we were all together and refreshed again when the whistle blew and the race recommenced.

Miles 10 through 18 were no different than the first lap. I jockeyed somewhere in the middle of the pack, and rode the wheel of my stalking horse for at least half of it.  When we got to the climb, this time I suffered some going up; I felt winded and although I finished in the same time as before, it definitely hurt more.  I was not too alarmed, as I figured there should be a lull as we shifted directions and the wind was at our backs.  I had not counted on Syd, however, another cat4 who I had a nice chat with after the race, deciding to take the second approach to the start/finish area as his cue to open the field.  I admit that I was napping a bit, still not fully recovered, and just too close to the tail of the peloton at the time.  Regardless, just as we rounded into the beginning of lap 3, the pack went single file and the line quickly stretched taught.  A gap formed a rider or two ahead of me, and I could do nothing to fill it.  Worse, once I started chasing, my fuel tank almost instantly evaporated.  I ended up watching the peloton ride in front of me by about 100-200 meters for a mile or two, until finally on the windy approaches to the climb it was over and the gap drew out.

There had been opportunities.  Another rider from my race, a junior (yes, a junior), was just ahead, and we were both passed at a rapid clip by another youngster (although not a junior) with truly massive quads.  I tried to communicate that we should work together and not simply bash ourselves against the wind individually.  Neither seemed to understand English, or at least they weren't interested.  By chance, a couple of guys from the 50+ masters race had also fallen off their pace and were riding near us, but unlike us, were working well together.  The junior jumped on their wheel, and steadily that little mixed-category groupetto pulled away from me as well.  Of course I said something to the kid along the lines of "hey, you can't work with them!," but maybe that was a bit ambiguous.  I suppose I can't blame him.  Anyway, a later photoset taken at the climb shows that the other dude, the guy with massive quads, had done the same thing.  Oh well, maybe I'm the fool.  Anyway, by the time I reached the hill again on lap 3, the peloton had extended its lead over me to 1:28.  And that is where the climb time of the field and yours truly diverged significantly: 2:13 for them, 2:53 for me.  No good excuse.  I was hurting from the solo, there were riders behind me somewhere but far off, and was clearly never going to catch the lead group again, so yes, I took it a bit easy up the hill that third time around.  Nonetheless, when I saw the photog taking his pics, rather than give him a throat cutting motion and maybe loll my tongue like a dead-man, as I thought for a moment I might, I instead put on my toughest jailhouse gritting in the hopes that, if those pictures were to see the light of day, it would at least look as though I was still in the thick of the race.  Sadly he was not using that big telephoto lens of his to much effect, and there's just no missing the empty spaces stretching into the distance before and behind me.

I felt a bit embarrassed about lollygagging it up the hill, so when I hit the long and very fecal-smelling downhill section after the climb, I decided to see if I could at least catch the gear-restricted junior before we reached the finish.  He was probably about 30-45 seconds ahead at that point.  So I hammered as hard as I could, but the wind and my heart were having none of it.  I doubt I exceeded 34mph.  I never did catch him, and ended up 17th of the 26 starters by the time I crossed the line, alone.  I threw my wheel at the thing anyway.

After the race, I smelled the sweetest scents wafting over the parking lot, a pleasant change from the eue de pastureland I had just ridden through during the last few Ks.  Across the street from the event, an enterprising couple likely with pasturelands of their own had opened for business a table stocked with freshly butchered and barbecued hamburgers and fixings.  It was one of the tastiest burgers I've had in a long while, and for just $4, in an age where a hamburger at a mid-flight DC restaurant can fetch $18 or so, it was money well spent.
As an aside, at some point during my race, I began to think about T.S. Eliot and poor J. Alfred Prufrock, a literary creature I've always sort of identified with.  This is not bullshit.  There is a line in the poem that has been stuck in my head for decades, which describes my current level of expectation in cycling fairly well -- to be pack fill, perhaps with an occasional ill-fated breakaway here and there just to get things started:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two. . . .

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  I mentioned something about not being Hamlet to a teammate immediately after the race, but he just sort of looked at me.  Must have figured I was delirious.  Maybe I was.  Anyway, most psychologists probably would frown on thinking about the pathetic figure of Prufrock when contemplating one's sporting goals, so I will just leave it at that.
Ultimately, I was not able to compete in the other two stages of the stage race.  The same obligations that kept me in the weeds early into the morning Friday and Saturday called me home after the road race.  So that part of my theory about why I should spend $90 and a tank of gas to attend Ephrata, rather than Bunny Hop, didn't pan out.  The Amish business certainly paid off, though.  Not long after I left the venue in my car, a sleekly appointed two-door sports machine, I was greeted by an apparition from another time: a tall, gaunt, wispy bearded fellow in neatly homespun black pants, suspenders, and a white square-collared shirt, who expertly surfed upon the boards of a wooden thresher drawn by a pair of horse.  He stood during his labors.  I tend to think there was not even a seat on the rig, or at least I do not remember seeing one; I imagine a seat would be incompatible with the austere and hard-scrabble existence he had chosen for himself.  At any rate, he held the reigns in one hand, and braced himself with the other upon what seemed to be a tiller-like steering mechanism of some sort.  The blades of the ancient machine spun and chopped behind the two briskly trotting animals, cleaving a swath through tall grass, a thin cloud of dust trailing back over his painstakingly curated plot of ground.

This kind of clean living is by no means easy living, and here is the proof of that, I thought.  It was a picture of hard, rigorous, unflinching existence, but perhaps quite satisfying for him, lack of creature comforts notwithstanding.  Anyway, after blowing up in a road race and again beginning to feel the signs of sleep deprivation steal through my skull as I braced for the long drive home, it was hard not to carry away from that image some sense of significance to my own endeavors.  I sped toward the federal highway system, thinking about suffering, and relentlessness and determination in the face of suffering, which come to play in the sport of bicycle racing moreso than in any other sport I've participated in to date . . . albeit not my strong suits so much.  But I will leave whatever symbolic interest may reside in that encounter, at least as it relates to bike racing, for the reader to discern for himself.  It's late, and I'm too tired to say.
Now that I've had some rest, let me add a post-script -- not that any more electrons really need be spewed on the subject of Ephrata here.  Nevertheless.  You wouldn't know it from my inane, stupifying narrative, but my team fielded seven other riders at Ephrata, two in cat 4 and another five in the cat 3/4 race. I think I enjoy watching these guys spar with their fields as much as I enjoy racing myself, if not more. I'm just a piker, but they are the genuine article. And the extent to which you start to share in the successes, as well as the agony of the near misses of your teammates after riding and training together all winter and spring is a real bonus to membership, especially on this team, that I hadn't thought about much when I decided to join and try my hand at the sport. If nothing else, the gallons of shit that get flung across the team list-server really help break up the work day.  Not sure what my point is, other than to say I wish I could have stuck it out for the rest of the weekend.