dirty starts

There’s nothing like the first race of the year. Sure, there have been training highlights this year so far, like climbing Palomar Mountain on the 1st and training with CTS in Tucson for four days. But today’s SDBC time trial on Fiesta Island marked a new season of racing; despite the whine-worthy conditions, it wasn’t a bad way to start setting some new personal bests.

Unfortunately, the Time Trial PR gods slept in this morning. Either that or they were up in Carlsbad sprinkling their fairy dust on some of my (well-deserving) friends. But I’m not bitter. Just hungrier than ever for a sub-29.

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My best time on the island—dubbed “San Diego’s race of truth”—sits at 29:36. Today’s cold, wind, and mucky roads left me with a 29:54. About 20 seconds slower than on that balmy morning last May.

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Mud, Exhibit A

A time trial is a relatively short, all-out cycling race. Otherwise normal cyclists drag out everything that might help shave off even a few seconds: disc wheels and aero helmets are standard, as are speed suits and booties. The goal? To smooth out all the cracks and become a smooth as a bullet. You begin in the “start house,” clipped into your pedals, and with a volunteer helping to stabilize you. Then, in our case, it’s three leg-crushing laps of a little park in Mission Bay that usually hosts family barbecues and the weekend dog-walking crew.

Today, we were the only ones playing on the island. We were a small, but dedicated crew. (About 60 percent of the registrants had clearly decided to hit the snooze button when they the weather.) Despite my new weapon (a borrowed disc wheel), plenty of coffee, and a solid 45-minute warm up beforehand, I knew I’d probably have to wait until next time for another precious PR.

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Black ninja with white booties.

Dirt!

Dirt!

February 17th, I’m coming for you.

It’s not that another sub-30 doesn’t please me. Not to mention the six pack of beer, dark chocolate, and gift card that came along with my win. Shivering away next to my friend and Ironman pro Beth Walsh on our muddy little virtual podium was also fun, in that masochistic way we triathletes love.

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Beer, chocolate, and good friends. (A photo featuring Keith’s quad.)

The best part, however, was that first glimpse of training hours morphing into performance. It’s like taking a homemade loaf of bread from a hot oven. Maybe the crumb isn’t quite right. Maybe the crust falls as it cools. But you put in the work, and the results are yours. Racing also reminds me that my best-laid plans are only that. Plans. Preparation’s dividends are never a guarantee. Come race morning, there will always be elements beyond my control, a humbling thought in a world that tells us everything’s ours, all we have to do is reach out and take it.

Sometimes, yes. Many times, indeed. But there will always be those other times. Times where stuff gets dirty and you end up just shy of where you want to be.

And so you get up and do it over again. Hopefully with some friends in tow. (That’s for you Beth, Keith, Katie, Mitch, and Mark.)

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Blogging with my victory beer at the ready.

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