Friday, August 3, 2012

Reflecting on the Vuelta

Made it back to the US and unpacked the bike to find that the front brake caliper got a nice looking scratch, but other than that the bike (and the rest of the group) arrived safely and most importantly, on time. I can't believe that it went by so fast. We had started to plan the trip almost a year ago, and then at least I, trained for about 4 months with nothing but the Vuelta in mind. A few surprises along the way:
1. I did three trips with my bike in one month and didn't have to pay the bike fee on either American Airlines or Delta. Everytime I was asked "what's in the bag, a bike?", I would follow with a polite smile and "nope, just sporting equipment", although the usual, "camera equipment" routine also paid dividends. The Aerus bag (you can get it a has served me well and thus far, have kept the bike and my wallet in a good state.
2. Climbing. Most of my training was focus on climbing and up to about two weeks before traveling, I knew things were right on track. Even the recce ride we did, although short, felt awesome despite the fact it was raining. But when it was time to tackle the hilly stage and the mountain one, something was not clicking. My energy (power) would slowly drain out of my body, leaving me with nothing but mental strenght to get me through and that was also reaching the low levels of the tank.
3. And if the climbing was a little below par, then the opposite can be said of my time trialing. Not known for pocessing a big engine, I was quite surprised (and so was 99% of the world) when I clocked the third fastest time on the prologue. But the individual one, everything felt just right. My stomach, which I am presuming was the cause of some of my problems, finally got in line and decided to cooperate with the rest of my body. The warm up, something I usually don't do well, was more or less perfect. And as soon as I left the starting tent, finding a rhythm became easy. The thing that caught my attention was the concentration level I kept. Most experts in the art of time trialing say that dealing with the suffering and uncomfortable position are the main keys. Well, I guess with age I can handle it better because never before have I ridden like that against the clock, mostly in part because my attitude was a positive one and despite the pain, all I could think of was to give it everything.
4. My teammates were great. Having them visit Panama was just a fun experience. Dave had gone once before and Glenn wanted to eat anything and everything, which was fine with me and my dad. Kerry was a trooper giving everything a try, at least. I hope they all had as much fun as I had over the trip.
5. Finally, my parents!!!!. I can't say enough about how much they took care of us. Mom not only drove the car and kept us hydrated, but made sure the kits were cleaned every day and that we were getting enough food. Kerry said that I was leading the "eating classification" and he was right, because I couldn't have eaten more, yet, I ended up dropping another 3 lbs. during the ten days we were at my parents' house. Dad ensured the bikes were working in proper order, loaded and unloaded them everyday both at the house and at the race start/finish and also drove the van behind each of us making sure we were properly taken care of. A big thanks!!!! to them and Jilma for helping us out.
As I crossed the finish line at the conclusion of the mountain stage, I told the girls keeping time, "I will never come back, it's just too hard", but 24 hours later my head was spinning with the logistics of next year's race. Despite the pain, suffering, the race is a well organized event, improving every year and it gives me the chance to ride with friends, make new ones and see my family. Why not give it another (several more I hope) go? So, the planning for the 2013 edition is already in the works, but first, there's a break to take from the bike, some running to do and then things will pick up again some time around December.

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