Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wet Behind the Ears

It was one of those days when almost everything went right. Great weather, amazing track, solid opponents, good health and rising confidence. With all of those pluses you could only imagine that I was shredding in style but you would be wrong. The truth is that I got smoked.

Orlando BMX is a long, completely clay track with high dusty berms. It has a fantastic starting hill, perfect downward angle and an exhilarating first jump. I'll admit that it took a few laps before overcoming the fear of hitting that jump at full speed. Once the jitters were replaced with eagerness, it was on!

As we lined up for the first moto I looked at my opponents - William, Rodrigo and Samuel. They were all more experienced and a couple of them knew this track by heart. Calculating my chances was easy but still I decided to use the first moto to see how we measured up.

The gate snapped down but I missed it. By the time I reached the first jump they were already in front of me. I spent the rest of the lap seeing if my pedaling could catch anyone in the corners. Nope, by the final straight I had fallen further behind.

Second moto, now there were three of us. The gate snapped and I missed it. Once again I started behind with no prospect of catching up. This time it was clear what went wrong. My frustration was palpable. My friends noticed the problem.

"The gate went down and then you snapped forward. Your snap was fine but your tire was still behind the gate instead of over it." Stephen Gerardi recognized my down mood but reminded me that I had only been racing for a year. "Alex, I've been racing since I was twelve. It takes a long time to learn this stuff. You've already learned so much. Imagine where you'll be in seven years."

Photo by Michelle Pineda
While I know that Stephen is right, seven years is a long way off. My focus was on the day at hand. There would only be two if us in the third moto and I still had a chance. I stood where I could see the gate and hear the commands. I watched the gate drop over and over timing the cadence in my head until the count was memorized.

Photo by Michelle Pineda
Rodrigo and I got on the gate. I set my body position, waited for the command, counted too quickly and thunk. I hit the gate. My day of racing was over.

So, there is no question what I need to learn. Pondering through the night I accepted the outcome but instead of letting it get me down, I moved on. Terri and I hit a water park the next day to drown my depression on the slides of Aquatica. The added bonus of racing in Orlando is that there are plenty of other things to do if you have a bad day. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

One of Those Mornings

On June 10th, 2012 at 7am I awoke from a bad sleep feeling drained of life. Sore, achy and without energy I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the red numbers on the alarm clock. It was Sunday, a day for worship in the church of BMX.

We were having our first Race for Life at Charlotte and due to the special meaning behind this glorified local, we had to race way earlier than normal. My body was rejecting the invitation.

Most of the time a small surge of adrenaline would spark my sunrise reluctance but not on this day. On this Sunday I moved slowly. Lethargic steps delivered me directly into a hot shower in the hopes that warmer muscles will welcome the inevitable. No such luck.

Why was I so beat up? It's not age, I'm only 39 years old. It's not fitness, I train like a mad man. My problem was that I didn't rest sufficiently so that my body would be fresh on race day. Granted this is part of my new training regimen, turning race days into training days but in this particular case the task was daunting.

Half a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich later I dared to enter my training room for a pre-race warm-up. Since I have a tendency to overtrain, I have developed a test to gauge my readiness. The rule is simple, if you can't do the warm-up, you can't do the workout. Ten minutes later I was awake, with a hop in my step we left for the track.

The race itself was a proper challenge. One Expert rider lead the way while new faces brought fresh enthusiasm to the proceedings. I spent most of the motos reintroducing myself to the feel of the bike after having been off it for two weeks. By the main I was back up to speed and stayed close to the pack scoring 4th place.

I accept that there will be lots of days like this. As we age our ability to accelerate gradually slows. However, once we are warmed up, staring down the hill as the gate is about to drop with our hearts beating a little faster, we are kids again. If only for that one moment we are fully alive.