Iris Stagner Stage Race and then some

I went down to Texas last weekend to race my bike and to see for myself that everything is indeed bigger in Texas, aside from driver IQ. The sheer amount of America down there is baffling. First of all, there are only three colors visible to a Texan’s cones: red, white, and blue. And by the way, none of those colors run.

Secondly, every car must be a truck, and no smaller than an F-150. It’s preferable to drive a dually F-250/350 though. Everything else really is just for women, small children, and the gays. Okay, now that I’ve had my fun giving Texas a hard time, let me back up a bit and say that I had a great time in the Lone Star state.

By the way, if you want to hear what a Texan sounds like while backing up…

This was a fat joke in case you didn’t realize.

I flew down Friday evening and got picked up by Michael Lalla of Elbowz. He and I met a long time back in 2008 in Tucson during the Shootout when I commented on how awesome his mullet was. It was an instant friendship, as I was currently attempting to grow one for myself.

Michael and I drove out to the race hotel in Mineral Wells, which was like 90 minutes from the airport and is known for their healing water, full of scientifically proven minerals that heal all ailments (it’s science. Actually it’s not). Legend has it that people used to believe that the mineral-rich water from the well in this little town was basically a magic elixir. It’s strange to think, but people back in the olden days stupidly used to believe that things existing in nature could help them. Now we know better and put our faith where it should be, in pharmaceuticals.

But before we got to Mineral Wells, we came upon a dangerous driver on the freeway (in an F-150 of course). We kept a bit of distance as the driver swerved back and forth in the fast lane, either texting or drunk. We waited a few more minutes before realizing that it definitely wasn’t a one or two-time swerve, and that this guy was loaded. Michael decided to call 911 and report the guy. We got up real close so we could read the license plate while Michael was on the phone with the 911 operator.

We hung up after the call was complete and a police officer was on the way (or so we were told). But in order to stay on the trail, we decided that we had to follow this guy. He sped up to 95mph for a while, still swerving everywhere in and out of fairly heavy traffic and barely able to stay in his lane, then he’d slow way down to 50 for no apparent reason. We stayed vigilant, ready, close but not too close. He exited. Shit. Michael called 911 again to let them know the driver was off the freeway now and headed to a gas station. We followed him there, where he parked, got out, and left the car running in the parking space. His girlfriend also got out. Both probably needed to restock their supply of Slim Jims and a Redbull to keep the party going.

Michael had just gotten off the phone with a police officer this time, giving the driver’s current location, when I decided I wanted to stop the guy if he tried getting back in his car. All I needed was a, “Well, maybe,” from Michael but he was more hesitant than that (I’m not blaming him at all by the way.) A lot of people carry guns down there, and this guy definitely seemed the part and drunk enough to not think twice about doing it.

We continued to wait for the cops, then took off a few minutes later, immediately regretting not waiting longer and stopping the guy from getting back in. I don’t know if the cops ever got there in time. He was taking quite a while in the gas station, so it could have been possible. But Michael and I both felt like we made the wrong decision after we’d left. It had been getting late, we still had a ways to drive, and the next day was going to be an early morning with a full day of racing.

On the other hand, starting the weekend off in jail, kicked off our teams, too inured to race, sued, or shot dead wouldn’t be ideal, stopping that drunk idiot still would have been the right thing to do no matter what and we should have done it. I’m still kicking myself about it. One thing that played in my mind to justify not stepping in was the thought that maybe I was over-reacting and too-ready to get in a fight. This occurred to me due to the growing number of times I’ve gotten into it with drivers lately. But this time it was definitely a risk I should have taken.

Later, as we were driving and brooding over what we should have done, we came up with two potentially safe and crafty ways to make sure the guy got caught: 1) since his car was still running we could have snuck into the cab and taken the keys out and tossed them in the bushes 2) we could have blocked him in with Michael’s car, put our hood up, and pretended the car broke down right there behind the guy’s truck. That would have bought at least another 5 minutes for the cops to show up 3) take a brick and smash his skull in once he stepped out of the store. Next time.

Okay, now onto the racing:

The first stage the next morning, Saturday, was a super short (too short) circuit race. The lap was 3 miles long with terrible pavement and two rollers. I spent quite a bit of time off the front in various moves, solo for some, in groups of 3-4 for others. With 2 laps to go I attacked with a couple guys, attacked them once the field was right behind us, got bridged up to, then attacked those guys once the field was behind us again then soloed for a mile or so. Three more guys came up to me and we rolled pretty well for the next 3/4ths of a lap until the field was on us again and we were caught with 2km to go. One guy snuck away from me and kept on going and made it to 200 meters but got swarmed by the field. Since the finish was into a headwind up a small riser, positioning was important. I got boxed in, as did most people, and had to coast twice going up the hill in the last 150 meters. Stupid. I got around a few guys finally and wound up 10th. This was a points-based stage race so placing well in every stage was important. Points went: 1st=25pts, 2nd,=24pts, 3rd=23pts, et-cetera, et-cetera all the way down to 1 point for 25th place.

I felt good in the circuit race. It felt really easy. I was happy about this especially since I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to recover from the previous workouts that week. You see, now that I don’t work I have a lot of time to train hard. I have been putting this time to good use, and rode for 4 to 4.5 hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, only taking one day easy on Friday. During those three days on, I performed super secret top secret ultra secret training. Okay this is what I did: 20 minutes of V02 intervals each day, followed by upper zone 2 and lower zone 3 for the remaining hours. I’m taking this training regime out of The Sencenboss’ play book, stacking small to medium blocks of V02 back to back. The third day of it was actually my best day, which is always very encouraging.

circuit

So anyways, after a solid two weeks of training with only a couple rest days, I still felt good for Saturday’s circuit race. Would I feel good for the TT that early afternoon? Does a Kennett eat 2,000+ calories during a free Best Western continental breakfast???

The answer is and was yes. I felt good for the TT. It was short at just six minutes, and constantly turning and rolling over small risers. There was a bit of a cross tailwind out, then a bit of a cross headwind back. I hammered over every little bump and went a bit easier on the downs, and pretty much wimped out on the corners since I hadn’t pre-ridden it, not that anyone else had either and not that it was very technical. I need to spend more time in my aerobars, that’s for sure.

I got 2nd, 4 seconds off Kristian House of Rapha Condor and 0.2 seconds ahead of 3rd place Rob Chrisman of 787 Racing. House didn’t have a TT bike, and hearing that was kind of disappointing. But then again, it wasn’t too much of a TT-bike necessary course, or so I’ll tell myself.

Michael and I hung out in the hotel room, which was free thanks to the race promoter, until Mike, Adam, and Collin showed up, all three were racers and friends of Michael who were going to stay with us that night. I slept with Mike and Michael slept with Collin. Adam took an air mattress on the ground, though I had a very vivd dream that I was snuggling with a black bear late that night. This is Adam:

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Not unlike a bristly black bear now that I think about it…

For dinner we went to the Mesquite BBQ pit. I asked the waitress what brisket was. She looked at me like I was a genuine dummy. I ordered brisket, which had been slow cooked for over 24 hours, with a side of french fries and mashed potatoes. Pillowy mounds.

The food was amazing and plentiful. I also ate at least half of Michael’s fired ocher. I thoroughly enjoyed all these new kinds of authentic ethnic food that I’d never had before. We went back home to the hotel room and watched the Olympics, which have been great this year. Speed skating and cross country in specific.

The next morning was way too early. It happened at 5:45. I’d smashed a waffle with peanut butter and honey, eggs, sausages, three cups of coffee, and one more cup of coffee within 20 minutes and we were in the car driving to the course 15 minutes later.

The race started at a ridiculous 7:35. Just barely light out. Cold. Groggy. Everyone was sleeping on the saddle. I went with the first attack right when the neutral section was up.

One guy had drifted off the front. Michael followed. Another guy sprinted up to them and I jumped on his wheel. The four of us began rotating through and pretty quickly seven more joined us. The rotation was a bit slow, but at the front we were doing over 400 watts so I figured the chase behind would have to really ramp up to catch us before we had a solid and insurmountable gap. I was correct, somewhat, and within a few miles our gap was already 30 seconds and soon over a minute.

We slowed down to my dismay. Somehow we lost a guy despite the tempo pace we were going. I knew if we could just smash it for 20 miles our gap would be well over five minutes and the race would be over for the guys behind us, but there were too many soft-pedaling pussies in the break.

A little bit about the course: it was 24 miles long and we were to do three laps. It was flat except for a small hill that was 2 minutes long. The rest was false flat and windy, especially the last six or seven miles of the course coming into the finish. There were hot spot sprints at the finish line for the first two laps, plus a hot spot KOM, also for GC points, the second time up the climb. I was sitting 4th on GC, 1 point behind 3rd and 2nd place, who were tied, and 8 points behind House, who was 1st. Looking around, I realized that none of those guys were in the group with me. All I had to do was get a few points during the KOM or hot spot sprints, which wasn’t even necessary actually, and make sure the group stayed away, and then I’d win the overall, which was my main goal since the payout was pretty good. $500 for first, $400 for 2nd, and $300 for 3rd. It paid all the way to 10th place, and for a regional race like this that’s pretty darn good in my book. If you win the GC at an NRC it’s only 2 grand so 500 bucks here is great and would easily cover all my expenses and I’d be able to come away with a good profit. Now that my paycheck is considerably smaller than when I was working at SmartEtailing, these things matter.

I took extra pulls but our gap was hovering dangerously low at the half way point at just over a minute. It had been hovering between 50 seconds and 2 minutes for a while. I wanted to just smash it on the front but knew that I’d just drop the weaker guys and make everyone else tired and pissed off, then I’d be out all alone or with only one or two people on a course that demanded a big break from the wind. There was nothing I could really do except take extra pulls and try to keep the group’s motivation up with help from a couple of the other stronger riders.

I got badly beaten for the first hot spot sprint since I went way too early, thinking a red banner was the finish line, only to realize that it was the 500m to-go sign.

Someone crashed in the feed zone right after the sprint. His teammate, who had been sitting on like the guy who crashed, refused to pull anymore at all. We verbally abused him until he did. Sorry buddy, but if you’re going to sprint for the hot spot points and win them, you have to pull. It’s so stupid when someone thinks they have the right to sit on, do zero work, and still go for sprints or try to win at the end. Just dishonest in my opinion and I’d hate to win like that. I wouldn’t even consider it a win. It’s like cheating.

Back in the field House and the other strong guys were keeping our gap in check. I got beaten on the KOM, which was surprising to me, and only took 2nd. My kick is still lagging quite a bit, though it’s certainly made some leaps and bounds in the last couple weeks. I’m confident it will be back up to full strength in another month.

We were almost caught at the second hot spot sprint at the end of the second lap, with our gap dipping down to 40 seconds, but we held the chase off once again. I took 3rd in the hot spot sprint, so one point there and three for the KOM meant I was in an okay position to win the overall, assuming at least a couple of us stayed away to the finish on that last lap. This was not to be.

We dropped more guys and by the time we got to the climb on the last lap a chase with all the strongest guys was just 15 seconds behind us. I went hard up the climb but was caught at the top. Our groups merged and reshuffled up the climb, with Michael getting a flat and most of the original break getting dropped. Now, with half a lap to go it was a new group of 9 that would contest the win. House was there, as were the other top GC guys, including Jason Waddell of Tulsa Wheelmen, Mat Stephens of Bone Shaker, Michael Mull of Team US, and Derek Wilkerson of Elbowz. So there went my chance of winning the overall, now that House was in the group. I knew that no matter what he’d be able to get at least 3rd in the sprint, probably better, which would give him enough points to take the overall win even if I took the stage. So now my goal was to hang onto 2nd GC and forget about going for the stage win. I wanted the GC placing, ie the money, which made me race more conservatively than I normally would have, which inevitably lost me the stage and 2nd on GC.

We worked together for the most part over the next five miles, then the attacks began. I only followed. I didn’t think anything would get away since the best sprinter, Waddell, had a strong teammate, Gibson Winfield, to pull it all back together. All I needed was 4th anyways. Stephens slipped off the front during that attacks and we all looked at each other for too long and he was gone with 2K to go. Then I completely botched the sprint by sitting 2nd wheel in the headwind behind a laboring Gibson, who was pulling his brains out for his teammate, and I got passed by just about everyone with 200+ meters to go. The acceleration from behind me was so strong and sudden that they were already going practically twice my speed when they came around. I stood no chance, even if I’d been able to whip out 1300 watts for 10 seconds, which I cannot do. My tactics were just terrible. I wound up 7th on the stage and a miserable 3rd overall, just one point off of 2nd, which was why I consider it to be so miserable. God I raced that last couple of miles so stupid. So, so stupid. I can hardly believe it. Earlier in the race I was confident that I’d win the stage and the overall, but ended up not doing either. At least it wasn’t due to my legs. With every race you grow a little wiser and hopefully a little stronger. Or maybe a little more brain damaged and a little more fatigued. One of the two.

To the promoters of the Iris Stagner Memorial Stage Race: well done! It was a great race, fun courses, great payout, and all around a terrific event. Thank you.

But wait I’m not done. The trip didn’t end there. It should have. That should have been the end of this blog post but there’s a big old rant coming up instead:

Frontier Airlines royally fucked me over. So fucking hard. God damnit I’m still angry about it. Here’s what happened. I booked my return flight to Denver for March instead of February. I learned this when I called them up, wondering why I couldn’t check into my flight online (in order to so save $5 for pre-paying my bikes). This was the second time I’ve chosen the wrong month to fly home. The way Frontier has their shitty website set up actually makes it easier for you to choose the wrong month. Don’t believe me? Well you haven’t flown Frontier that many times have you? The cost to fix this mistake? $265. The cost of my original two-way ticket? $188. There went breaking even for the weekend.

I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with two Frontier agents, venting my furry at them and telling them how the company they’re employed by is a greedy, money-pinching, immoral corporation that doesn’t care about anything except a profit and that anyone and everyone that stands in the way of this will get screwed over. I expect they already knew this though.

After I’d regretfully paid for the new bullshit ticket, Michael and his fiance Jesse took me to a bar in what I want to call “Uptown” Dallas, though I have no clue what it was called. Uptown suites it though. It was a combination Harley Davidson/hipster street, lined with cool, weird looking bars and restaurants. It was sunny and warm out, only like 4:30 or so. There, we met Philip, who’s a mutual friend of ours, and Michael’s boss. I was drunk after half a beer. My anger was virtually gone thanks to this magic potion. My blood pressure went down to a healthy 180 over 140. I ate a hamburger. Total calm.

Luckily Michael was paying attention to the time and we got to the airport at 6PM, still warm and sunny out in Dallas, headed home once again to the cold most likely. My state of euphoria was holding strong (the buzz was still there in other words). At security TSA took my forgotten honey bear for sandwiches out of my backpack. “Explosive device.” “Drugs.” “Immoral child porn.” One of those things most likely. An almost full bear of honey straight to the trash. I held my calm. My left eye twitched a little, but I’d previously decided to be extra courteous to people for the rest of the day in order to say screw you to the gods who were trying to make my life hard by messing up my ticket and making me pay almost $300 for a new one.

In the airport I let other people go ahead of me in lines, I made way for people with their heads buried in their iphones as we walked towards each other in the terminal, as opposed to what I normally do, which is walk straight at them until they move or slam into me. I even smiled. SMILED. Smiled at the airport. I was being super nice.

Then I went to the bathroom and the god damn, stupid fucking piece of shit god damn automatic sink faucet wouldn’t stay on for more than a half second at a time. I snapped. The transformation was instantaneous. I growled and cursed and spat and from then on I took my anger out on everyone within a Kennett square foot radius. I purposefully farted non stop on the plane. I battled with the fat guy next to me who actually needed the arm rest because he couldn’t fit his arm beside him. I made sure he couldn’t sleep by bumping his arm constantly and nudging his arm off of it. I put my seat back immediately, even before take off so the person behind me had less room. I glared at the flight attendants for no apparent reason. I farted more. After the flight, back in the Denver terminal, I walked straight into people who wouldn’t get out of my way. I was dragging two huge bike boxes first off all so THEY should have been the ones to move out of MY way. After a long bus ride to Boulder, a half hour wait in at a cold, windy bus stop, then another bus ride up to north Boulder, I was finally home. Adelaide met me there at that final stop to help me drag my bike boxes the last 1/8th of a mile home just before midnight. My raging was over, all my anger had been ‘gifted’ to roughly three dozen other human beings that had the displeasure of encountering me. That’s the only way to get rid of anger, to leave it behind for others to deal with.

Which leads me to wonder, how does anger and hate in the world continue to grow? Shouldn’t there have been a set amount of it at the beginning of time, only allowing it to just get passed around from person to person? Kind of like how much water is on earth. The mass stays the same but transfers from point to point, atmosphere, to ocean, to glacier, to lake, to tears, back to atmosphere, etc.

But no, this is not how hate and misery and anger exist. Hate grows. I believe it grows with every new person brought into the world, not because people are inherently evil, but because with every new person, the earth becomes a little more crowded, a little more inconvenient, a little more stuffy…sort of like being in a tight-packed plane. All that crowding is converted, bit by bit, into hate and anger and evil. That’s how it grows. Eventually it will run out. As with everything, it requires energy to multiply or gain momentum, and the universe’s entropy will at some point in time max out and everything will be still. I think.

But wait there’s more. Gotta get that word count up to 4,000. Before I’m done I want to point out that anger isn’t always a bad thing. Going about your life without feeling any anger towards anything is a sign of weakness, naivety, gullibility, ignorance, and denial. It’s a boring person who feels this sort of contentedness with the status quo. I’ve always thought that reaching a state of peace is for the frail at heart, a person with nothing left to prove or accomplish, a person without wonder or deep thought, someone who’s ready for their grave. Is real happiness even possible without anger? No.

A little bit, or a lot, of anger is necessary to reach goals, overthrow true evil, and to fight for what’s right (your right to party..duh). If you think the world is a good place, you’re not paying attention. We live lavishly only because we take and take and take and make billions of others suffer. “The poor have more now than the rich had back in the Dark Ages,” you say. Yes I agree, but for better or worse, humans base their own happiness on what others surrounding them have. They give value to their lives based on what they contribute to their community and the world, not on the basis that they have enough food to live on or a roof over their heads, though, of course, a lot of people don’t even have those two things.

I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut right now, or I was on the plane the other day, and I came upon this passage of dialogue between two characters that helped me cope with my own anger just a bit and to remind me that anger can be used for good, not just farting on the people to my left and right in order to bring them down to my level:

(I emboldened the part that has to do with anger. The second half is just plain hilarious).

“Doesn’t he believe in psychiatry?”

“Yes, indeed. He watched his brother find peace of mind through psychiatry. That’s why he won’t have anything to do with it.”

“I don’t follow. Isn’t his brother happy?”

“Utterly and always happy. And my husband says somebody’s just got to be maladjusted; that somebody’s go to be uncomfortable enough to wonder where people are, where they’re going, and why they’re going there. That was the trouble with his book. It raised those questions, and was rejected. So he was ordered into public-relations duty.”

“So the story has a happy ending after all,” said Halyard.

“Hardly. He refused.”

“Lordy!”

“Yes. He was notified that, unless he reported for public-relations duty by yesterday, his subsistence, his housing permit, his health and security package, everything, would be revoked. So today, when you came along, I was wandering around town, wondering what on earth a girl could do these days to make a few dollars. There aren’t many things.”

“This husband of yours, he’d rather have his wife a. –Rather, have her–“Halyard cleared his throat “–than go into public-relations?”

“I’m proud to say,” said the girl, “that he’s one of the few men on earth with a little self-respect left.”

(They’re talking about prostitution in case you didn’t pick up on it)

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