Wow, Madison, WI is cool. Never been there, heard all about it and....yeah, its a great place for sure. A tightly knit community with bicycle paths all over linking the city up at every point, bars, great food, coffee shops, co-ops and a great atmosphere are all part of what makes it amazing. Yet again, the reason I love my job is getting to go places like Madison where I may never have had the opportunity to go to in my life!
And actually, I paid a whole $10 to get there. I had a bunch of unused cyclocross flights from last year that I couldn't use due to life circumstances (see sidebar if you need a hint) and they were all going to expire mid July. So I combined them all in order to head to the the next Pro XCT race at Nordic Mtn (NE of Madison by about 2 hours).
And the really best part about going there was that I was about to meet some of my new teammates for the first time! Meghan Korol lives there smack dab in the middle of all the action but we had yet to get to the same race. And Stephan Ettinger, our U - 23 wonder boy, was making his way from MT to for this lovely event too.
I got to Meghan's after one of the best flights ever on Southwest. Not only did I get the exit row, I sat with 2 of the funniest people ever. We all didn't know each other when we got on the flight but we sure did by the time we got off it! It was perfect, the flight went by fast, we laughed the whole time, told stories and I kept getting FREE adult drinks from the flight attendant. We got to WI in no time flat! : )
I gotten eaten alive by mosquito's as I built my bike up but being lead around Madison by Meghan and biking around one of the many lakes in WI made up for it.
Road right past the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center (a Frank Lloyd Wright building) on one of the bikes paths there too.
We also swung by Machinery Row Bicycles where Meghan and her boyfriend Dave (what a great mechanic!!) works. It was an absolutely incredible shop. I have never seen so many bikes and gear in my life. The shop was well laid out with plenty of mechanics to answer any questions or work on your bike. Incredible place.
Oh and just outside the shop was this little ditty. Yep, a place right off the bike path for you to work on your bike in case of a mechanical. Note the bike stand in this picture.
And then the vending machine of bike parts, clif bars, etc in this picture!! Amazing!
And I just didn't have enough of Madison yet so we cruised up toward the capital and over to yet another lake. Check out the sun setting.
And the moon above the capital. This place was showing itself off!!!
Well not really.....I had a bit of a mishap. At the very end of the ride/tour my crank arm slipped and came loose!! Didn't come totally off but had to walk it home. And I will tell you what...having a mechanic at home to ease my mind that it was NOT a bottom bracket issue or something like that was certainly nice since we were leaving for the venue first thing in the morning! Or well uh....at least leaving for the venue after going to the bike shop to make sure my bike was going to work, going grocery shopping to load up for the weekend, having Stephan leave his wallet at the bike shop (these kids - hahaha!), packing the cars, getting gas, etc. So after all that we finally drove on up to the venue to check out the course.
The pic below is Nordic Mtn where the race took place. A bit different than those high altitude races with straight up straight down kind of action on the west coast! But don't let this pic fool you too much, there was plenty of climbing snuck in there. Short punchy climbs through dense forest and steeper twisty and techy downhills throughout the loop made for a quick loop of no rest. I would liken this course to a World Cup course.
By the time we warmed up and started the race at 11 am it was already 82 and humid. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE humidity actually but today it didn't love me.
Dave and Meghan - our wonderful hosts/teammate/mechanic/support crew/tour guides
So yeah, about that humidity. This was a first but it happened. I hit the wall at about the 1.5 hour mark. The first part of the race I was amped, making up ground, getting through the pack, had that fighter instinct to kill it and then it was like a switch was flicked and the lights went out. I found myself at that point with a super high heart rate (anaerobic zone) but if you had asked me at that moment what wattage I was putting out I bet it was around 150. The heart rate wasn't matching the effort in the legs at all. I have never had that happen. I then started to dream and obsess about the cold water ski pond that was at the bottom of the course. We still had 2 or so laps to go and we would ride past the pond and I wanted to stop SOOOOO BAD and just jump in each time. I was overheating bad and getting worse.
Between that, the humidity, the cold chills, I should have known what was going on and perhaps I did but just pretended everything was ok as I drifted backwards each lap. I wanted to just go get in the air conditioning and/or get in that cold pond. I became more obsessed with the lake than racing. Oh wow, I just called what I did "racing" those last few laps....now that is funny. Let me clarify.......I was mearly riding. I will slow down but I will not quit!! Something inside said this is not right which was a first in my career and so I listened and backed off mid race - another first. I have learned to listen to those inner race voices at times because sometimes they know best even though you just want to beat them down and pretend all is well......which I did to a certain degree. But I did have a sneaking suspicion that if I pushed beyond what I was feeling I was going to do damage so I slowed way down which sux but I believe it was the best option unfortunately.
So after a not so stellar finish with the temp now in the 90's, you could find me in the lake - helmet, shoes, glasses, EVERYTHING still on. The water skiers were getting a kick out of the crazy fully clothed bike racer hanging out in the water!! I was the happiest I had been all day!
Like I said, that lake was calling me and I forgot to mention, I really am not a fan of pools of water, ponds, streams, lakes etc. I like to LOOK at them but usually do anything I can to stay out of them! So the fact that I was dieing to get in one says something.
The next day we had the Short Track race which I wasn't too concerned about over heating in. I could handle 20 minute all out effort. I did make some modifications to my warm up though, broke out some ice and was extra cautious to stay cool as possible up until the start.
My start was dreadful too.
Not sure what happened but I think I was almost last by the second corner. There was some kind of hoopla going on up front but I couldn't quite make out what had happened as I focused on my race.
My glasses slipped down on my nose from the humidity!!
But I was so annoyed that I was almost last that I just gunned it, even more than the all out effort that you have do in order to survive the race. The big effort paid off though because I was able to make a ton of passes and land in 12th in the end after suffering like a dog.
And where did I go after? The pond again! And it felt GOOOOD.
The rest of the afternoon was first spent trying to find Milty Wilty (known for its custard) and then the rest of the evening was spent hitting Madison with Meghan, Dave, Stephan, a slew of U-23 nats team and a bunch of others. It may have involved lots of beer, bars, bikes, barfing (not me), broken bottles and almost a brawl (not really but it rhymed!!) but we did manage to stay outta trouble somehow.
We stayed up till 3:30am and I had to leave at 4:15am for my flight!!! I just ended up staying up and leaving a bit early for it and didn't even bother trying to sleep. It was pointless. Ugh, haven't done that since.......oh........college maybe. But man it was a fun night!! Now I need to put my pro "hat" back on and go to bed at a reasonable hour for another 15 years until I do this again. Once every 15 years isn't so bad! : )
Here is a quick video of the races that weekend starting with what I call "Lake Obsession" now: