This past weekend was the last official cycling race of the Florida Cycling racing series. What a LONG season. Karel typically races in early Feb and then takes a short break in mid summer and then finishes up the cycling season in the fall. This year Karel finished his last official race a week after I did IMWI. Karel had an excellent race, finishing 2nd and guaranteed his win as Florida Cup Pro 1,2 Series Champion. The State Road Race was not on Karel's to-do list but since the award banquet was on sat evening (after the age-group road race) he decided to race both on sat and sun (category road race). As I mentioned in a previous post, Karel has been spending much of his off-season drinking beer (opps..don't think I mentioned that) as well as lifting, doing plyo's, mountain biking and fixed gear riding. There have been a few runs and swims in his off-season routine as well. Not so much road biking but we did ride together a few times in the past month. Even though Karel was feeling a little rusty, he always seems to pull it together at a race because he loves riding his bike. At the end of the day, nobody is making him ride his bike...he just loves every moment of it.
After I squeezed in a 2 1/2 hr ride on the trainer, I gathered up some reading material, as well as Campy's goodies for his overnight trip, and we were off around 11am. A few hours later we were in Ocala for the State Road Race...which was an hour behind schedule. Nothing new for cycling races so Campy and I toughed up the HEAT (still wondering why it was in the upper 80's on the last day in Oct??) and walked around in a beautiful field by the race course. Certainly, a race in the middle of no where makes for lots of smelly spots for the Campster.
Finally, the race started and off went the 34 and under riders (3 groups of ages). This is always a scary field for age group racing because there is a mix of young and inexperienced riders with a lot of Pro 1,2 riders. There was a wide variety of skills so it made for a weird spectating-watching experience.
After the riders got started they climbed the first hill of this rolling course. The feed station was located on the first hill so with the riders taking less than 15 min per 7-mile loop, Campy and I drove the car up to the middle of the hill in order to feed Karel near the middle of the race (in cycling terms "feeding" means passing a bottle of sport drink to him as he is racing since there are no "aid stations" in cycling races. Technically, you are not allowed to feed on the first and last loop of cycling races). After lots of walking around, Karel was finally ready for a bottle so Campy stayed in the car (lucky dog...he gets AC and I get the heat) as I passed Karel a bottle. After passing him the bottle I went back to the car to fix him another bottle. Not realizing that the bottle slipped out of his hand when I passed it to him, I took Campy on another walk and didn't have another bottle ready for Karel. Assuming that he didn't need another bottle after a 7 mile loop, Karel was a little upset that I wasn't there with another bottle. He was super thirsty, without a drink and hot. Opps..I felt bad. So, I made sure he got the bottle on the next loop. Luckily, he did. I knew Karel wasn't made at me but he thought I saw him drop the bottle and I assumed he grabbed it. I guess we had a bit of miscommunication but that's nothing new in cycling racing.
Karel was looking stronger and stronger as the race went on so I was excited for teh finish. I never get super excited for a finish because the finish can be a scary place for the riders. With 2K to go, a 3 man break was caught (which held on for much of the race) and the field was all together. This makes for an exciting finish until the worst happens...
I have never seen such a crash before. After being with Karel for 4 years, I have seen a lot of carbon hit the ground....followed by riders. I guess you get a little immune to it but I always feel bad when it happens. Even though Karel has exceptional bike handling skills, you never know what can happen with other riders all sprinting (40+ mph) in the same direction.
Not sure how it happened but once 1 rider went down, the rest of the riders followed. There was a massive pile-up in the group with several riders crashing out in the field. Some riders managed to squeeze on by. Once I saw the crash, I did what all of the other wives, girlfriends and family did...ran to the crash. With Campy in my hands I just kept saying to myself "please not Karel, please not Karel". Finally, I saw Karel and thanked whoever was watching over him on this day. The riders looked really bad on the ground and Karel just rolled to a stop. So thankful that he didn't crash in this "off-season" race, he told me that his derailleur broke due to the crash. I looked down at this rear derailleur and sure enough, he wasn't able to even cross the finish line because his bike wasn't able to go anywhere. He said that another rider was crashing and that wheel hit Karel's rear wheel (about 40+ mph) and broke his derailleur in half. I still don't know how he managed to stay on his bike.
After Karel walked his bike back to the car, he removed his rear wheel and started going to work on his bike. Hoping that he could use another derailleur (from another rider who wasn't racing on Sun for the Pro 1,2 race) there was no way that he could fix his bike, despite having his tool kit with him. What a bummer. He was really looking forward to the Pro 1,2 race on Sun but we couldn't be more thankful that he was ok and not in the hospital like a lot of the other riders.
We canceled the hotel room and found a Campy sitter while we attended the Award Banquet.
The food was amazing but nothing was more rewarding than seeing Karel get his award as the Pro 1,2 Florida Cup Series Champion. He worked really hard for this award...not knowing at the beginning of the season if this was even possible. To his surprise, he received a 2nd place award for the Spring Florida Series Points Pro 1,2.
Karel - I couldn't be more proud of you. Working as the general manager of the Trek Store is no easy job. You work on the weekends and you even when you come home, I never see you stop working (well, you do when you enjoy my yummy creations). I don't know how you manage to do it all but I am so happy for you and you deserve nothing less than the best.
Karel and myself love racing and love training. No one pays us to do it and it is all a choice. I feel like lately there has been a lot of negativity in the triathlon community and I don't do negativity. I have never been disappointed with an Ironman-branded event and I love the Ironman corporation as well as the community that makes up Ironman and the Ironman event series. As for the other triathlon races, there are some exceptional events with excellent race directors. For me, I typically pick a race dependent on the time of the year and the course. I want a safe race and a race that will let me put my training to the test. I race for myself and for the experience. At the end of the day...I CHOOSE my race and I have no reason to complain about the outcome. I have never complained about a race and I never intend to in the future.
For Karel and myself, we love goal setting and working hard to achieve goals. At the end of the day, we want to walk away satisfied with our performance. More than anything, this is a lifestyle for us. We race because this is a lifestyle for us. Sure, sometimes things won't go as planned but race directors and events are allowed mistakes. If you are expecting a perfect race experience, good luck finding a perfect race...year after year. You can always find something to complain about but who wants to complain when you can think about the positives.
"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
Thanks to Craig, Derek and Christi-Ann for some of the photos on FB