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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Crashes, cramps, and dogs... an epic journey at Killington (From the archives)

The Killington Stage race in and around Rutland Vermont is my favorite bike race. The first year that I did the race it was a five stage epic and I slept in my car. I was a Cat 4 then and I dropped the field in search of the breakaway group on the final 5 mile climb on the final day. Ah, the good old days. That was the last year it was a 5 stage race. It went to 3 for several years then closed down a couple of years back. This essay is not about victory. This essay will NOT feature a spectacular finish by Rick Copley. No, I don't chase down anyone and finish ahead of the field. On this day you get to read about me being an unlucky slug. Enjoy and please laugh at me...

Crashes, cramps, and dogs... an epic journey at Killington
by Rick Copley, king slug in the late 90's

Stage one of the now defunct Killington Stage Race is long and hilly. The feature climb is Brandon Gap which climbs a couple of thousand vertical feet at the 40 mile mark. The last 5 miles climb up to the base lodge at Killington Ski area. An epic day.

I was racing Cat 3 and I was fit and hopeful. I should have stayed home.

As the race was rolling out of town I saw a break go up the road. No thanks, I'll pass. Seventy miles in a break of 6. I'll stay in the field and take my chances up the mountains.

I was rolling along in the field when I saw helmets dropping in front of me. There is only one reason that you see helmets drop in front of you in a bike race. CRASH! I grabbed the breaks and squeezed for dear life. To late. I was on the ground. A quick check of the wheels and I was back on the road. No blood no foul. I wish that was the worst thing that happened to me that day.

So here we were cruising along in the peloton. It was a long stage with a couple of stellar climbs so that field was taking it easy until... we stopped. Thaaat can't be good sign. It looked like the race motorcycle had taken us the wrong way. We turned around and retraced our route for a full 5 miles. We'd gone an extra 10 miles. Gee, I hope I don't run our of water...

Brandon Gap is hard. I rode of the top in the second group and quickly caught the front group on the decent. Now it was 20 miles on the valley floor then 5 miles of climbing to the finish. Let's get a drink of water ....

As I was enjoying a drink the top of my bottle popped off! Oops. Since I knew I'd need the water I took the time to put the cap back on securely. I put my bottle back and I realized that I was now off the back of my group that was now attacking! I couldn't get back on! I was off the back and alone now....struggling. I couldn=t understand why I was so tired....

Soon enough I was caught from behind by a couple of smaller group. We chased and chased until finally be caught the lead group. (Actually the lead group of 6 were now 6 groups of one who DIDN'T miss the turn that the main field missed. Those dudes may have been 20 minutes ahead but they were suffering like pigs) Phew, the shelter of a group of 40 guys that lasted about 2 minutes until...

FLAT! Now that's bad luck.

When I had crashed earlier in the stage I had actually skidded and put a nice hole in my tire. It was only a matter of time before I flatted.

I was now, again, alone but this time I was now walking done the road wondering were the support vehicle could possibly be. After a few minutes it arrived and gave me a new wheel. I was moving again. Chasing again. Suffering again. Believe it or not I, again, caught the lead group. This time, however, it was at the base of the final 5 mile climb and I was getting ready to explode. It was time to crack. As soon as we started going up hill I was spit out the back The best was yet to come.

As I settled into my "I'm shelled and off the back pace" up the hill I started to feel shooting cramps in the back of my legs. I reached for my long empty water bottles... they were still empty. I needed to grab a quick stretch so I stopped on the side of the road long enough for some idiot behind me with his head down to come crashing into me. I was on the ground again. I got up and back on my bike. Finishing was now a question mark. Slow and steady will get me there. I needed water...

Like a gift from the heavens my very pregnant wife Charlene appeared behind mr in our minivan. She pulled along side me and I begged her for water. "But that's against the rules". My glare convinced her to try to hand me water through the passenger side window. Two words : bad idea. Did I mention that the dog was in the car?

No sooner had the window been fully opened when the stupid dog JUMPED out the window at me knocking me to the ground again. Now we have the following 1) me on the ground writhing in cramp educed agony 2) other rides dodging my silly runaway dog 3) my pregnant fiancé chasing said dog done the street. Then some rider (I'm not making this up) stopped his race, got off his bike and helped get the dog back in the car. I got my water bottle, hoped on my bike and staggered up the rest of the way.

I lost 15 minutes in the final 5 miles of that stage.

OK, the preceding story was a bit embellished. All of this actually did happen to me. ALL OF IT. The only thing was that in happened in 2 DIFFERENT years. Made for a funny story, eh?
The stage that I described was stage number one. One the years I crashed hard on day 2 and suffered hard on stage 3. The other year I fished 3rd on day 2 and tried an ambitious solo break away at the end of stage 3. I was caught 400 meters from the finish in the pouring rain. That year I also won the sprinters jersey that I still where every so often.

I wish I still did road races.... or maybe not.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hello... GROUND

So I’m riding along at about 30mph. I’m near the end of a long down hill when I grab my brakes and immediately my front tire pops. I’m on the ground skidding on my hip almost instantly. I came to a stop 50 down the road when I hit the curb. My race at the Duathlon World Championships was over. I cleaned out my wounds, got in my car and drove the 8 hours home for Charlotte, North Carolina to Grand Island, Florida. I was bitterly disappointed to train and work so hard all to have it do down the tubes in an instant.

I tell you this story to help you see a couple of things that I saw and maybe you can apply them to your life.

Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. My last two races have featured me as the bug. Have you ever been the bug? We all have. The good news is that for every time you are the bug you get to be the windshields another time. That you can bank on.

I happened to crash on a corner that an ambulance was conveniently placed. Lucky me. There was also a guy there with a front wheel. He looked at my bike and asked me if I wanted the wheel to get back in the race. I looked at my bloody arms and legs and said thank you but no. Sometimes you, in racing and in life, need to know when it is time to put your tail between your legs an call it a day. Being down and out doesn’t mean you are out forever. Sometimes you just can’t finish today. That’s OK. Accept your fate, learn from it and move on. I didn’t finish the race and that’s OK.

I got home late at night and slept for a few painful hours. In the morning I woke up, put my running cloths on, walked out the door, and walk/jogged for an hour. Down does not mean out. Get back on that horse! Hey, we all fall down, right? We all mess up at work, or in our relationships, or at the dinner table… Who hasn’t had an extra dessert at the buffet? Falling down is acceptable as long as you dust yourself off and get back up.

I’m racing another big race on October 24th. My focus and energy is focused on that race. Again, I’m bitterly disappointed in what happened last Saturday but there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now but look forward to what’s next. The past is what it is but the future is perfect. You’ve heard me say that before. The future is perfect.

Lastly I want to say this. Don’t give up, don’t ever give. Life with sometimes throw you to the ground. This is the true for all of us. Your character is not defined by what happens to you rather you will be defined by what you choose to do next. I choose to press on and fight to win. How do you choose?

Please don’t use road blocks or bike crashes as excuses to not give your best each and everyday. Accomplish your goals. Start now. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.