Sunday, May 15, 2011

Remembering Murphy

I drove down to Tiverton, Rhode Island Saturday morning to ride in the Rhode Island Ocean Tides Senior Games. There was a 4-mile course and an 8-mile go 'round (2 loops of the 4-mile course) starting immediately after that. This isn't a qualifier for the Senior Olympics so it's very laid back and very few people showed - maybe 10 racers tops. I really just wanted a little more racing experience and felt this to be the perfect venue. I wasn't concerned with winning but being timed can help give me an assessment of my current level of fitness.

I figured what can possibly go wrong - right? Right.

I arrived first and took a parking space to strategically psych out my competitors.

When the Port-o-Potty arrives, the party can get started.

I did a quick maintenance check on the bike, topped off the tire pressure and sat in the car and waited for everyone else.

The view of Nonquit Pond was not very conducive to a hard-core race mentality.

The race start was a 30-second interval time-trial start - one person takes off every 30 seconds. We lined up and I had only one guy left starting behind me. I passed the only other woman in the race early on (Julie is 74 years old and wears a knee brace - I mean....) Up the road a ways, there were a few orange cones surrounding either potholes or frost heaves that I negotiated around rather easily and continued to ride hard.

The next racer up was tough. There were a few men in the group that obviously raced often and I just don't have the base training or experience that these seasoned racers do (or the head start, for that matter). It was a pain trying to close the gap and while I managed to make up some ground, I just couldn't make up the total difference. It also seemed like this course was longer than I thought it would be. I didn't know the course until the race director put it up on a white board right before we took off so I really couldn't preview it. Instead, I just focused on trying not to lose time off the next racer.

Then I saw a Little Compton squad car but thought that a lot of races I do and plotted courses I ride cross into other towns so it wasn't that unusual to see signs of the town next door.

I hadn't re-set the odometer on my computer for several rides. It's a little fussy and I get impatient with it. I usually just do an 18 mile base ride anyway. Then I noticed that I'd been on course for more than 15 minutes. At 15 minutes, I felt that I should have been close to finishing, not still looking for the half-way mark, but I was just convinced I was that slow. Then, after what seemed like I had been cooked forever, the racer I had been hanging onto turned around (red flag #1 - they were lost, too?) and that's when I realized I had been trying to hang onto the back of a 20-something woman (red flag #2 - not even eligible to race). Oh, boy. Those gender-neutral ANSI yellow jackets leave something to be desired in the I.D. department.

Then I started to ride into a harbor inlet area and not the pond we're supposedly riding around (the bigger boats were a big clue) and I flagged down the next Little Compton squad car I saw and told the officer what happened. I pulled my bike in front of her car so as to avoid an accident with a passing car. She, in turn, put on her flasher's to alert them. Shades of the crack-down on cyclists in New York City, I had a fleeting thought that the people in the passing cars were probably wondering what I had done to get cited and some were, no doubt, loving every minute of it.

She pulled a tourist's map out of the squad car and showed me where I was (Sakonnet Point) and where I needed to be. She said, "You've got quite a ride back." I told her that was okay but also asked her to inform the Tiverton police department that I was on my way back since they would probably be out looking for me in ditches and such places and she graciously did so. I then started back and, knowing that at least the organizers would probably still be there, tried to hustle as much as I could.

On my way back, a volunteer from the race found me and I stopped to tell him what happened and that I planned on finishing (that was going to be the only way I was going back but didn't say it at that point). I had just reached the turn that I missed - two miles out - and he gave the "okay" to keep going.

Remember those orange cones? Yep. Not frost heaves or potholes, they were marking the turn-off that I so incompetently ignored. Oh, boy.

With a little over a mile to go, the same Tiverton police officer who had stopped traffic for us out on the Main Street turn came up to me in his squad car from the opposite direction. I heard him yell, "ARE YOU EDIE??" I yelled back, "THAT'S MEEEE!" as I continued to ride and he turned around and followed me to the finish.

Most everyone was still there cheering me when I pulled into the parking lot and I had to sit there apologizing profusely for screwing up. I turned to the policeman who had followed me into the parking lot and thanked him and he said, "You're welcome. Well done."

They all crowded around and asked where I had been and when I pulled out the map the Little Compton policewoman gave me and showed them, they all freaked out. "Sakonnet Point" had actually been a quip that the race director said when someone wondered how far I had gone (and he told me that everyone had laughed). While Julie won 1st place and a blue ribbon medal (go girl!), they gave me a blue ribbon medal for what the race director decided to call the, "Magellan Award." They figured I earned a top award just for screwing up so badly and still making it back in one piece. They also gave me extra packages of cheese and crackers and a second t-shirt.

During the post-race photo-shoot, I told everyone that I was going to ask for a Garmin for Christmas.

When I got home, I mapped it out and it added up to about 18.25 miles. They didn't have a watch on me by that time but figured I had been out on course a little more than an hour. Oh, boy.

What could possibly go wrong - right?