2004 Racer Diary
National Geographic Adventure Tour of the Gila
April 30, May 1 - 4, 2003
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Hello all from Silver City, New Mexico and the 2004 Tour of the Gila. After what seemed like an eternity, I'm finally back here racing now as a Cat 2, and nevertheless, it's been brutal. After a great warm up on the trainer and getting in some good lactic threshold work done, I was ready for Wednesday's 15 Mile Time Trial. I knew that a conservative start would be best, so up the first half I went in my small chainring. Around the 5 mile to go mark, something happened...I can't explain it, but I thought my brake must have been rubbing! So I reached back and loosened it a bit. My heart rate wasn't too bad, but I wa buggered. I usually don't throw my chips on the floor in an opening TT, but once I got past "The Bridge" I opened up, and went for it.
I never went below 40mph, but I did finish in 45:57. Not my best TT. But I felt solid, and figured that I would make up some time as the week progressed. Little did I know that the next day would be a true test of my life.
Well, languishing at the back isn't the smartest thing to do, and even though I have a "Highway to Heaven," I didn't pray for 35-50 mph wind gusts! Today was just brutal. After rolling out calmly, the peleton made it's way to the town of Gila itself. After our two loops, we made our way out to Glenwood. What happened next was just extreme echeloning. I swear I must have been guttered a thousand times, but honestlyguys were dying out there. I was one of them. I fought for every inch of space I had on 180. It was soooo windy that there was nothing this 130 pound soaking wet climber could do, but hang on for dear life.
By the time I hit the turn to Mogollon, I was destroyed. I had nothing left. My legs were buckling under my demands. I had no choice but to suffer like a dog out there. I felt that even the trees were having sympathy for me. Even though we had a tail wind, I was shatered. I finished way down on the field, and begged for mercy. I havea 27 on my bike for good reason...even the new 10 speed Dura Ace group and Hed Alps Wheels. It didn't matter.
So here I sit, contemplating tomorrow's 73 mile suffer fest and leg breaker. I don't know about broken legs, but the bare souls out there will be broken. mine was today. The watermelon was excellent and the nice folks who drove me down to the bottom of today's stage were an answered prayer. Thank you all and Silver City for welcoming us. Tomorrow is another day to fight.
What is really cool is that this race has perhaps the coolest race director and group of volunteers and city folk I've ever met. They make me feel right at home and I'm proud to be here and know them and give thanks. It's 8:35pm, and time for bed. The Inner Loop Road Race is calling.
Hello all and greetings from the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico! What an epic day it was today, and if I can sum up this race in words it would be "Patient Endurance." What I've seen and been thru these past three days has been beyond words. My legs feel like a piece of taost with a side order of bacon. Nevertheless, I've never had so much fun suffering and getting to know the racers and race organizers. It truly has been a blessing.
Onto the race recap today....
Everyone tells me that the third day is the hardest day, and I agree with them. As a matter of fact, it snowed on us this morning in Pinos Altos. So there we were, shivering, wind vests and base layers on looking forward to another hard day. I was more than happy to get going and warm up a bit. It was hard the moment we passed the end of the neutral zone. At first the climbs didn't feel so bad, but my poor legs just suffered and couldn't close the gap after getting popped. I spent a good amount of time last night stretching, hydrating and icing my knee and sore ankle. The thing about this race is that you have to be ready for it, and not come into it in any sort of pain. The pain is obviously there waiting but coming to a stage race injured is not a good thing.
Pinos Altos was cold, and the snow was something I hadn't seen since the snow fell on Mt. Lemmon back in Tucson months ago. When I first did the Tour of the Gila two years ago, I was a Cat 3 and scared of the Sapillo Descent. Something about a race which has a couple of medical crews stationed there in that three mile descent makes people wonder. But after I descended it, I was happy that I came out alright. I wasn't really scared of it after all. I didn't take any unecessary risks, but I didn't take it slow either.
Though I was well off the pace of the group, I was able to get on with a few other guys and we had a great rotating paceline. I was happy to see all of us work together and wait for each other on these climbs. At the end of a hard day it's great to hear: "Thanks for your help man." My teammate and I talked about this "code of honor." I'd rather split the energy and make some new alliances out there and share the load as long as it is our burden to bear. Sure this race is hard, but I'm thinking of my fitness level when I get done in a couple of days time. Pretty soon I'll retire for the night and race tomorrow downtown at one of my favorite criteriums.
Thank you Silver City and all of the police and volunteers for helping us out there. My teammates and I had dinner at the wonderful Jallisco Cafe and we were all commenting on the race organization and also the great hospitality of Silver City. My heart definitely is grateful for all the work Jack, Michelle, Rob and a whole host of others have done to make this race possible.
Have a great night everyone and I'll be looking forward to writing you all about the next two days soon.
All My Best,
Hello all and greetings. Well, after a tough week of racing it is finally time to put thought to email and write about one of the best races a person can take part in. The 2004 National Geographic Adventure Tour of the Gila is in the books, and history. It was by far the best organized race I've ever been in, and even though I suffered like I never had before, I had a great time. Jack, Michelle, Rob, Jeff, Dan, Donnie and so many countless others made The Gila what is is...beyond extraordinary. I can't wait to come back next year and race it up once again.
On with the Diary....
I love criteriums. Always have, always will. For me they are a pure adrenaline rush. An opportune time to let the sprinters have their say and for the teams to whind it all up with authority. The first few laps really stung the legs, and after going up and over the hump in the back, a nice tailwind awaited us on the other side. I was feeling the Inner Loop Road Race the day before but I warmed to the nice weather and Silver City hospitality, which was top notch.
Both my teammates, Kent and Jake were pretty active, and despite the speed, we really railed our bikes on the corners. I used my carbon wheels again, and they stuck well in the corners. They climb great and I like their ability to hold their own from my demands in a road race and also an uphill time trial. Our speed was great today, and I noticed that we were able to finish in aroungd an hour and ten minutes. We had a good average speed, and kept things reasonable. Honestly, I think that Thursday's stage hurt a lot of the guys, and we're hoping for better conditions and a lot less wind!
What was also great about today's race was seeing my friend Mike Sayers (who lives in Tucson, AZ) from Healthnet/Maxxis win the Men's Pro 1 Criterium. Mike is one of the hardest working guys I know and seeing him win makes me feel like Tucson, AZ won today. Afterwards, Jack Brennan, the Race Director for the Gila, said to me that "I'm smiling." Jack's a great guy, and seeing him smile and get excited over Mike's win definitely made all of our days! Way to go Mike and Jack!
Ow. Pain, agony, utter beauty and human frailty. I hadn't been home but for a few minutes and called my best friend Pete in Sierra Vista. Pete and I've known each other for years, and we used to race together on the same team in Michigan. "Take some rest Johnny. You've had a tough tour." It was a very hard week, probably the hardest week of my life on a bike. Killer headwinds, fast speeds and snow, then the Gila Monster Road Race today. My legs were completely tanked, and my ankle wasn't having anymore of it. So after savagely throttling myself up Emory Pass, my legs said enough and tapped out. I was sagged back and found myself with a pleasant fellow who loves the race and also likes to ride for fun. What a class act! Thank you! And thank you to my pal on Watermark Cycling who nicely gave me a ride back to McDonald's with his wife. I really appreciate it!
In my heart I really wanted to be out there, still riding in the beauty of the Gila National Forest, through the Sapillo climb and see my friends again. I wanted to so badly to hang in there, but I just couldn't. My legs were gone, and every morning I woke up pleading with them to follow me to the start line. When I wake up tomorrow, it'll be an easy spin on the fluid trainer for a half an hour. It's time to start thinking of the fall, and of course, next year's Gila!
But I couldn't make it without the race directors, my team and the town of Silver City. I've never seen such incredible hospitality in all my life. I felt truly special, and blessed. I got to know Jack and Michelle, and wow, what a lot of work they do to make this event great! So much goes into it I can only just imagine. Then there's the good folks at our hotel, and the waiters and waitresses at the local restaurants. So many others out there marshalling the course and directing traffic. We didn't need Lance Armstrong or US Postal to make this race anymore special than it already is. The Gila is a gem, a diamond in the rough, and what I'm taking from the Gila is fond memories and a yearning to come back next year, more prepared and as ready as ever!
Thank you so much Jack, Michelle, Mike, Dan, Jeff, Rob, the town of Silver City, the great police and all the volunteers. You all are the gems of this great ride! Take care everyone and I'll see you all next year!
"Johnny Cat" Nowak
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