This past weekend was just what I needed. After an up-and-down week of recovery and having to make myself not train as much as I was use to, I really needed a bit of a break. Traveling is something that Karel and I both enjoy and if it involves cycling, we both truely enjoy being together. Because we know each other pretty well and we never fight the long road trip to and from Atlanta was smooth and easy. After checking out of the Days Inn we headed to the Cumberland Mall to kill a little time before heading to the Doubletree. With a quick stop at Starbucks we were on our way to our next hotel. Without getting into too many details, we were both so bummed when we saw that the Doubletree was under construction as they were renovating!! There was no way that we could stay in a hotel with paint fumes in the air and loud noises while Karel rested so I made a call to hotels.com. After almost an hour on the phone talking with a very helpful Customer Service rep, we ended up changing hotels and received an additional $30 vouture. I just didn't want Karel to get stressed before his race and I wanted to be sure he got a good nights rest in a nice hotel. Now, if that was me, I would have been freakin' out and probably stressed as can be. Good thing Karel stays calm and at his races, I enjoy handling those situations cause I'm not the one racing. Finally, we headed a mile down the road to the Wyndam Suites. This hotel was very nice and we were just happy to have a place to stay which was only a mile from the race start. After unpacking the car, Karel wanted to rest his legs. I was still a little worked up about the hotel situation so I decided to run an errand. While Karel was checking out the live updates on the internet for the USACycling Championships in S.C., I took a run to the grocery store to get Karel some breakfast foods for monday morning. Later that evening we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Olive Garden and headed to the host hotel for packet pickup. Karel knows a lot of people at his races so it was nice seeing some familiar faces in Marietta, G.A. Suprisingly, Karel was still confident for his race and didn't show any signs of nervousness. I guess when you are racing with professional teams, all you can hope for is to finish. No expectations is the best scenario when comparing a 45-hour/week full-time employee to professional cyclists who only train and race for a living. Karel is such an inspiration and above all, he is so passionate for cycling. Lucky for me, cycling is one of the three sports of triathlons so I always get words of encouragment from Karel w/ my training. hehe.
Monday morning came quickly and of course Sunday evening was a restless night for Karel. I slept fine....no worries for me, I was ready to spectate!!!
Waking up at 4:30am was nothing abnormal for me, but for Karel he would have preferred an evening race. I asked Karel if we were heading to a triathlon...who really gets up this early but triathletes and swimmers???? Because Karel always does a great job of making me laugh before my races, I thought I'd try to keep him calm on race day morning. After his normal training/racing breakfast (similar to mine but add toast and eggs to the oatmeal)he was getting himself ready for one of the biggest races in his career. Around 6:15am I decided that I should let him do his own thing so I headed out in the car to the feed zone. The course was a little unusual and the riders start at one point and finish 6 miles down the road. However, in the middle of the course, they make a turn which takes them to their 5-mile loop which they do 11 times. Confused?? Just think of a straight line and then place the letter "o" to the left of it. That is kinda what the course looked like. My spot was in the feed zone for loops 4-9 but I wanted to see them start the loop as they turned onto the highway from Cobb Parkway. So, I did what any IM athlete would do...I started running. 2 miles to where I could see them about to turn onto the highway and I made it with time to spare. WOWWWW!!! It was like a stampead of cyclists...probably close to 200 with a gazzillion team cars following the guys. The team cars could only do one loop with the guys and then everyone would wait in the feed zone until the finish. After I saw the guys go by, I ran then 2 miles back to the feed zone. This race was so exciting because of all the Pro Teams and good riders which were there. Teams like Priority Health, Toshiba, Jittery Joes and Toyato United just to name a few. And then there is poor Karel..working all my himself. Karel looked really strong on all the loops and stayed towards the front of the mid-pack for the entire race. Around loop 6 he yelled at me that he didn't need anything which was good cause I wanted to spectate in different places. After 9 loops I decided to start my run to the finish. Another 1.5 miles to the finish and they would be coming any moment. While runners/walkers were still finishing the 10K which was in conjuction with the 100K cycling classic I was enjoying the atmosphere of the finish line party at White Water at Six Flags Atlanta. There really is no way to sum up the finish of the race so I attached the link to the official write-up for the race. ( http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/?id=2007/sep07/atlanta07 )
After snapping some quick pics, I ran to the other side of the finish line to meet Karel. Of course i didn't see him finish cause they were going 52 miles per hour!!!!!! Karel told me he averaged almost 29 mph the entire race, which ended up being 66 miles in around 2 hours and 20 minutes. Holy heck that is fast!!! I think I did my 66 mile ride on sat in 3 hours and 45 minutes!!! Talk about time-mangement, just ride with a bunch of Pro riders and you'll get your workouts done in no time! Karel didn't look too beat up and he said it was crazy fast and he just couldn't go any faster. I am so proud of him and after finding out that he was 34th (top 5 among the solo riders) I couldn't be more happy. Although the #1 rider received a hefty prize of $10,000, Karel was excited for the $130 he received for 34th place. Since they only paid out to the top 35, I think he was relieved he was still in the money. After a run back to the car, I think I got a good morning of running in. Not to mention all the hills I had to run up and down in order to catch all the action! Since I drove the car, I headed back to the feed zone and then back to the hotel for a well-needed shower. Can't tell ya how much I enjoyed the weather in Atlanta...much better than the florida heat! Karel ended up at the hotel around 30 minutes after me since he rode his bike back to the hotel. Can't get that boy off his bike sometimes! We checked out of the hotel, grabbed some starbucks and we were back on the road again for our long trip back to Clearwater. We ended up making great time even with switching driving every couple hours.
Not sure how Karel would sum up his experience racing with some of the best Pro riders around the area but as an athlete myself, I think he did amazing and I couldn't be more proud. He told me that it was so cool racing with the guys he reads about in velonews and on cyclingnews.com and after seeing the website I posted on my blog, now he is "one of those guys" that he reads about. As a major motivator to my training, it is hard to believe that in 6 quick weeks, I will be racing with the Ironman athletes that I watch on DVD's, read about in Triathlete mag. and check out on the internet. For on October 13th, I will be racing with (not against!) some of the best athletes in our sport!!
Congrats Karel....also a big congrats to all those who participated in the Crystal River Triathlon in Florida this past weekend. Hope everyone had a great Labor Day!