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March 30, 2006

The greatest moment in studying a foreign language is the first breakthrough of fluency. Suddenly you no longer sit in a chair but in a Stuhl, you accidentally say "Merci" to the grocery clerk, and your first thought in the morning is, "Ach du lieber, Morgen bereits?"

At least, this is what I would assume. After two years of German and a year of Italian, I crapped out before making it to that breakthrough.

But I feel as though I'm finally fluent with the racing. Last year I struggled -- and more often than not, failed -- to keep up, but now I stay at the front with ease and am in position to make tactical decisions. I'm making the wrong tactical decisions, but I'm asserting myself nonetheless. (Me? Assertive? WTF?)

I did two races Sunday. I hadn't planned on doing the masters race, which went off right before my Cat 4 race, but teammates cajoled me. "It's only Parkside ... It'll be a good warm-up ... It'll be good prep for the longer road races." Ed finally broke me. He was the one who went on the crazy flyer on the second lap last week. Joining him for back-to-back races was the least I could to repay him for his audacious display of chutzpah.

I would give a blow-by-blow account of the races but A) that would be boring B) I don't have a good recollection of the races. I was working too hard to register many details. My mind shut down and my body and intuition took over, which is what's supposed to happen in racing. The point of training, after all, is to strengthen the body and hone the intuition so that they know what to do without the chaperone of the mind.

I remember surging to shut down a lot of attacks, and I remember going off the front in the finish/start area not because I thought it would work -- a tailwind guaranteed that it wouldn't -- but because that's where the spectators were. I don't, however, remember whether this was the masters or the 4's race. And there are some details that I included in my wrap-up for the team that, in retrospect, I clearly misremembered.

That's why my team's post-race debriefings are so valuable. We all have limited vantage points. I'm amazed by the nuances my teammates noticed, and there are some things I saw -- like Robbie Ventura barking out commands to his Vision Quest riders in the masters race -- that they were oblivious to. We are like the blind men poking at the elephant. Only in the sum of our accounts do we approach truth.

My finishes? Around 15th in each race. Fair, but nothing to get excited about yet. I surely could have done better had I done only one race on the day, but I learned much more by being mediocre in two races than I would have by being excellent in one. The races I care most about are more than a month away. Excellence can wait.

Photo taken: March 29, 2006