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Sept. 19, 2006

I'm not sure what normal boyfriends get in trouble for. Leaving dirty dishes on the table? Flirting? Emotional unavailability?

The angriest I have seen Ellen was this Sunday.

I had been in a break of eight at the masters criterium at Parkside. Just sitting in put my heart rate at 105 percent of its theoretical maximum. When the attacks started, two others and I were summarily dispensed out the back. It was when I chose to drop off the chase group, thereby abandoning hope, that I looked to the sideline and found heretofore unseen disgust. Clenched jaw, daggers out of eyes, smoke out of ears, the works. You'd think I'd just bogarted her chocolate shake. I could only shrug. I limped in in eighth place, either last of the winners or first of the losers, depending on your outlook on life.

This was the masters open race. The field wasn't stacked in my favor like last time, so even at peak fitness I would have been outclassed, plus I'd taken a week off because of a wedding and some unrelated gastrointestinal issues. My goal was merely to get in the winning break. Better to have made the separation and lost than to have never separated at all, right, baby? Maybe?

I hoped to have recovered by the end of the subsequent 4's race, but I was still too dead to make any move at the end, neither a planned suicide flier nor a sprint. On the bright side, I successfully advised young Jeff toward a fourth-place finish. If only he'd believed me about the headwind. He might have won.

This was the same course we raced this spring when patches of snow still dotted the barren landscape. Then, more than 80 riders rolled up to the line, and in the weeks leading up to each race our online forum was active with excruciatingly detailed tactical chatter. Now, despite Sunday's ideal weather, the fields were only 20 strong, and our boards were eerily silent.

All that remains is the four-race Fall Fling in October. I closed my season with this last year. Most people have wisely ended their seasons with the August crits and moved on to weekend brunches, TV binges and painting projects, or whatever it is normal people do with their lives. But I'm happy to have these bookends to the season. Even though I didn't do well, I was happy with how much I sat in Sunday. It was evident -- to me, at any rate -- that I'm a smarter rider than I was in March. This time it was fitness, not impatience and naivete, that did me in, which in a way is progress.

Photo taken by E. Wight: Sept. 17, 2006