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March 25, 2007

When the audience enters the theater for a performance of "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," cast members ask them their name to put on a nametag. The cast member is listening to very loud music on headphones, however, so the name written on the nametag is a random word that has no bearing on whatever the person actually said.

Last night my nametag read, "Hello, my name is Road Rash."

I considered that an anti-omen and wore it to today's races, the last of the Parkside series.

The first race after a crash is always terrifying. It becomes impossible to conceive of any outcome other than a crash. Your mind files through all the possible bad ends: Skidding out on gravel. Hooking handlebars. Crossing wheels. It becomes an act of faith that, yes, you actually enjoy doing this.

Fortunately, the anxieties recede once you are rolling.

The masters race seemed a little faster than last week's, and after many aborted attempts, a small break got off. Randy, tired from a long break in the 40+ race, successfully slingshot Mark up to a chase group. I hopped on to a strong wheel and got a free ride up to Mark. If we could catch the leaders, this would stick.

At Randy's tactics seminar this week, he emphasized one point more than any other: When you are in the break, Don't. Get. Dropped. This was on my mind as we traded pulls, but when I took a long pull out of Turn 2, thinking a long pull with the wind would absolve me from working into it, my mind was writing a check my legs couldn't cash.

Both Mark and I were soon dropped. We fought hard in no-man's land, but soon the pack swallowed us up, and our team now had nobody in what would indeed be the winning break.

The 3's race, my first since upgrading, was fairly uneventful. I tried to stay patient and sit in the pack. I think I tried only three doomed attacks, which may be a record low. Each of them withered upon hitting the wind like a vampire stepping into the sun.

It was hard to sit in. I felt a lack of control and power. I had to keep reminding myself that given the wind and the composition of the field, any attempts to go off the front would perish as surely as mine did.

On the last lap I was able to position myself ahead of two teammates, another goal for the race, but I jumped way too late, and they didn't have the gas to come around anyhow. We rolled in 12th, 13th and 14th.

Despite two mediocre placings, I was happy with my sprints, and especially happy to have kept the rubber side down, the shiny side up. I timed them poorly, but I was on top of my gears and navigated well. Not a single person passed me. I just didn't pass enough of them.

Afterward the Get a Grip rider who held me off in the 3's said he read my blog, the second person to say so on the day. "I like it," he said. "I reminds me of when I was just starting out."

Just starting out? This is my third year with this nonsense. But it's true: I still don't know what the hell I'm doing. I wonder whether it's my writing or my riding that betrays that fact.

Parkside is a good fitness check. I obviously have a lot of work to do to get on form.

Parkside's also a nice indicator of progress. Teammates who got spat out the back last year were involved in the sprint this time around. Teammates who finished in the pack last year were now involved in the podium. Everyone had a lot to be proud of, and everyone who was just starting has a lot to look forward to.

Photo taken: March 25, 2007