Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back to the Dome… without the Dread

Here we go again, back to the scene of the grind. Three years ago I took the trip to the dome, only to be humbled by the 71 laps and the pace set by my teammates. This year would turn out to be a different trip altogether. First off I moved up to shotgun from back bench seat in the team "party van." That seat allows the occupant free access to peruse Cale's expansive collection of "Best of" music CD's from the golden age of "Best of" CD's - 1959 to 1979. (Can you say "Folk Rock" anyone?)

The event, as always, is well run and continues to be the best venue for spectator participation of any race I've been to. First thing in the morning is the pro and advanced individual time trial. Margo and I arrived from breakfast about 20 laps into the race. With Team Rainbo racers passing our viewing point every minute to minute and a half we followed their unfolding race stories in 10 second snippets as leads changed, packs where dropped or formed, and as individual heroics unfolded. In the best spirit of the sport Coach Dave, in his first marathon and while clearly toast, more than twice took faster Rainbo skaters under his wing and pulled outstanding laps to give his team mates a rest and a fling around the dome. We could see from our vantage point that he close to halved his average lap time during these late race laps draining himself of the ability to finish strong, but putting Cale, Gary and Steve-O in better positions overall. Fabulous job Dave.

Come the afternoon it's time for the Team Time Trial event where 5 person teams work together for their best possible time. Four members of each time need to complete the 71 laps together in order for the team to complete the course. Coming into this event I carried the memory of being the weak link in a five person team and I was determined not to let that happen again this year. Three years makes a big difference and I'm skating much stronger now so for me the event went without a hitch. We finished within our window of hopeful probability between 1:25 and 1:30 (actual time 1:29:53). ;-) So all is golden. We decided from the start that Team Pain was not going to win the day, what with Cale having skated the individual time trial earlier, John not having the hi-tech wheels for best performance on the slick coated concrete floor and Kevin not having skated since September.

The random staggered starting order placed us forth so we were off quickly and racing. A wonderful feature this year was the addition of our support team/pit captain. Dirk, fresh from a PB in the advanced event kept lap times throughout and kept track of our remaining laps as it came down to finishing. Thanks Dirk, that was such a help. We put together a good skating order based on height so this big 6'1" windbreaker didn't have to sit out in the wind all day. We switched it up a bit later in the race as I was skating strong and, I'm told, it is such a pleasure to skate behind me and out of the wind.

Dirk kept us honest by calling out lap times and encouragement. We held pretty close to our 70-74 second per lap goal; even with our having to skate most of the day out away from the wall. The left lane being the passing lane we where moved out to circle wide almost every lap. I really think we skated 30 miles to everyone else's 26.2 due to the wider course, still though we were within our target time.

Closing in on two thirds though the race Team Pain made its move. Kevin being hit by leg cramps in the calf, and John's need to work extra hard due to his wheels forced both skaters to push through incredible odds to finish with the team. Cale by far took the lion's share of the pulling and I was proud to be able to get up there and pull multiple laps in a row late in the game. All in all it was a positive attitude that we were all going to finish together, no matter how much it hurt someone, that kept us together. And hurt it did, John was in a panic to get to a garbage can after the finish as he puked out his answer to Team Pain. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, lunch. I'm happy for my accomplishment but prouder of my teammates who pushed through to beat Team Pain; in the end time mattered less than teamwork.

As I mentioned Cale signed up to complete two marathons in one day, what he didn't realize was he was going to complete a third before we arrived home. Half way through Wisconsin, it began to blizzard. Snow blowing horizontal across the highway for hour after hour. We were reduced to driving less than 30 mph, hear that all Rainbo van riders, Cale was driving at less than 30 mph!! Add to that the windshield wipers clogging with snow and streaking, not clearing, the windshield and you'll know how much we needed "The Greatest Folk Hit's of the 50's and 60"s" for Cale to sing along with. Still sitting shotgun I helped watch for when the lane markers would show through the snow so we could stay on the road. We saw spinouts, cars on their sides, fire trucks, tow trucks, an SUV turn 90 degree to the direction of traffic right in front of us all as the party van plowed its slow and steady course back home. By the Illinois line the snow had turned to rain and we felt like we were flying by driving 60 mph.

All in all another great social and sportive weekend with the team. Go Rainbo!