by Chris Geiser
So now it’s after the race, and as I said — more after the race. So where to start, where to start. Let’s start with Thursday. It was a Wednesday flight back from Boise, a fairly full work day, pack the bikes, pick up #Toto, fast pizza, Christine’s play at Stevens, wash the clothes, re-pack the sled and then the 3AM wake up call to catch the 6AM flight to Atlanta. I would say it was a full 24 hours. Making the 7AM group ride on Saturday morning would be a challenge.
#Totos bike is ready to go, both bikes make a sweet perch for Midnight as he contemplates what it means to “Be a Pro for a Day!”
The alarm went off, and the both the drip coffee maker and espresso pot were in motion. I had summoned #Toto to the rock, where he stayed with us for a fast out to Newark in the wee hours of the morning. It would be Newark to Atlanta, Atlanta to Cozumel. The 6AM flight from Newark to Atlanta, was by design to make sure there was enough time at Hartsfield, for the bikes and our baggage to make it from one side of that gigundo airport to the other. If you haven’t traveled through Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, or Houston, know before you go — that you want to make sure that you allow enough connection time for both you and the baggage handlers to make it to your next flight. Especially if there is only one flight to your final destination per day. If your bag or bike miss a connection, it will likely be on the next flight, but that may mean the next day.
I dropped #Toto and our stuff, and moved on to the short-term lot to leave the whale behind with the cold. Within about 7 minutes, #Toto and I were approaching the Delta counter as educated travelers that knew what was next.
We knew and understood what Delta would want in exchange for transporting our bikes and we were ready for it. That didn’t mean we wouldn’t try to sweet talk our way out of it, but what the hell, can’t blame us for trying.
Nice try #Toto “I think I read on the Delta website that if I am a kind-hearted Canadian, that my bike goes free? I bet you can’t see that bit from our computer there eh?”
And we are off!
We can save a bit of time with the understanding that the flight from Newark to Atlanta was uneventful. We landed at Hartsfield, found a breakfast burrito, and some *ahem* coffee *ahem* and got on to the gate. Via the airline app we followed our bags from the plane to actually watching them being loaded onto the plane for Cozumel. In the boarding area we were lucky enough to meet 4 or 5 other GFNY races, and talk about their expecations for Sunday, tell them about the GFNY race in NYC, and have a few laughs. And we were off again, and this time on our way to Mexico for real. #Toto has been going to Mexico annualy for the last 30 years, so, as we traveled, he regailed me with tales of great food, and friendly people, where and how to find the Oxxo in every neighborhood. He was teeming with excitement to get back to one of his favorite places, and I was excited to be seeing someplace I had never been. We were both excited to know we would be meeting Tom on the other side when he arrived later that afternoon.
A pleasant surprise as I scanned my boarding pass. Starting off on the right foot. Our bikes being loaded for Cozumel, and the shoreline as we landed. A Led Zeppelin style arival on a rockstar plane, as #Toto disembarks. It was here that we realized, we were both a little overdressed for the sun and sand!
The airport was all GFNY! Cyclists from all over coming into this beautiful island to be part of the #GFNYFallSeason. #Toto and Jouqin our guide and van concierge. #PoolGFNY our backyard for the next three days!
We quickly settled into our Villa, right on the race course I might add, and got busy setting up rooms, and figuring out where the Oxxo was. For anyone that saw our silly Facebook “Live from the Oxxo” you know that it’s the staple convenience store on the Island. They were everywhere, and there was one close by. #Toto had promised me that Mexica Fritos were better than American Fritos, and I was determined to make him prove it. So we set off to get provisions prior to Tom’s arrival. Tom had a slightly more complicated set of logistics coming from the desert of California, but about 2 hours after our arrival, there he was, and we were celebrating as if we were back at Villa Lina in Terracina, or back at Gavia in Englewood Cliffs, or out on 9W, or whereever it was that the three of us had spent so much time, cycling, chatting, enjoying all the good fortune that cycling had brought us in our lives. We got our collective act together and made our way through town to find a great food joint, a local place just outside of the more touristy areas, we tried the local specials, and really started to get a feel for how special Cozumel was. It was time to walk it off through the main town square and down to the water. This was part of the miracle of Cozumel — everything was close to us, we walked pretty much everywhere that we didn’t bike. And all throughout spotted other racers soaking in the atmosphere.
It didn’t take long for us to meet other racers, that were in from all over Mexico, parts of the states, you name it. They were there in the center of town posing with the giant GFNY letters, and basking in the glory of the race atmosphere, with the knowledge that the work would soon be upon them, and us. To reach the finish line, would not be trivial, and it was the only thing that would make the trip complete.
A fantastic local meal. We stopped for a nightcap. When I asked for an orange soda, the bartender replied, “yes, I will get you one, I am sorry, are you sick?”
With dinner and the evening’s entertainment in the bag, we rallied back to the Villa and got our bikes assembled. The boys could see the wear and tear of the late nights, early mornings, and multiple flights that week catching up with me.
Group ride at 7AM tomorrow. Starts at the Interncontinental. Guess we need to leave a 6ish?
Dude — you aren’t making that group ride — there’s no way! You’re a mess!
This circular argument went on for a bit as I was nodding off in the middle of pleading my case. Finally it was up to bed. Little known — or in some circles widely known — fact about your humble narrator, is that I am terrified of living things that are smaller than me. With the exception of rodents, which I don’t seem to have a problem with, anything else sends me into a psychological tailspin. I had asked #Toto if he would be kind enough to do a Secret Service type sweep of my room to make sure there were no scorpions. I kid you not — I am absolutely, positively that unhinged. #Toto reassured me — he was correct of course — that this was not my weekend to encounter a scorpion. I am not sure seeing one would have stopped me from sleeping anyway.
The cry echoed from the bottome of the stairs as I descended them at the crack of 9:30. Most of the roosters in the neighborhood had moved on from crowing to their lunch, and the group ride — over. Missed it! In review with several people at the expo, it was great ride with huge turnout, but I have failed you in that I can tell you absolutely bugger all about it as I wasn’t there. And so we chowed a little on the local groceries, got ready, and got out for a ride. We found our way past the expo, and went in short search for #thehardestworkingmaninshowbiz — Maciej! He was out on the route, so we wouldn’t see him until the next day at the finish. The hash tag says it all. We headed out on the route, and worked on developing our rhythm through the first part of the course, and out to where the turn for the King of the Headwinds sector of the race was, where we found a place called Rasta’s. It looked like a great place to have a coke, and maybe lunch. And so food was on. Shrimp tacos, a coke, some fritas and we were back on the road. Feeling the heat, and knowing what it would feel like during the race. We headed back toward the expo and packet pickup.
Lunch at Rasta’s. Erik our host let us know that his whole family would be racing tomorrow. He was at the turn on Sunday cheering — like everyone else in Cozumel it seemed.
After touring the expo, packet pickup and a brief meet and greet with Shaun, we were back to the Villa. Ari Dee was going to meet us for a pre-race dinner. Pacho’s backyard. From what we could tell, the Cracker Barrel of Mexico on the outside, we entered through a gift-shop, and were lead into a grand room with an indoor/outdoor grotto. Iguana’s making their way through the palms just outside, we were seated and ready to eat. With contemplation of the race, there were mulitple cries for “aroz” (rice) — the carb in the mythical carb loading. And if it didn’t work so what — it tasted good and we were on vacation. But the meal was unbelievable. Time for the walk back, last prep, write the Lessons of the Fall, and then off to bed. We had a race in the morning.
Me, Tom, Ari, #Toto — the pre-race training table. Notice the bring your own GFNY bottle policy in effect to stay hydrated. Some of us still had scars and burnmarks from the California desert just two weeks before.
We were ready for our last race of 2018. The GFNY 3x. Finishing tomorrow would be the capper on an unbelievable fall. Finishing well would be almost too much to ask. We had discussed over and over the strategy of the negative split. The atmosphere in the starting corrals was electric. Drones overhead photographing the racers, bike envy left and right, people from all over the world gathered to race. We were numbered in the 1300’s so it would take a few minutes for us to roll. With the long route being in with the medio route, it became evident quickly that we could use the size of the field to create our speed without redlining our efforts. We were determined to be disciplined. 5–7 minute pulls. No one pull-hogging, lest we have to drag the hog to the finish line with his tail between his legs, hearing the oft uttered “aww crap, I went out way too hard”. There would be none of that today. We would need every ounce in the noon-day sun to finish strong.
And so we rode. And we stuck to the plan. We used the force of the field to help us through, while watching elites roll past us on the left, we navigated from group to group, minding our own pulls and staying a tight band of three making our own way when we had to. We had a strategy, and we were staying disciplined. In the wind we were careful to make sure that the random movement of the field didn’t disrupt our echelon. Tom and #Toto figured out a perfect formation, but as the wind started to shift, we had to shift back into a straight pace line. We rolled right through all the aid stations without stopping and headed straight back to the mid point of the course. We continued to use every group we could to ensure that we were working at the right level. As we hit the start line/mid point we were all out of water, and so after the line we would hit the first aid station, as there would be no water or aid until after the KOW.
Our stop was fast and efficient. Choking down a little bit of food, and hitting the WC as quickly as possible, we were on our way. Discipline. It was a thing today. I heard #Toto on my wheel — three minutes Chris, and I will pull on — I acknowledged with a thumbs up on my right hand and we made the big right turn onto the road that would take us back to the KOW. There was no car traffic here, and the traffic throughout the race, was under strict control. It hits me now, that I didn’t think about a car, pretty much the whole day while we were racing. We were just racing. With the medio folks now left behind at the finish line, the spaces had opened up, and we were now completely under our own power. Discipline. Shifts. Surf the draft.
At the time that I drifted back, and looked to take the third spot in our line. There was a group of “blind dates”, 6 long, now benefiting from the Gavia power that was moving us at a nice clip. They wouldn’t let me back in, and so I drifted to the back of the line, with the intention that — if they work, they can stay, if they don’t we are going to have to get rid of them. They were too big a group to have freeloading, especially with the wind coming up. As I drifted back, I looked at the last in line and said with a circling motion of my finger “trabajo junta”. This was my Google translate version of “everybody works”. He nodded as if to say I got it! The group was now having issues keeping consistent pace behind Tom and #Toto. There was a lot of coasing, and a lot of quick pedaling to get back on. With the road clear, I rode up the left side, and tried to cut back in. They weren’t having it. Meanwhile, #Toto was complete on his pull, and as the big diesel engine that is Tom, started to turn on the front, #Toto started to slip off the back. I dropped back and #Toto and I reconnected with the group.
It was time to put a stop to this. BASTA! I rode up to Tom and gave him the news on how things were shaking out behind him. He slowed, and we pulled off to regroup.
Let’s get our group back together and finish with these guys.
I made the motion with my finger again.
Trabajo junta! Trabajo junta! Everybody works, LET’S GO! You work, or you’re gone!
The ringleader of the group looked at me and laughed.
So, you’re the boss eh? I can’t chase? I can’t chase.
I think he meant he couldn’t pull. Either way, he was telling us that he wasn’t going to be doing any work, and that we should do what we wanted.
Ciao, ciao, ragazzi — we will see you later.
We slowed, and dropped back, and regrouped with #Toto. We were under our own power again and pulling back along the right of the group we just dropped. They were starting to struggle, and we motored by them quickly. They naturally, saw the new opportunity and jumped back on. As #Toto went forward for his pull, I went with him on the opposite side.
I got it Mac, it’s ok!
I was just holding Tom’s spot so that these guys wouldn’t shut us out again. #Toto understood, and quickly set in to pulling us up, toward the KOW sector, shortly before I took over, and we kept motoring through the wind. We were now headlong into the late morning headwind, and we had dropped our new friends for good.
The tactics were frenetic in trying to keep things together through the KOW. With fits and starts, we got the group to the next aid station intact. We broke for water and tried to get back out quickly. Now moving quickly not only meant the pace of the race, but also meant not boiling in the heat. The longer we stood still, the hotter it got. By the time we left the aid station, I was 80% through the bottle I had just refilled. We had 40KM to go.
It was now down to Tom and I doing a hard push to the finish line. We took shifts of two to three minutes each, and kept passing racers as we made a determined push to get to the line. We were worried about #Toto, but somehow knew he had waived us on. He was not far behind as we found out, and did a solid race! Through the streets of Cozumel, with kids and families on every corner, cowbells, noisemakers, jumping up and down waving yelling. It was unbelievable.
As my heart rate went to the limit, the last 30KM would now be a test of how hard could I push. How much would I allow myself to suffer. When would I fade. HEY STOP THAT — YOU WILL ONLY FADE IF YOU THINK YOU WILL FADE — SO KNOCK IT OFF!
We kept hammering. With 10KM to go, Tom put hand on my back, as if to tell me, how well I was doing, how great it was to be out here together. Without a word, I understood. Wee were careful not to overcook the turns as we wound though the city, past the Villa, around past the airport and the bigger hotels, and back toward the finish line. With the 5KM markers in site, I heard from Tom that he was getting some cramping. This was the last race of 2018. I took off. I pushed as hard as I could, as hard as I had left into the final five kilometers. I kept thinking that this was the kind of suffering that defines the race. It defines your character in the race. It’s what you will think about when you decide if you have let yourself down, or if you have left it all out there. I went into the final turn like a man posessed. Determined to cross the finish with the same vitality as I had in the first lap. I stood up as I made the final left, and drove my power through the roof as I did a sprint for the finish, as if Sagan or Cavendish was right beside me with their elbows out, I pushed hard and screamed as I crossed the people-lined finishing area and stopped my computer. 4:59 moving. I had beaten five hours moving. I didn’t think this was possible.
As I crossed, I drifted and spun my legs, and then looped back to try to find the finish area. It was obvious when you were soft pedaling, but I couldn’t see it as I was going however fast I was going as I finished. There was Tom. He was right behind me. We went and got our finisher medals and a coke, parked our bikes and waited for #Toto. He was not long after and the gang was all together. There were more cokes, tacos, and a trip to Oxxo before we went #PoolGFNY before dinner.
If you read the Lessons of the Fall, you know that we have been building up to this. The #GFNYFallSeason, #PoolGFNY, #SurfGFNY, #ridingintoform, the three timer, the double — double — it’s been an amazing progression of training, racing, and always having a reason to keep going. Keep training, keep building, and being in love with the process. Looking forward to 2019, I go into the “base miles season” with more strength and confidence than I have ever had. Like a snowball effect, building into the next race, the next travel adventure, the next medal, the next finish, and in between, the training that makes all of it worth while. The process and planning that provides for a finish line smile. The difference in a finish, and a great finish!
And speaking of great finishes. I was guaranteed and end-to-end, show. #Spettacolo from touch-down to take off. With the 3x medals and all of the finish line ceremonies, we were unable to connect with the right people at the finish area for our 3x medals, and the #PoolGFNY was waiting. When we saw Shaun at Senor Frog’s for the recovery party that night — he told us — you are not leaving this Island without those medals — text me when you are on the way to the airport.
The Airport 3x medal ceremony! The finishing touch on an awesome weekend of racing and race festivities!
The unbelievable, unsinkable, confident steps of a person that set out to do something, paid the price along the way, and had two cups of coffee and a three timer medal to show for it.
With our sights now turned on GFNY Italia and Toscana in 2019, those basemiles will be more meaningful, the goal will no longer be focused on a finishing time. No longer focused on the result itself. The goal will be putting in the preparation required to be pleased with the result no matter where and how it is. To continue to to be in love with the process.
With Gratitude! Grazie a tutti — 2018! #GFNYFallSeason #PoolGFNY #SurfGFNY #GFNYDoubleDouble #GFNYEuropeanDouble #LetsKeepRacing #GFNY2019Season #BeReady #BeAProForADay
Next Up: The Second Italian Job Begins — Special interviews, strade bianche and more!
The 2018 Cast — Gratitude
Alicia, Christine, and Ginny Geiser, (as well as Marvin, Midsy, and Moonie)
Mom, Dad, Trish, Fran, Paul, Joe, Tom, Tat, et al
Tim and Rebecca
Uli, Lidia, Mirko, Shaun, Ana, Kenny, and Maciej the hardest working man in show biz
Tom, Nancy, #Toto, Aleksandra, Adrienne, Mike C., Jack Foster, Frank, Nairo, Paul, Benny, David Henick, Michael Lyach, Michael B, Ari, Clarence
The Broleurs, Andy, Steve #ParisRoubaix
Noel, Luis from Puerto Rico #PiriPiri
Lisa, Bob, Bill
The Lewis’ at Fusion
Mechanic Matthieu in Malaucene
David H. in Melbourne
Cicli De Rosa
If I have forgotten anyone, I am very sorry, but rather than accepting my apology, please accept my gratitude!