What pain?  I was certain I left the Indian Lakes resort with little left in the energy department leg, and lung-wise.  Keeping the back-to-back thing going with the Masters 50+ and Cat 3, my goal this week was to focus my energy on the 50+, as I was 6th in the points going in, and although I have missed 3 events on the calendar, I calculated that I have a shot for the podium by seasons-end if I work at it.  Wayne Simon IS unstoppable, and I have had some good races with Tom Schafer, so he is the man to beat.  I cannot count out Eddie, as he has been there for every race and John and Fred are riding smart as well.

Been fighting-off something all week long, but I kept training and slept well, so I felt OK race day.  We get the call-ups, and no Tom...Kinda bummed, as I enjoy racing him - yet relieved, as I feel I have a better shot at the 2nd place finish I need for points.  We get the gun, and Wayne and I are neck-and-neck into the first turns.  Wayne makes an unexpected error in the first twisties, and we almost take each other out.  Turns-out that Wayne didn't do the 30+ masters prior, so he had no idea where he was going either.  We made our way through lap-one with me staying close to his wheel, and the sand trap was again a favorite, as I seem to have them figured out thus far (I am sure the carbon tubies help too).

The cheers from the HAC camp certainly help (not to mention the dualing megaphones) as we headed to the "power" portion of the awesome golf course circuit.  Speaking of power, this is obviously where Wayne and his years of road experience come in to play.  He started to gap me pretty quickly, but looking back, we were both gapping the field pretty handily anyway, so I did my best to increase the gap on them as best I can for security.  Honestly, I worked very hard at concentrating on improving my skills like increasing cornering speed, dismounts/remounts, acceleration, etc. while hoping I was keeping Wayne in sight and some distance on the field.  Each lap was pretty uneventful, even when we started passing some the 30+'s.  Its great getting good help/moral support from your fellow competitors (thanks Damon) when they know you're trying to kill-it against Wayne.  As we got to the last couple laps, my lungs were really burning from the effort, and I was really questioning whether to even bother with the 3's and risk fitness for Woodstock Masters.  Once again - face slap - as I was here to race, right?  Crossed the line 2nd to Wayne, which moved me up to 4th in the points - mission accomplished for the week (not to mention the CA$H!).

Lined up for the 3's with the rest of the HAC gang, and I knew it would be a mess in the first couple corners, which it was - I guess there was a pretty big wreck that I was in front of, but it held up a couple of the normally fast front runners.  I was just tooling around having a pretty good time, with Chris in-sight not really aware of where I was placement-wise, but I was picking a few off here, a few there, then some of the faster dudes that got held up in the earlier fracas started passing me, so I tried to respond.  Al Urbanski went by and I followed him as we passed Luke and someone else near the par 5 rock.  Luke took a good run by me on the back straight and the 3 of us went into the esses.  Al goes down - Luke runs over him - but stays upright - I pass them both cleanly and complemented him on the nice "pass".  No sooner do I do this and while working on my "cornering skills", I understeer and go down directly in front of Luke and Al.  My front brake is jammed, and as I jacked with it, I figured out all I had to do was loosen the skewer and re-seat the wheel - duh!

Off I go, and like 8 guys get by me - arrf!  Off I go again and nothing special happens other than I am frustrated and want to just pull off and bag-it.  WTF?  This is supposed to be fun, right?  Push the pedals and shut-up...I get back in it and get passed at the barriers by my friend Kyle who yells "come-on, I thought you were a mountain biker!" - OK, gloves-off now, till I drop my chain at the top of the hill after the last barrier!  I roll down the hill and pull-off, put it back on and first Kevin, then Adrian go by, so its time to get back in the fight...I pass a few guys at the sand (I love the sand), catch up to Adrian, pass Kevin, then catch Kyle (where I retort same) and pass him and a few more...am I hurting - hell yeah - am I having a good time - hells yeah!  It was another stellar race weekend that was not only capped-off by the heckling of teamates and others for the 4's, but another opportunity to see my two boys becoming immersed in this awesome form of cycling.  Oh - and that pain?  I found it earlier today again when I met Ben, Hemme, Julie, Amy and my boys at Palos for a solid 15-20 miles of further agony...doesn't get any better - does it?

 -Al Thom