Mark’s big adventure

I was recruited by Darryl Smith, long time member of IC3 to race with ChristianCycling for the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, AR last weekend.  It was truly a weekend of Fun, fellowship and frustration.  I’ve known Darryl for years from various group rides and knew he was Christian.  When he asked me last January about doing this race with his team I gave it serious consideration. As a new member of the Masters squad of Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada Cycling team, I needed permission from the President, Tim Zsoka…..Granted!   I told Darryl I was in and to book me a flight for whenever he was going. I showed up to his home late Wednesday night and met his beautiful and lovely wife, Tanya.  Darryl was just finishing dismantling his bike for the trip and he was negotiating a large deal at work while completing this task. A true muti-tasker, Darryl worked that deal Wednesday night, Thursday morning on the way to the airport, Thursday at out layover in Vegas, Thursday afternoon on the drive from Tulsa to Fayetteville, “Please turn down the radio”, he’d blast to Mike Creamer(who picked us up) and me as he relentlessly called the client, his CEO,client, CEO, Etc.  Then he worked it some more(until about 10pm) as we lay in the 8 man dorm, then the following morning (Friday) before our Warm up ride. Then that night After our warmup ride.  In his defense, it was a weekday….and he was working!  I have a bit of newfound knowledge about the electronics manufacturing business, margins, sales, etc.  I hope Darryl can one day hire me when I’m homeless and living on the street!

Friday morning warm up ride:


Eric, Zack, Arron, Matt, Mark, Robbie, Tim, Mike & Darryl warming up

As IC3 rented a beautiful home in the middle of Nowwheresville, Arkansas; miles down to the bottom of a dirt road,  we were all at the mercy of a car to bring us to where the pavement and cycling begin.   At 7am we assembled the bikes and loaded up all of our gear(there were nine of us in three cars) and motored to Fayetteville for a fine breakfast. Afterwards, we went to the start of Saturdays Time Trial, located in the bottom of an Arkansas hollow in Devil’s park.  Since none of us are a fan of Satan, no one touched on the irony here, but the evil one is always messing with us and this was no exception.  A pre-race warm-up ride for us old fellas is 1 to 1.5 hours of endurance(moderate-easy) pace with 3-5 minutes of VO2 done in 20 second to 1 minute intervals….just enough to open up the muscles for the following day.  The nine of us get on bikes and immediately I notice my Garmin is not working….oh that Devil!   So I feel naked without my stats: Power, heartrate, distance, cadence, etc.   The easiest warm up out of the hollow is the TT course: 6.8%, 2.7 mile hill…nice warm up.   Some of the guys go hammering up it with out any warm up.  I go harder than I wanted as I am a fragile old man that has a certain way of doing things long ago engrained into my soul.  My knee immediately starts to hurt, but I don’t want to be a downer, so I suck it up and ride with Darryl…..not happy. We piddle around at the top and some decide to go back(Tim ,Eric and ??), but Matt, Mike, Darryl and I venture onto the Saturday Afternoon Road Course loop and proceed to check it out.  Darryl flats 6 or seven miles in and luckly there was another racer there who parked nearby and said he’d pick Darryl up and bring him back to Devil’s hollow(my name for it).   Our fearless ride leader(who wasn’t racing that weekend), Matt, looked at his phone GPS and determined that at this point we could go either way back to the car, as we were in the middle of the loop.  We decided that we might as well finish the loop to check it out.   Matt is a former cat 3 or 4 Road and Cross racer but has had to take time off racing for health reasons.  A good guy and a good rider, but terrible navigator. An hour later a we were still riding the loop I looked over to him and said, “Really?  Really?  Six one way, half dozen the other?”   he of course apologized for messing up the warm up ride and immediately went to the front in the wind and did the lion’s share of the work to get us back to the car……a noble gesture.  So Mike and I did a 2.5 hour warm up ride the day before an extremely hard day…..Oops.   The Devil was laughing!

We got home at nearly 4pm from our morning “warm-up” ride, and Tim and friends prepared a wonderful dinner.  We shared prayer, fellowship, etc and watched Darryl work his deal.

I hadn’t been sleeping the entire week before this event.  I think the anticipation of the agony I was about to endure was keeping me up at night.  As I said to TIm the Anxiety our Lord Jesus felt the night before his last day was so intense he literally sweat blood in anticipation of the pain he was going to experience.  Mine was nothing like that(thankfully), but I was nervous, and I knew tomorrow was going to hurt.   To make my insomnia worse, we had 40+A group racer, Eric Balog(not an IC3 member) in our bunk house with us.  Eric is a nice guy, a cycling coach and an excellent racer.  He is also experimenting with fueling before races. He set his alarm to remind him to eat in the middle of the night.   This is no big deal as what ever helps…right?   But when you’re suffering from insomnia and you hear the alarm go off and then the rustling of wrappers, chewing, etc; every sound seems exponentially louder than it actually is: the snoring, the eating, the breathing…..  I drifted off to sleep sometime right before it was time to get up.   I heard Eric’s fuel alarm go off just after I woke up…yippee!


Mark rocking the grade on the Time Trial

Mark rocking the grade on the Time Trial

I won’t go into the TT other than I was tired and it hurt.   I think Eric won the TT for the 40+ A’s(no surprise there), and I managed to get a third place in 50+ A’s…….which was a surprise considering how poorly I felt….nice!

Next up was the Road Race.  63 miles and 5400 feet of climbing.  Nine and a half miles out to a 22 mile loop, which we do twice, then nine and a half back to the finish.  They Combined the 40+ guys with us and I knew that would make it harder…..darn!   Sure enough, it was hard.   The attacks came at every climb.  The climbers put me in the pain cave early.   I made sure that I was in the front at the beginning  of every climb and then would drift back in the pack during the assent.   This helped me save every ounce of energy, as I knew I needed to finish with the lead pack to hang on to my third place GC.   Darryl was still there after the first lap which was impressive as he is a big guy (195lbs) and those climbs were hard and fast.   The second time around was worse.  My new midnight alarm clock, Eric attacked up every hill and put me deep into the hurt locker.  “I forgive him Lord” I thought as he did it again and again.   There was so much wind no attacks could stick(as there was an early one which we brought back).

Darryl, Mark and Chad looking good in the Master's "A" Road Race.

Darryl, Mark and Chad looking good in the Master’s “A” Road Race.

I began cramping at mile 47(I’m a cramper) but ate what electrolyte tabs I didn’t drop on the asphalt and drank as much as I could(six bottles total).  I hung on to what was only 14 left in the front group.  We lost Darryl and the majority of the pack with him. I knew I had nothing left for the group sprint finish, but if I could not let a time gap go between me and them, I’d keep my third GC.   I did it!   Unfortunately I wreaked havoc on my legs, GI track, etc and was thoroughly dehydrated and spent.   I sat on the bumper of our van for an hour and a half waiting for Darryl to want to leave so that we could eat and start the recovery process for Sunday’s crit.  He was toasted too, but not as uptight as me(and Eric) about recovery food and drink.

Rough night again as I was too tired to sleep and I had to eat my Imodium AD just to not go to the bathroom every 10 minutes…..I was toast.   The good news is that Eric was fine and kept his midnight refueling schedule to be able to compete at a high level the next day.


Mark looking good the second time through.

Mark looking good the second time through.

I felt better on Sunday morning. We realized that all of our gear would not fit into Mike’s van as we now had three complete bikes not in there boxes and had to bring the boxes with us as we were heading straight to the airport after the race.   Mike decided not to race the crit as he wasn’t feeling well so with one bike packed, we were still a bit short on room.  We stuck the boxes in our van and loaded Darryl’s and my bikes onto Matt’s car.  Matt also brought, Zack, Eric and Patrick….plus gear.   Zach’s race was before ours so they left before us. We got to the crit and signed in.   the course looked hard as it had a hill, but it also had a nice to descent to recover.  After getting dressed, with a hour and fifteen minutes before the race we realized that our bikes were with Matt, on their way to the airport.  He had forgotten to unload them in his haste to drop off Zack and hurry Patrick to the airport.  So now I’m worried. Then we have an hour to go…50 minutes…40 minutes…30 minutes..”Forget it, I’m not racing!  It’s too late! I can’t warm up for this race in that amount of time!”  I whine to Darryl.  Finally the bikes show up…. 22 minutes to the whistle.  “Come on you can do it!” says Darryl.  I look at Matt and say, “You’re working really hard to make sure I don’t do well this weekend huh?”  “Sorry” is all he can say.  Forgiven!

But . . . by the next lap, he was ready for an exit.

But . . . by the next lap, he was ready for an exit.

I get on the bike and can’t find anywhere to warm up and then find the “Cycle ops” neutral trainers for all to use.  18 minutes to go.  I see Dennis(another IC3 racer, a cat 4) who is in the race AFTER mine already on one of the trainers….great.  I get the bike on there and start spinning.  I feel terrible.  Time runs out, but I feel a little better, so I give it a go.   The whistle blows.  I’m dying the first time up the hill, but make up for it by bombing the downhill as they slow for the 40 mph left hander at the bottom. I pass nearly everyone and am back in the top three.  I do the hill again and it is worse.  Not faster, I just feel worse. Then Deja vu on the descent. Third lap is the same but I decide my body can’t deal with the lactic overload and the fact that my O2 motor never turned on. I raise my hand in defeat so to not get run over by the pack and pull to the right…. off the course….I was done.  DNF(Did not finish). So I lost my podium spot and was not listed in the results.
It took me twelve hours to get back home as we drove to Tulsa, flew to Denver, then San Diego, then Oakland, then drove to Darryl’s in Pleasanton, then finally to Granite Bay(home)…then to bed. Long day, Wonderful trip.  I met a bunch of awesome people and had a great experience!  IC3 Guys:  Thank you for having me race for your team and our Lord, Jesus Christ.   Thank you for the kindness, fellowship and friendship.  Thanks for the hard work of organizing this event and the accommodations.  I would love to spend a long weekend training with you guys and not having the stress of a race hovering over us; to just laugh, pray, ride, read, eat and drink!  That would be fun.  Thanks for reading!

-Mark Foster