by Joe Ison (Giga OM-ARO Pistachio Cycling Team)
6/5/13 – Getting Ready
Here I sit on my couch the night before flying out to Oklahoma for the Tulsa Tough. I have mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness, anticipation, stress, and most of all, that feeling of just wanting to get to that start line and race!
It was kind of a stressful day, as I had to get last minute things together; not the least of which was packing my bike, which I’d never done before. I know it’s relatively simple, but if you’re like me, you have to pack, check, re-check, and re-check your double check, just to make sure that you brought everything.
Nonetheless, I am trying to channel all this energy and use it to focus on prepping for the race. The last two months of training/racing/recovery have all been for Tulsa Tough. Why this race, you ask? Well, for one, I’ve never been to Tulsa, or any part of the mid-west. One of the cooler things about bike racing is being able to travel and race in places that I usually wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to visit. To Bend, Oregon, for example and the Cascade Cycling Classic, or Boise, Idaho and the Boise Twilight. I’m hoping this is the case with Tulsa Tough as well.
Needless to say, I’m pretty darn excited about getting to that start line on Friday night.
6/6/13 – Travel Day
The flight was uneventful. My Giga OM-ARO Pistachio Cycling teammate, Zach Scott, and I were in relatively chill moods throughout the day. For the both of us, it was the first time we’ve ever had to pack and travel with our road bikes and we were worried that they wouldn’t make the journey. A few other guys, Fergus Tanaka (Chica Sexy) and Willie Meyer (Marc Pro Strava), had made other travel arrangements and would be arriving later. Fergus Tanaka was invited to guest ride for our team for Tulsa Tough. We’ve been good racing buddies for a couple of years now, and welcomed him on the team for the weekend’s races. He drove out with Willie Meyer from Marc Pro. Zach, Fergus, Willie, and I made up the NorCal contingent for the men’s races.
After the many hours of sitting down it was so nice to stretch the legs and we decided to go exploring in and around Tulsa. By bike, of course. The weather was a lot milder than we had anticipated (given the recent storms, we had assumed the worst). After some exploring along the Arkansas River, we decided to check out the infamous “Cry Baby Hill” as well as the figure-8 course of tomorrow night’s Blue Dome Crit. I don’t think I’d ever raced on such a technical course before as Blue Dome (if ever), and we were both a little apprehensive. Excited, but apprehensive.
6/7/13 – Blue Dome Criterium
Crashing with 10 laps to go wasn’t how I wanted my first race in Tulsa to end, but sometimes chance and a misplaced wheel have a way of conspiring against us.
Up until then, I’d found the race to be rather straight forward: fast and technical, with a lot of bunching in the corners. In other words, nothing I hadn’t seen before. I got a decent start, but still had to burn matches to stay in the top 1/3 of the field. About halfway through the race I decided to begin moving up to the front. Man, was it easy once I was sitting top 10, so much less stressful and much smoother than wedged into the accordion that was the center-back of the peloton.
With about 10 laps to go we were 5- or 6-wide going into the last corner. The guy to my immediate right veered left directly into me, boxing me in with no where to go but down on the ground. I fell heavily onto the concrete, curling up into a ball as I hit. My wife, who was watching the live stream at home, later told me that someone ran into my helmet (which explains the cracked helmet), followed by a second rider riding over my back.
I was disappointed, but honestly I was just stoked to be here racing and thankful that my injuries weren’t worse and that my bike was relatively okay.
6/8/13 -Brady District Criterium
This morning I woke up stiff as a board and sore from my bruises and scrape. In the past, I’ve struggled to bounce back after a crash. Day two of Tulsa Tough was no different.
I was bummed out, a bit upset about the crash, and realized I had more road rash than I had previously thought: a silver dollar-sized patch of skin missing on my butt and a chunk of skin carved out of my right hand were equally uncomfortable. I spoke to my wife, dad, and some teammates and was doing my best to take the events from last night in stride. I still had to find a new helmet, as my Lazer Genesis had been cracked in my crash, as well as a new rear derailleur. The helmet I found, but had to make do with a rigged derailleur.
The race started out lightning fast, and never let up, as was to be expected. I found myself at the wrong end of nearly ever move and rolled in anonymously with the pack. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m content with the mental focus/ strength I’ve been able to maintain in times like these.
6/9/13 -River Parks Criterium
I woke up this morning feeling worse than I did yesterday.
On the morning spin with my teammates to get breakfast, I could barely ride in the drops, as my right hand was gashed, which made gripping the handlebars painful. The bandage I put on my palm was sliding all over the place, and even that little thing was frustrating me. In addition, I could barely swing my leg over the top tube to hop on the saddle.
That voice in my head (you know, that one that tells you it’s okay not to start and walk away) was quietly helping me work through the innumerable reasons for not starting. Yes, I was in that much discomfort. Except I did not come to Tulsa to lay in the grass and sip on water. And somewhere between breakfast and getting back to the hotel to chill before race time, I’d decided: if I could pedal it meant I was still able to ride. If I could ride, then I would start. And so I decided I would start.
As I rolled to the start, I was in pain. I decided to go the back way to see the action on Cry Baby Hill before warming up. Wow. Just seeing the crowd on that hill was enough to get me pumped to start the race, although I still wasn’t certain if I’d be able to finish. My teammate, Fergus Tanaka, made me commit to finishing 10 laps, if only to prove to myself that I could. Surprisingly, I managed to hang on for almost half the race! Wayyyy longer than I expected. And while I may not have conquered Cry Baby Hill, neither did I fall to my knees in anguish.
Sitting at the airport in Tulsa waiting for my flight home I have a few moments to reflect on the weekend. Although I am disappointed somewhat disappointed with my results, I am keeping it in perspective. My body will heal, and I will get back to training hard. I’m stoked to have started every race despite my injuries, and I now know what to expect in future editions of Tulsa Tough.
Thanks to my family, friends, and coach for helping me out.
Joe Ison is a 29 year old husband, student and Cat2 with San Francisco-based, Giga OM-ARO Pistachio Cycling Team.