So, what about the 2023 Maine Senior Games? And my participation in the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) cycling road race?
To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure about my readiness going into the event. I didn't prepare as extensively as I had for last year's competition. Certainly, I had a ton of miles in my legs. But with more than 6,200 on the odometer, in reality, were my two lower limbs already toast? And how was all this going to translate into the speed required for such a long period of time?
I was hopeful of capturing a medal. But ultimately, when the big day arrived, I was content with the thought of just trying to do my best and be happy with the results. No matter where I placed. Here's what transpired ...
I was familiar with the course, as it was the same one utilized in 2022. It was a circular route — flat as a pancake — on the former naval air station in Brunswick. With each lap 2.1 miles in length, that meant going around in circles a total of six times.
The race was slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. With travel time, plus the need to get some food down me, and to make sure all of my bodily functions were complete — nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say-no-more, say-no-more — I was up at 5:01 a.m. The alarm had been set for 5:45 a.m.
Upon arrival, I learned there were five dudes in my age group (70-to-74), four of us from Maine and one "foreigner" from Vermont. It was the most populated of any bracket. I believe there were 24 cyclists going for the glory.
I went to the starting line with my brand-new 2023 Trek Domane, the one that feels sleek and fast with its beautiful Deep Smoke color scheme. At around 19 pounds in weight, it is the lightest bicycle in my fleet — which would help, as there was a stiff breeze coming out of the north on race day. The temperature was in the high 40s.
I'd been thinking long and hard concerning my strategy for the contest. Especially after last year's gas burner, where I ended up being the lead-out man for the whole enchilada. I didn't want to do that again. So, I latched onto a group of five cyclists at the start of the lap two and — wanting to keep in everyone's good graces — decided to suffer against the wind by taking the lead position in the paceline. One fellow competitor even said, "nice pull," as I swung to the side, allowing the others to speed ahead of me.
Tucked in behind my group of new friends, I pretty much took it easy throughout lap three — giving my legs a chance to recover. So far, my plan was working to perfection.
Being Mr. Nice Guy again, I resumed my place at the front of the pack at the start of lap four. My thought was to "coast" once more during lap five and then hit the gas pedal at the start of lap six, for a final charge to the finish line. So, nearing the end of the fourth go-around, I took a quick look over my left shoulder. To my surprise, no one was there! I could hardly believe my eyes; I thought for sure they would still be there nipping at my heels.
Throughout the remainder of the race, I kept pushing the pedals hard. Increasing my distance from the original group I started with and even passing other participants.
The result for my efforts? For the second year in a row, I captured the gold medal in the Maine Senior Games. It took me 36 minutes and 35 seconds to cover the 20 kilometers, which was actually two minutes slower than I did it in 2022. But, remember, I am a year older. And I believe the headwind was stronger this time around.
Other details: the next closest finisher in my age group was one minute and five seconds behind me; my average speed for the race was 20.3 miles per hour, and I took seventh place overall in the event.
Obviously, I was quite pleased with how things turned out. More importantly, it was nice sharing my victorious moment with my wife, Vicky. The one person who suffers the most when it comes to all the time I spend on my bicycles. And who understands — more than anyone else — my passion for going for a ride. Thanks for your support and for cheering me on to victory.