From the gun, I couldn't get clipped in. It turned out that one of the screws holding the cleat to my shoe was loose and wedging between cleat and pedal. When I took the shoe off afterwards, hardware just fell out onto the ground.
I did manage to clip in eventually, but by then 50 yards of emptiness separated me from the tail end of the peleton. With an all-out sprint, I closed the gap at the first turn, but came into the corner with too much speed, braked too hard, and then had to sprint again to catch back on. How awkward. And exhausting.
After that, I was dangling off the back like Michael Jackson's
baby over a railing.
Spaces kept opening up in front of the guys in front of me. I closed a few, but did it ever cost me...
After five or six laps, I popped like the housing bubble.
Was gapped like a Lauren Hutton dental impression.
Spit out, unceremoniously, like Amy Winehouse's gum...
I crashed like the 17th century tulip market.
Got dropped like acid...
... at Woodstock.
Broken, like health care.
Oh well. My huevos rancheros were delicious.
And with each ego-bruising defeat, I learn something new. Fitness and riding skills are only necessary conditions for success in cycling. A thousand details have to be exactly right in order for your fitness and skill to make a difference.
Riding over to Clarendon that morning, I had serious troubles clipping in. I chalked it up to my own incompetence. (Usually a good bet.) Why didn't I inspect my pedal, shoe, and cleat? Why??? Why??? I could have fixed the problem in seconds with my house key. Then it would have taken former olympian Nima Ebrahimnejad and DC-area legend, "Super Dave" Osborne at least ten laps to drop me.
Lesson learned: if something is bothering you about the mechanics of your setup, don't ignore it. Take care of it.