I didn’t race. I announced.
Or whatever it is that this is:
Horseshoe Scramble is the last of the NJBA Cross Cup events, and pretty much wraps up the CX season out here in the Garden State. There’s still some racing going on (Limestone Kiln in PA for the Mac Series, Nissaquogue in LI for no good reason at all), but it’s coming to a close. Horseshoe is that last, desperate, hail-mary for those looking for a bump in series points, having a hard time letting go, or who just like riding in inclement conditions better than the short-sleeved season we got this year. Put on by MTBNJ.com with an able assist from the Watchung Wheelmen (loosely attached to High Gear Cyclery), Horseshoe might be as old as five this year? Becoming an institution. And a pretty fine race.
Allison Oishi, one of the long-suffering mehtbehnoodjers (as MTBNJ.com will henceforth be known) and wife of course designer Eric O, thought I might be a good fit for the race, despite my obvious lack of credentials and the likelihood that I’d find a way to crash even while standing around in my street clothes. Flattered, and willing to pretty much do anything if given food, I agreed.
Then I started to panic.
Everyone out there, from the spectators to the officials to the food cart folks to the racers, chose to spend their time and money doing something that almost no one else in the country gives a shit about. So instead of making snarky comments and being the asshole I usually am at run-ups, I wanted convey actual information and give as many shout outs as possible to the riders struggling through their personal hells. I don’t think I did a very good job, but I tried.
There were plans (inside my head and mostly unvoiced) to document my part of the event. I’m nothing if not vain.
These got chucked as soon as I showed up.
My little drama paled against the constantly unfolding Boschian backdrop of other people’s suffering. SO I left the camera in my pocket and when the battery died on my recorder after 45 minutes, I didn’t give a shit. I was busy watching other people work hard and trying my low-end best to give ’em the props they deserved.
The day was long. And cold. I wore fUggs and ALL of my warm stuff. I jammed hand warmers into every pocket and toe warmers into my knock-off boots. I drank tea, I drank coffee, I had a coupla sips of beer but that was too chilly, I ate an awesome Black Bean Burger from the Green Radish food truck, I ate Carrot Cake and cookies. And I blathered on and on and on.
I was extra-horrible during the Men’s A race. 60 minutes, 12 riders, much of the action unfolding on the back half of the course, through a screen of leafless trees that made the it maddeningly impossible to call. Fine when there are 60 people out there, not so good with 12. And while these guys were suffering, it was the suffering of people who are really good at something, so that shared spastic horror that connects us mortals to all but the A fields isn’t there. There’s no bridge to the pain these guys are in. They could be suffering from TB and badger bites to the testicles and still look composed out there.
Dan Larino did try to make it interesting by competing in the 40+ masters men (2nd place), and then immediately jumping into the A race. While it looked for a moment like he was gonna make a go of it, he splintered like a mummy’s shin somewhere around lap two, and plummeted backwards through the field for 45 minutes, a disturbing grin trying to find purchase on his face as he tried to remember his name.
Happily, when Cody LaCosta won, he promptly died on his feet, stumbling around like Don Knotts with the DTs. Much easier to sympathize with!
He went from this:
in about 5 seconds.
(Really fine photos of the actual race can be found and purchased at GTLuke’s site. He froze to death taking them and is buried out near the log-over.)
When we got back to the real people (my people anyway, the flawed and weird) I got back into whatever awful groove I was grinding into the day’s events. Something about the naked suffering of people just starting to race compels sympathy and attention. They haven’t learned when to burn those matches, how to marshal their resources, so they fire everything off immediately and sputter and cough through the rest of the race, flaming out like a failing rocket.
It’s a shock to their systems. And a blast to watch.
Sadly, while it was pretty cold all day, it only started to snow as we were packing up. That did make the drive home interesting, though I only skidded through one intersection. (Minivans are heavy.)
I’m gonna recycle all the race flotsam.
And spend the rest of the day walking around in these! (Thanks Norm!)