The last two weekends have seen me toeing the line at races. Weird, as the sun’s shining and there are leaves on the trees. It burns a bit, on the eye parts, but everyone seems OK w/it, so… Last weekend at Lewis Morris H2H, I had a shot at 5th place. (Or so I kept lying to myself so I wouldn’t just throw the bike into the woods and lie there weeping.)
But instead of heroically launching myself down the tube of greatness that is the last 1/2 mile of and into the history books of no library but my own, I followed a fatbike into some rocks I had no business on and flatted my rear. Of course, the Co2 was in the car, so I got to ride the rim in. Still beat someone in the sprint, but, to be fair, I think he’d taken a bullet in the neck from a sniper.
This week was DIFFERENT, I told myself. Rocks, yes. Technical, where Lew Mo was like getting a prostate exam from a doctor with really, really tiny fingers. But with some planning and a bit of smartness, I could get it done. Survival, anyway, was possible. So I prerode! Which I never, ever do. If I don’t preride, my excuse is right there – I didn’t preride. If I do, and I suck, then what do I blame? Myself? Ha! But, said the little voice, what if you preride and you DON’T SUCK? Worth a shot, I says to the little voice, knocking back two of the pills that’re supposed to keep that under control.
What I learned from my preride:
1) It’s rad. You won’t see any of what’s out there when you’re racing. If you do, it’s usually because you’ve crashed.
2) You do ACTUALLY notice things that make a difference in a race. Like that great line up a hill with a STICK pointed out into the middle of it that goinks you on the head, but you’d never have known that unless you, wait for it, prerode.
2.1) You get to ride with other people, only it’s social. Plus, if they’re good (Michael from RedBike, I’m talking about you), you can marvel at what bike handling looks like and try to copy it.
3) It counts as a warmup. Only without doing laps in the parking lot, running over people’s children.
4) You might see a bear. I did. It ran parallel to me for about 20 feet, 20 feet off in the woods, then juked hard and disappeared like a bee in a fan. That was amazing and worth the whole day. (Which is lucky…)
So with that, at 10:15, I was feeling pretty chipper as I lined up with all the other old moderately talented folks. At 10:30 or so, Brian LaRiviere, king of Team Bulldog, after who’s tuchus the race is named and who do all the heavy lifting for the day, hepped us to the opening and closing hours of all for of the CycleCraft locations, and reminded us not to be dicks. Then we raced.
There’s inevitably a stack-up at some point, and, inevitably, some genius 10 riders back who missed the don’t be a dick part has gotta start screaming “Pedal!” and “Rider!”, as if that’s gonna part the sea of frustrated, carbon flavored ambition that hangs off the tail of the poor bastard that blew the uphill,rooty 180 like a hemorroid flag. Needless to say, but it’s fun to say it anyway, so fuck it, that will be the only time the screamer will figure into the race.
The lap is brutal. The rock gardens, so manageable during the preride, at speed have turned into the wedges you’d put at the foot of a catapult before launching burning sheep over the walls of a besieged city. Only in this case, I’m the sheep. I’m not good on rocks. However, I soldier on and lock into a little group that surges through the woods with some pep in it’s step.
Mechanically, I’m a mess. The 2×10 sometimes wants to be a 1×10, or it sheds the chain entirely and becomes a 0x10. Which is fine. At least it’s not a flat. The rear tire, the destroyed Saguaro replaced after the last race with an only partially destroyed Racing Ralph, seems a bit soft, but is holding. No rim clangs yet, so that’s a positive. I have given zero thought to the front tire. (foreshadowing.)
The course feels vaguely like a figure eight, with the first lobe having a few rocks and a lot of swoopy Smokey and The Bandit action, for those so inclined. (Like the Bikeline guy that blew a downhill line, found himself on a ramp and brilliantly styled it!) The second lobe is chewing teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. And a few of these sharp little uphill blips that you can hit with speed.
Lap two, lobe two, with two miles to go and the ramp-styler still in view, I wound it up for one of these blips, put too much of a hitch in my giddyup and overcooked it, ending up on a line with big ‘ol rock on it. Which I hit with all the finesse of Al Gore smooching Tipper way back when. All teeth.
The almost pornographic spray from the front wheel told me everything I needed to know. Batman quick, I deployed my Co2 quickly, but to no avail. More spooge. Game over. I got a tube out, spun it in, lit up the 2nd Co2 cartridge… and bent the Presta valve, allowing all the escaping Co2 to serenade me with it’s song of “You’re done, motherfucker, done done done…” Catchy tune. I’ve heard it before.
Totally lost in the woods, I figgered I should just “ride” it in, which meant putting as much of my weight on the back tire as possible and praying that I didn’t ruin someone else’s race. Worked ok. I got to see Christie and Rich blaze their respective paths of glory and meet some nice people, who were kind, despite my infirmity.
Once back at the Minivan of Shame, I decided to strip down to the my heart rate monitor and skivvies and parade around as if I meant to do it this way, and then I abraded every ear that couldn’t run away quickly with my tale of woe. (Weirdly, lots of folks de-friended me today…)
Then I creeped around the cat 1 start and swore loudly enough, often enough that a man wearing a child as a neckwarmer mentioned that I might wanna shut up with that, because the grimacing boy whose testicles were being crushed by his neck might be scarred for life. Which was valid, in a roundabout way, so I skeddadled.
The ride home was riddled with what-ifs, but they faded pretty quickly. It was a really pretty day, peopled with some familiar, wonderful faces. Very proud of everyone who lined up today. Bulldog Rump is no joke. Speed kills. Rocks hurt. Keeping yer head straight while sorting those two bits of info AND riding well is brilliant. And lots of folks went home happy. I need more than one hand to count all the NJ State Champions I got to hang out w/today. Chapeau to all y’all!