Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eleventy One and a Halfling.

I woke up at 4am to the unmistakable sound of heavy rain, first hitting the canopy of trees overhead, then pouring down on my hastily flung rain fly.
Just a passing storm, I told myself, and let the sound lull me back to sleep.
By 6am, it had not let up at all and I woke to a river running through my tent. Some of that was the failure to secure my rain fly (convinced as I was that I would not need it) and some of that was the less than level grade I'd pitched the tent in.
There was absolutely no movement from Barynard and Trucker's tent and I figured they were either staying dry until the last minute, or more likely, still slumbering.

When Rich and I arrived at the start Friday evening, everything was looking great. The weather was perfect.... things were dry. We met the Salmans and Jana at Cielito Lindos, where Dicky ate a whole chicken wrapped in a tortilla and we drank the ubiquitous big beers. Then we headed to The Hub to drink more beers and do our best not to notice the super top-secret things that a certain company was trying to keep super top -secret. Apparently Sam had spent the past couple of days filming some promo video for said company. Man... no one came to Revolution to film us debuting their bling. Come on.... we're a big deal!
(I just know it.)
I admit... I did steal a peek.
Ah yes.... I had an inkling that such things were afoot already. 
Spoiler alert: People who like springy things will likely get sprung.

When the river in my tent finally spilled over it's banks into my sleeping bag, I utilized a lull in the deluge to pack everything up and make a run for the car. 
It took every bit of willpower to pull on my bibs and jersey and line up. But I did, and I'm glad.
(But if I hadn't, I don't think I'd have felt any deep pang of regret. It was that nasty a start....) 
Photo: Eric Wever

Nonetheless...I was there, so I rolled out...
The start was pretty tame, everyone still in a "no... are we doing?!" kind of mood. Once we turned off of Hwy 276 onto some gravel, I took off, testing my legs and seeing if I had it in me to create a decent gap on the other singlespeeders. I didn't feel bad... but I wasn't super confident in my day: Wet and nasty in Pisgah coupled with being sick earlier in the week coupled with no real saddle time save for the three races I've showed up to. I wanted to do well, but was prepared to do badly. Then there was the specter of doubt cast by Rich's question the day before....
"Why are you riding rigid?"
I. Don't. Know.
Because I don't have a suspension fork? Yeah yeah. Sure sure... I have a shop and could easily procure one. But it hasn't been high on my list of...things.
Why wasn't he riding a rigid fork? I mean.... he rode one at PMBAR? And why was he saying it like that?
Being a crappy descender, I'm not even sure how much advantage a squishy fork would have been. I'd already seen Rich disappear down Black two weeks ago on his rigid while I puckered, squeaked and squawked my way down on a full-squish Salsa Spearfish. (Which ruled, by the way).
If anything, I was banking on the rigid bolstering my confidence and "skillz" for the future.
That's what I told myself, anyway.
Rich hike-a-biked past me climbing Black... at which point I knew that unless he had a total meltdown, he would be staying way ahead of me for the duration of the race.
As it turns out... he did not and despite his mcrib issue, felt great all day.

My only hope was to hold off Mark Sacketsquatch and try to keep my second place.
Coming into aid station one, Tom VanDevender told me Dicky was less than five minutes ahead. "Meh," I said. "Where's Jason Morgan? I just want to beat him today."
Jason had passed me on Turkey Pen when I decided to ride off of the trail and fall down the bank into a tree.

Photo: Brad O Allen

Surprisingly, I managed to stay relatively upright for the bulk of the 111k. My biggest fall came toward the bottom of Black. Hiking up the other side, I looked back and saw a rider making quick progress. Sh*t!... that looks like Sackett! Not this close to the finish, damnit! I picked up my pace as much as possible and let go on the downhill way past the point of recklessness. Right at the transition from gnarly to nothing is a final, rooty switchback to the right. I'd seen Zack easily clean a line on the inside at PMBAR and figured I'd give it a shot. 
It did not go well. 
I went down hard. 
But I knew Mark had to be close behind me, so I untangled myself from my bike and got moving, reaching in my bibs to see if everything was intact. Yep. Tender... but intact. 
I managed to cross the line second single speed... (only what? 40 minutes behind Rich? Pshaw)
When he'd passed me initially, he'd told me that this course catered to his strengths, and he was right. He's a good descender... he can chicken walk away from anyone on the hikeabike... he's light enough to climb nimbly on the trails.... My only real strength is that having weathered crushing depression for years, I can typically manage to just keep on keeping on, however bad I feel. That and to make up time on gravel road climbs. And while there was a little of that... it wasn't a course that favored me. Plus...he was out for blood. Yeah... I know I said I was... but that was just pillow talk.
Come on... we all know I'm just a poser with all this... (on so many levels).... just trying to play with the big boys.
So I was pretty happy with my 2nd place.
Photo: Eric Wever

After cleaning up in the river, I stuck around until Jana finished... eating burritos, drinking beer and falling asleep in a lounge chair. (No one sharpied me, thankfully)
At this point I was pretty convinced that I was NOT going to stick around for the 55.5k on Sunday.
After crashing in Sunset Motel with the Redneck Swede and Sauer Puss, still convinced I wasn't racing, I somehow found myself toeing the start line the next morning.
In the rain.
3 minutes to the start I noticed that my right pedal was coming apart. No time to fix it.
Instead of climbing on the road, this time we headed straight up Black. I took off, seeing if my legs had anything left in them.
They didn't.
I was walking within 5 minutes.
When I watched just about every single speed contender pass by I kind of shrugged. Maybe I'll make up some time later. Maybe not. Either way... I'm in this thing til the finish, I reckon.
After hiking for a bit, we finally turned off onto Turkey Pen. If it was a mess on Saturday, it was a trainwreck on Sunday. I went down no less than 4 times in the slop. Even walking up hills was hard.
Compounding it all was the fact that with the pedal coming apart, there wasn't enough tension to keep my right foot in.
Kent Cranford and Tom Vandevender of Motion Makers Bicycles were once again manning aid station 1. They flat out ruled. "Kent man... can you fix my damn pedal?" I asked, rolling up to the tent.
He worked quick and in five minutes, had managed to pull the thing back together (no easy task) and get the bolt back in.
Off I rolled, feeling pretty good. Was I going to catch anyone? Probably not. But I was having fun again.
Sloppy conditions prevailed, culminating in the most epic descent I've ever experienced. Pushing my bike up Laurel, the sky opened up. By the time I started coming down Pilot, there was no trail... only a river.
Oh well.... I just aimed for the deepest part and held on. It was nuts.
That morning, using Eric and Morgan as a sounding board, I rationalized.... "this will probably take like... 5 hours, right? Maybe less?"
6 hours and 48 minutes later I crossed the line, 6th place Singlespeed. Sure... I'd have liked to have done better, but I wasn't too bothered. It had been a good day.
Morgan rode strong and took the day and Eric came in 12 minutes ahead of me. Good job, you bastardos.
Garth Prosser, Morgan, some dude, and race promoter Eric Wever, who happend to take 4th place in every category.
Thanks to Eric Wever for a wonderfully brutal event. Thanks to all the awesome volunteers. Thanks to Brad for riding in and taking tons of great photos Thanks to Sam and Jordan at the Hub for always hooking it up. Thanks to Kent and Tom at Motion Makers for their great support. Thanks to everyone who lined up at the start of each day. Thanks to the cops who pulled me over and breathalyzed me on the way out of Pisgah Forest. (I'm kidding... about the "thanks" part. (after telling them that these weren't the droids they were looking for, they sent me on my merry way.))
Thanks to the lovers, the fighters and all revolting cogs everywhere.

And thanks to GIT SOME for being my soundtrack for the weekend and gitting me through it.

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