Friday, September 5, 2014

Bro, do you even Shenandoah?

I almost didn't go.
Coming up on Friday, I was thinking that stapling my scrotum to a wooden bench would be less painful than doing the Shenandoah 100.
Not to beat a dead horse that was beaten so hard that it long ago became soil that grew food that fed a horse that totally died and was then summarily beaten.. but once again I was staring down the barrel of 100 miles in the mountains on a rigid singlespeed with absolutely no training save for a few "long rides."

And that... was depressing me.

I take a little bit of solace in being that guy who somehow manages to fake his way through this kind of thing. That guy who rests on the laurels of fitness built long ago...back when dinosaurs were terrorizing families and Sleestaks were obsessively hunting the elusive Altrusian Moth (you have absolutely no idea, do you?)
But faking your way through events you're ill trained for still sucks...real hard like.

But let's be honest... I knew I was doing the damned race. I knew it a year ago, even while I was making involuntary sobs with each barely turned pedal stroke, swearing I'd never do this to myself again... grinding my way up those soul-sucking little risers that follow the "death climb." You know... the ones that everybody always forgets to mention? Yeah.
Don't listen to those liars...The deathclimb is an ice-cube to a nipple compared to the pinecone strap-on that is those meadows.
(I... don't.... pine... what?)

And so... after thinking I was so very clever by not registering early, thereby potentially making it "just totally impossible" for me to get in to the event... I nonetheless found myself on just three days emergency contact, category, and tshirt size... and paypaling money to Chrisscottistan.

For the fourth year... although there's some debate as to whether it's the fifth?....La Dorita would be joining me for the weekend.
We left Saturday morning, with me trying to set a record for exactly how many times a person can start a two feet... stop... and then run manically back into the house to grab whatever thing they forgot. (Why is it that I'm really good at all the wrong things?) Once we finally broke free of this pattern, we headed north, stopping for lunch at Blue Ridge Brewery near Charlottesville, VA. There we drank some beers, ate some food and tried to talk about the politics and finer details of oral sex as loudly as possible for the benefit of nearby diners.

Then we continued on to the Stokesville Campground to find a spot and settle in.
We grabbed a space near the top of the grassy knoll... as per Rich's recommendation... and waited for him, Jordan and Bill Nye to pull up in The Hub sprinter.

Don't give me that shit... just because YOU decided to park next to the portapotties.

"By the way....the porta-potty with the blue door and no seat? I call dibs"

Did you know...that Ryan's name is NOT actually Bill Nye?
Of course you didn't. And neither did Bill.

Jordan knows what's up...And it's the portapotties.
Up the hill, just on the other side of the van.

Dan Rapp came over and hung out with us for a bit, clad only in a pair of tiny running shorts and looking entirely too fit for either Rich or mine's tastes. And then after much unsuccessful goading to get Rich, Jordan and Ryan to joing me (or join me, as it were), I went out and rode my bike for a bit, climbing the first section of gravel road and riding the first, fun section of singletrack. Glad I did, because somehow I had absolutely no memory of it from last year. And it gave me a chance to assess all the things I probably should have done to my bike before throwing it on the van.
I tend to push the boundaries of "run what you brung,"

I'm something of a wizard with photo composition, as I'm pretty sure no one has ever taken this picture before.

This guy was easily as big as my hand...
...which I was terrified to put anywhere near him, having heard that mantises eat hands.
Ride back to the campsite. Jump into the swimming hole. Head up to beertown.

I was doing pretty good with water, in that after neglecting proper hydration for weeks, I had been draining bottles since waking up that Saturday. Once the cooler was opened and the kegs of beer tapped, that kind of went out the window. Some might call it witless self-sabotage.... I call it willful realism. Because it's not like I had the legs to turn in anything better than a B minus.

"But why would I need a six pack when I have one right here?"

Are you really drinking Perri-fucking-er, Gordo?

 "Sorry guys. Only winners get personalized towels."

Rich was at least kind of a winner this weekend, as he joined the ranks of select toddlers everywhere in the elusive and prestigious Clean Plate Club.
Good job, buddy! 
Sir Dude...aka Peat... came by for some patriotic bear-hug action.
After many a beer and meatball, and saying hi to the many people we knew, the night was called and everyone climbed into their tents and campers for preracesexyfuntime. Aka. Sleep.

Woke up to the gong and to Chrisscottistan's everrepeating race mix blaring over the PA... and started getting ready to race.
As usual, I was not anywhere close to dressed by the time everyone else started rolling down the the line. Other people might be meticulous about their race prep. My thing is pretty much "Yeah... I'm just kind of pushing my gear into a semi-pile here.. sipping coffee and munching a bagel. Just relaxing and taking my HOLY SHIT!!! THE RACE STARTS IN 3 MINUTES!!!!"

What has an absurdly large adam's apple, one thumb and is goofy as shit?
I am such a fellow.
I lined up next to Dicky, gave other people's tires some squeezes to punctuate my anxiety about running the wrong pressure.... and we were off. There were maybe 3 crashes in the first 500 yards. Always good.
Then we hit the road and started motoring.
I try not to waste any more energy than anyone else is on the paved road leading out of Stokesville. (which is to say, still entirely too much), but I usually try to burn a match or two on the gravel road leading up. And with the new route, which turns onto some singletrack fairly early on, I'm glad I do, because I while it's still a total clusterfuck, it's not as bad as what the folks midpack hit. At least I was able to ride it, while other people were stuck walking. But either way, climbing singletrack at the snails pace set by geared riders is actually more draining than riding it hard. It's like a series of static squats, or wall-sits, where your legs are always firing and never get to extend or relax.

On the fun, fast, swooping descent, Don Powers (Dahn Pahrs) and I got stuck behind a rider who insisted on wasting every bit of momentum and speed he could, which was a little frustrating. I asked to get around him a few times, to which I got no response save for even more braking in turns where there was really no reason to be braking. Whatever. He was either being kind of a dick... (it's a race, bro!) or was just green enough that every bit of his mind-power was focused on not crashing. Wasting energy and risking a crash to get around a squirrely rider didn't seem that important.

As at Wilderness, my nutrition this time would be shoving chunks of Pro-Bars and Bonk Breakers into my face whenever I could. My bottles were filled with pineapple Skratch, a flavor for which I have a certain fondness... reminding me, as it does, of oral sex.
Which is pretty much the best. I mean... amiright?
(Hey Skratch... just send the royalty check to my Caymans account, because you know a ton of people feel a burning need to go and try some pineapple Skratch now.)

I felt pretty rough at the start, sweating copiously almost immediately. But eventually, despite the sweat never ending, I settled into a nice, difficult place.

Unlike pretty much every event I've ever done, where my mojo is a waveform of peaks and valleys...feeling pretty good followed by feeling more horrible than I ever felt possible... This time I just settled into a solid little place of feeling... not good. And I felt that way consistently, which meant I was able to steadily ride in that not-good place, all day long.
Some of the descents were, as always, a little hard on the rigid... but nothing like years past. If anything, for the first time ever, I was actually able to enjoy the downhills.
And the climbs were hard, but my soul was never truly crushed.

Make no mistake... My head tried to go to those dark places more than a few times. But when it would, I'd say "Nope. You know what? We're not going there, asshole... So fuck you!"
And I'd think about music...or skin...sliding flimsy cotton down legs... kissing hip bones, slender necks and tiny scars.
I didn't think about all the times I've failed so hard at being the person I want to be... or about everything I touch turning to shit.. or about the time I tried to die....
Or about any of those many things that turn me inside out on a routine basis.
(At least... not too much)
I just thought... "Fuck.This.Hurts."

I played tag with a number of people all day; Peat, Dahn, Jeff Plassman, Gabor Szilagyi, Ramponi, Young Mike. I never saw Rich, so I figured he was either way ahead of me or way behind me.
The last series of climbs was the only place I started having a really bad day, and I knew that if I just ground it out, it'd be over very soon.
And it was.

I rolled through in 9:03.. only the slightest bit disappointed to have not broken 9 hours.

I grabbed my pint glass, filled it up, and waited for some other riders.
While I was, Thom Parsons asked me some questions about the race... and I dropped some fbombs.

Cleaning off in the swimming hole, two locals came down... Salt of the earth looking dudes with long hair, cutoff shorts and a rough patchwork of tattoos. The kind of guys who love Skynard, cheap beer and pickups. We had a friendly conversation about the bike race, how beautiful this area was and growing up in the south.
After getting out of the water, they bid me a friendly farewell. "You take care now, brother."
And then... raising his fist, he said "And stay white."
Another swimming racer and I exchanged looks. "What else would I do?" the racer asked.
But I knew what the guy had meant... as much as I wished I was wrong.

As I was walking back to the campground, crossing the iron bridge, a pickup drove up beside me...
"Here you go, brotherman" one of the swimmers from before said, offering a Budweiser through the passenger window... which I accepted.
And then, he raised his fist again and said "White power."
As they drove off, they hooted and yelled it again, echoing back and forth between the two of them.

When they were gone, I opened the beer and poured it on the ground. The only weak response I could apparently manage. I kicked myself on the way back to the campsite for being so passive.

I came back, ate some dinner, drank a lot of beer, got a massage and stood near the wood.

photocred: Thom Parsons

That night, during the usual post-race party, I had no pep. I don't know why.
But the beer wasn't getting me drunk, my legs were tired, and I just felt sluggish.
"Remember when Watts used to be fun," Rich asked.

And I wanted to be. I wanted to slap myself, put on a happy face, and go and talk loudly with my friends... tell jokes and laugh hysterically.
But I just couldn't muster it, which disappointed me greatly.

So we went back to the van and went to sleep.

I won't even pretend like I'm not coming back next year. Dicky's making the usual threats... but I know I'll be here. It's a great event.

This Sunday, after going and watching some racing at the Carolina Cup here in Greensboro, I'll be flying out to Vegass for the annual Interbike thunderdome. And this time... I've been coerced into racing at CrossVegas.
Brian of Knog had asked if I'd be willing to wear a Knog jersey, drink a lot of free beer and ride a road bike in the grass in front of all my friends, frenemies and foes in the industry race. And after much hemming and hawing, I aquiesced.
The fine gents at Swobo will be providing me with a modified Accomplice with which to wreak some havoc.
In response, I might have promised them that I would win the race.
What they think I mean and what I actually mean might not be quite the same...
Suffice to say that I will be grabbing every dollar bill in sight... taking every beer hand up I see... diving into the crowd... and likely getting a little puke on their bike.
But I suspect that they're down.

1 comment:

  1. Dammit Watts, you PROMISED that you'd win for us! As long as you don't get any puke on the grips or saddle, I've got to ride that thing for the next two days.