Friday, May 12, 2017

PMBAR: The Saddest Day

Forgive me... but for the sake of decorum, we're going to start with a little TMI.

It seems like a relatively new thing... a thing that started happening maybe a year or so ago.... roughly the same time I turned 40...
But I woke up having to take a shit.
And not like... "Hmm, you know? I could kind of sort of maybe start my day off with a bowel movement if I wanted to"
But like... "Oh shit oh fuck oh shit oh shit"
A panicked scrambling...
Tearing myself out of the sheets and fumbling with the van door. Almost leaving my shoes behind, because fuck them if they weren't going to cooperate in my moment of need.
A boxer-brief-only clad sprint to the porta-potties.
The knowledge that this was only episode one.

Then, crisis averted, the slow and completely unmethodical gathering of my things. First and foremost stuffing a small sandwich baggie with toilet paper. And throwing it in "the pile." Whatever else I may need out there, I had a feeling I would need this first.

My cough was still there. And whatever I was hacking up was definitely still green. Damn.
I'd been sick for going on three weeks. Finishing a mid-week century with a tiny scratchy feeling in my throat. That blossoming into full blown "kill me" body aches and general malaise. Undeterred I decided to do the Bootlegger 100 anyway. "What's the worst that can happen?" I thought to myself.
At Bootlegger, I barely managed to defend my 1st place Singlespeed title, with a very near loss to the insanely strong, and very Dutch, fixed gear riding Fish...

 The sore throat became a cough that wouldn't go away. "Oh right... that's what can happen," I thought to myself.
 But... I'd done absolutely nothing for two weeks, and finally felt human again. Just in time to turn myself inside out for PMBAR.

My head hurt. Enough so that I swallowed some Advil.... a thing I never do. Some of it was the lingering sick. And some of it was the amount I'd had to drink the night before. I was at least one novelty size beer up on Rich... and had topped the night off with lonely bourbon in the van... watching Deadpool until I dropped the iPad on my face: the "alarm" telling me that I could finally fall asleep.

Mind you, I didn't feel bad. Nothing like my morning before Kanza last year. (See the most recent issue of Dirt Rag. {and ahem... no, the goal was most definitely not for Stevil and I to emulate each other's styles... Sheesh. Don't neither of us have any clue what Cush is talking about. Who edits the editors? Amiright?})

A little known fact:
I was straight-edge forever. 

And not like... "I don't really have any particular interest in drinking or drugs, so I'll just say, 'No, thank you.'" 

But like... "I will NEVER poison my body OR my mind! I will never lose my focus or my drive. This world will not defeat me! And I will remain True! Til! DEATH!"

Le sigh...

Like... X's on my hands and wearing running shoes to the hardcore show. Like... reading lyric sheets so I could thrust pointed fingers into the sky and know what the fuck I was screaming when the mic was shoved in my face at the Converge show.
("Wow. That's what he's saying? I srsly never would have guessed that.") 
Like... wearing a Tulasi bead choker and pretending like the Srimad Bhagavatam made one fucking bit of sense.

Like... being so uncomfortable in my own skin that I had to embrace something to give me direction and purpose and poise. Trying to convince myself that it was a drum that beat inside me, but always knowing that everything is infinitely more complex and complicated than that, and that all of my posturing about never faltering from some myopic life-style choice was, effectively, just as much bullshit as everything else I saw.

And everything I saw was, indeed, bullshit. That, more than anything, was what I felt. That, more than anything, was the drum that beat inside of me. Not that it was all meaningless... but that every structure of meaning we were trying to give it was just as stupid and flawed as we were.

Like most who "fall from edge," I am, almost assuredly, an alcoholic. A very functioning one, albeit it, and very low on the spectrum. But... yeah.
I'm not being glib about that. Or dismissive. I recognize it. And I deal with it. And I keep it in check. And if, one day, I could no longer drink... I'd just shrug and say "Fuck. Really? Sigh... Ok."
There are things that mean something and things that don't. 

Like most who "fall from edge," I am also a maelstrom of all the various conglomerations of addictive personality disorder. 

And like my relationship with alcohol, my relationship with the bike is not necessarily a healthy one.
People like me... we like to find a thing... and actively or passively try to find ways to let it destroy us.

This, among a battlefield of others, was one of the prevalent thoughts banging around inside my head as Rich and I slogged our way through close to 10 hours of pretty much constant riding in Pisgah last Saturday.

Wait... were you expecting me to actually talk about the race? Ha! What could I possibly say? If you're looking for route details and such, read Rich's blog. Duh. That's a given if you want to know what gearing to run and what brake pads to use and what tire does stuff and what jacket makes happy. If you're looking for bizarre and sprawling thoughts on everything else... you're in the right place.

I have no idea where the checkpoints were. Honestly, I don't really even know what trails we were on. While I've been on all of them before... that is just not information that sticks with me. I mean... I will forever remember Bradley Creek, only because I honestly love all the river crossings. LOVE.
It never gets old. The part that got old was all of that huge, chunky gravel. That was new. And all I could think of as we rode it was "How?" What an effort that must have been to haul all of that rock into what is some pretty gnarly terrain. And why?
But everything else? Shiiiiiit. Is this Buckhorn Gap or Buckbear Gap or Bear Creek or Buckbeak or Bareback or Bonesaw or Banebutt? I. Don't. Know. But Rich does.

At a point, I started to feel pretty rough.
Yeah, I'd drankded my newfangled beet-jizz and all...

...and true to the label, I was tingling like a motherfucker...

Why?! Why I tingle?!!!

...but like a total dick, I wasn't actually eating. And very quickly that became a problem. I started to fade and flounder.
For pretty much the entire day, Rich stayed 50 to 100 yards ahead of me. Occasionally I'd hear him singing a song or jabbering indistinctly to me.
Meanwhile, I was a sad, sad shell of a man.

A few meandering and indirect words about Rich:
The other day, I was out at a restaurant. It was a mixed crowd.  There were a few young people seated at the bar. A youngish couple seated across from us... and behind us a much older crew. The men wore pastel izods and khaki shorts. Gray hair and lined faces. The women wore too much makeup and jewelry and smelled like perfume. They were all in various states of "out of shape."
As I often do, I was passively eavesdropping. As if watching shades of shades of shades of people flux about wasn't engaging enough. Amid talk of golf and jobs, the words "I turned 46 last year..." came out of the mouth of one of the men.

Wait... What the shitbiscuit?!

Do you ever go down the rabbit hole of old peers? Someone you're tangentially connected to from high school shares a link on Facebook, and a name you haven't seen in forever "likes" it? And the next thing you know, you're looking at the profile of some random person you barely knew who was a freshman when you were a senior...
...and they look like your Dad? 
Like... your 70 year old Dad?

Micah "@itsnotpoison" was drinking at the shop the other night and was telling me some story about some person doing some thing. I seriously have no clue what. Trying to gauge the situation a little more, I asked the age of the protagonist in his story. "I don't know. He's an older guy. Like... in his 40's."
Ah... You mean like me?
And while, if pressed, I would guess that the twenty-something Micah might put my age close to 40... I knew he was talking about a person a good bit "older" than me. You know... "someone in his 40's."

There is age. And there is age. While I undoubtedly look more haggard now than I did in my twenties... I do not look like the men at the table behind me. Or the people I went to high school with. They are legitimately old. For so many reasons.

Rich is... 46? 47? And while he has a mane of gray hair... And while, at times, I've seen him in various states of slow and mopey...  If it was possible to harness even a fraction of his energy, I have no doubt you could power a small country indefinitely.

Throughout our 10 hour day, he was talkative and frenetic. Moving quickly at all times. I never once saw him hurt. As we were rolling down Lower Black, and he was waiting for my blown ass to careen off rocks toward the finish, he was whooping and hollering. Pumping his fists in the air.

I was making crying noises.

The point is... in my own weird world of watching people either burn bright, or dimly glow... Rich is a 'sploding sun. And regardless of what place we would ever come in, he's pretty much the perfect PMBAR partner. And he's a good 'lil buddy. Thanks, man,

Once again, we missed the first step on the podium. A route miscalculation. Part of the beauty and terror of PMBAR. Even with my terrible-day-on-the-bike-falling-apartedness... had we not chosen badly, the chances are pretty high that we'd have been first... or at least had to duke it out with Matt and Andy.
Meh. I honestly care not. We had fun. And I was happy just to tag along.

Afterward we stood around the keg... ate PMBurritos and drank Oskar Blues. Second guessed our routes and relived the glory of trudging through waist deep water and carrying our bikes up unrideable hills. I looked around and took in my fellow riders. All shapes and sizes. And all ages. None of us old.

I noted absent friends. Whose lives had ended too soon. Got a little pensive. Turned in early.

This shit... standing on podiums and racing bikes... In so many ways, it just means fuck all.
But so does everything else we do.
And maybe... it means more than we think...



  1. Aye, the daze of youth, but just wait until you are old but still younger than all those around. #KeepPeddling

  2. That's what I'm getting at, Mike. Young old people... and old young people.