I tuck in behind Ernesto and let him pull me across the rolling farm roads. We hit a steep gravel climb. The wind is blowing and the sun is roasting us. My vision goes blurry. Ernesto tries to give me a little push up the hill, but only succeeds in pushing me off to the right. I dizzily reach the crest and keep pedaling. Ernesto and the other guy ride away and leave me by myself on the road.
I pass a little barn, which triggers a memory of last year's race, which triggers a memory of the song that was stuck in my head last year. Crap. Now I have to ride 50 miles with Lady Gaga.
I turn into the single track at Mohican Wilderness and start slowly up a climb. JPok mashes past me. Snap! I use my mind power to break his chain again. Take that caveman. I re-pass him.
At Aid 3 I grab some oranges and start the steep single track climb back to the top of the ridge. It's a long walk to the top. Back down some gravel on the other side.
A train of geared guys chug past me. I speed up to try to catch the back of the pack. Riders zoom past. I put my head down, when I lift it I see the caboose. Ferrari. Damn. Spin a little faster. Come on, catch that line.
My legs shut down. I'm done. I watch him ride away with the line of geared guys. And I've blown up. These next 40 miles are not going to be happy.
I cross a hi-way by myself and start the rail trail of despair. 12 miles to go on this thing. My tires crunch on the crushed limestone. Lady Gaga invades my brain. Rah rah ah ah ah, roma roma ma, gaga oh la la. 11 miles to go. Fuck me.
A horse and buggy comes trotting towards me. The Amish guy and I nod to show respect for each other's chin beards. 10 miles.
A line of guys roll past me. "Pick it up! Jpok is right behind you!" they say. I grunt. 8 miles. I lose one more single speed place.
5 miles. This is awful. 2 miles. My ass hurts.
I pass a guy with a camera. "How far?" I say.
"1 mile." he says. 200 yards later I roll onto pavement. That guy was a terrible judge of distance. I hit aid station 4 and eat melons. 28 miles to go in this race. I've got it. I start to climb away from the aid station. Nope. Don't have it. I jump off my bike and walk.
More road. I forgot how much road was in this race. I start walking up another steep fire road. Brad the Birdman of Charleston and Jpok are right behind me. Brad catches up to me spinning his little gear and dismounts.
"I'm not in a good place right now." he says. We walk together and Jpok rides past. Snap! I break his chain a third time. We hike away from him. Brad remembers that he's riding a geared bike and remounts. He spins away and I'm lonely again.
I zone out and pedal slowly. I'm not racing at this point. Rob passes me with 10 miles to go.
"Took me 15 more miles to get you this year!" he says cheerfully. I give him an evil squint and stare at his drivetrain. Break chain. Break. Break. Nope. Apparently that only works on Jpok. That's all I've got. I let him ride away.
I ride the last few miles of road, then back onto the single track. I roll back into the campground and under the big inflatable Kenda arch. I'm so glad that's over. Somebody hands me a pint glass.
I stumble off my bike. My lungs start to lock up and I can't take more than a short breath without coughing. I walk back down to the cabin.
Don Powers is sitting at the picnic table, and Brad the Birdman is laying on a towel under a scraggly tree. I ask Powers how he got back so fast.
"I was throwing up the entire time. I rode back after aid station three. It was just a constant stream of vomit. That's Dahn Pahrs doing what Dahn..." he says.
"Shit mother fucker!" Bird the Birdman interrupts him. He rolls over and sits upright. He's covered in spots of white bird poop. A cute little blue jay chirps happily in the tree above him. I can only get a few laughs out before I start coughing.
After laying in the grass for a while I walk up the hill to take a shower. I can only stand under the water for a couple minutes before I have to sit down and rest. My ass is on fire from the chaffing. It feels like I sat in a tub of salty brake cleaner.
I lay down under the tree again and hope I don't get pooped on. Bird dropings fall in the grass around me. Aaron and Rob make their way down to cabin. We all agree that it would be a good idea to get ice cream and race go-carts.
At the go-cart track, a stern warning is playing on loop. "There will be no bumping no racing and no hitting the sidewalls. A go-cart is not a bumper car. No fun is allowed. There will be no bumping no racing..." We get into our little black cars and buzz out onto the oval track. By the second time around the course, everybody has already lapped Aaron.
I get behind Brad and wait until we hit the corner. I keep my foot to the floor and nail the back left side of his car to try to spin him out. It doesn't work. Don Powers slams into the back my car and my head snaps forward. I take the inside of the corner to get away from him. We rip past Aaron again when he slows down to apply his lipstick.
Back at Cozy Cabin #9 Four Lokos are retrieved from the cooler. I attempt to seduce the older ladies with my flowing hair and exposed nipples:
Photos courtesy of the Birdman of Charleston.
Don Powers dances with his tribal-belly-button-fringe and crotch shirt over Brad's face:
By the end of the night, despite the signs, I can't resist the urge to take my pet park bench to the bathroom with me: