The next day I cleaned suspension oil off my rotor while his vicious pit bull tried to figure out the best way to eat me.
We met Ted and Mayor McCheese in the Birdman's front yard and packed into Ted's hybrid Highlander to head south-east. Once we got off the interstate in Virginia the roads got twisty, and I got car sick.
While I tried to settle my stomach by burping, we forded a stream in the half-electric SUV, unloaded the bikes, and watched McCheese pick his nose.
Half a mile into our pre-ride, we crossed another stream. When I got to the other side, there was hissing and my leg was being sprayed with Stan's. I checked the tire. There was an inch long sidewall cut. Karma. A couple days earlier, I was made fun of one of my friends when he asked for advice on cut resistant tires 'Pilot error. Rock always wins. Ride around them,' I'd said.
I put a tube in and we continued. The first section of the course was all fast dirt roads. It was a beautiful day, everything was dry, and the air smelled strangely like Colorado. The place was awesome, and I felt horrible. Everybody was going an easy pace and dropping me on the climbs. When we started up the single track to the top of the ridge, I felt like I was going to fall off the side. I was so dizzy and disoriented. I considered turning back, but the other three were already out of sight. So I kept trudging up the hill.
As I crested the top, the Birdman was lounging with his magic phone, shooting pictures. I told him to fuck himself.
On the way back to the car, I ran into Chris Scott. He asked if I'd gotten my tire fixed. Nope.
"We have freshies, Stan's, and a compressor back at the start. Just find me tonight or tomorrow," he said. Sweet. I was pumped. Maybe tomorrow would turn out alright after all.
That night, there was a dog who's stomach needed rubbed:
Morning. I almost vomit on the car ride to the start. When I step out of the Highlander, I can barely stand up straight.
"Well, I'm not sure I'm even going to make it to the first stream crossing," I say to the Birdman.
"Not with that attitude you won't," he says.
"Fuck you," I say. I stumble over to the registration area to find Chris and steal a tire. He's not around, and there's an hour until the start. My tube is being held inside my destroyed tire with dollar bill. This isn't going well. I stand in line for the port-a-potty.
With 20 minutes to go before the start, I find Chris. He gives me a tire, I blow it onto the rim and dump some Stan's in it. I thank him, and he mumbles something unintelligible. I nod and smile. 10 minutes to go. I ride the tire up and down the road. It seems like it's holding air. Sweet. Maybe I'm gonna be able to race.
We roll out for the neutral start, and everybody behind me starts bike racer shit talking (shit talking at mountain bike races is typically polite and un-offensive) my over-sized florescent blue camelbak.
"Look at that thing, are you carrying presents for us?" No.
"That's a big backpack. Har har." Yes.
Or my favorite, "He's going on an adventure!" That was supposed to be an insult. Because people who go on adventures are dumb. And carry big florescent blue camelbaks. Which made me dumb, and going on an adventure. Or something. I didn't really follow him.
"Fuck you guys," I say. 'Fuck you' was the only comeback I could think of all weekend. I know it's not witty, but my girlfriend has been in New Zealand for a long time.
Chris pulls his truck off to the side, and the race starts. The entire field narrows into a paceline behind me. Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Koerber, and Brandon Dragonogulous are there, and for some reason people think it's a good idea to draft a hack on a single speed.
"Why the hell are you people drafting me? Fuck you," I yell. People laugh, then shift up and speed away. That's more like it. At the first stream crossing, I stop to pee. The entire field rumbles past me in a cloud of dust. Pee break was probably a bad choice.
For the first four miles, I feel pretty good. Then I start climbing. The dizziness comes back. I can't ride, I can barely hike, and I'm jamming up people behind me on the narrow single track. I stop every few hundred feet to let someone pass.
After about an hour of walking, I finally get to the top of the ridge. Ok, I'm going to ride down to the aid station, then back to town. There's no way I can climb the ridge again.
When I hit the aid, I stick to my plan. I make it about a half mile down the road. No. You weak bastard. You can't stop. But I feel terrible. I've gotta quit. Nope. You can't do it. Gotta keep going. Dammit. I hate me. I turn around and ride back onto the course.
I'm hiking up the ridge even slower than before. This was a bad choice. I stop every few minutes to regain my balance. I can ride a little, but something isn't right.
A long time later, I get back to the top of the ridge. There's a trail called Turkey that should take me back down the hill and onto the road. I confirm that with a few guys around me, and keep plugging along. A half hour later, I see the turnoff. I take it. I'm 30 miles into a 40 mile race, and I'm bailing. Probably another bad choice.
I make it down to the bottom of the ridge, take a right, and start heading towards Aid 2. 45 minutes later, I'm still heading to Aid 2, and now I'm climbing up to the top of the ridge again. This couldn't be right. Hell. I'll give it 10 more minutes.
10 more minutes, and still climbing. Screw it. I'm going back the way I came. I ride all the way back down the road, through all the streams, and onto the road where the race started. Fortunately, Niner rider Donna Miller was helping out with the race, and heading to town. I caught up with her at a stream crossing, then she let me draft her the whole way back to town. Mighty swell of her.
It took five hours to DNF.
Major bummer. Couldn't have asked for a better day, nicer trails, or a cooler course. I just wasn't all there. But I'm definitely going to try again next year. I want to race that thing when I can actually race.