Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stoopid 50 2012

"Yeah dude, you should definitely come. It really isn't that hard. You'll have a blast," I say. We're three hours into the Beer and Gear Festival in Ohiopyle.

"Ok, you know what, I'm gonna to do it. I'll go get my stuff," says Ben. He stumbles away, pint glass sloshing.

Outside of Somerset in the little red truck.

"My longest ride has been 20 miles this year, but I'm excited. I think I'm gonna do pretty well. I just hope Jamie takes care of my dog. I left him tied to my Jeep. So what's the name of this race?" Ben says.

I laugh and tell him again.

"Oh, ok. I just hope Jamie doesn't get so drunk that she forgets about my dog. I left him tied to my Jeep. And my sunroof is open. I hope I didn't forget anything."

I kill the headlights as we roll into the starting area. It's 12:30. Ben unrolls a sleeping pad in the grass, and I crawl into the bed of the truck.

5:30. Ben slams the tailgate of the truck open. I flop over like a fish. Goddamit dude.

"Man, I'm covered in slugs from last night. Sorry I just need to get something," he says. He rustles around through his bag furiously. I grumble. An hour later, I'm up and drinking coffee. One of the guys parked next to me walks up. He points at Ben's slug covered sleeping pad.

"Hey, sorry I pissed over there last night. Had no idea you were sleeping there," he says.

"Oh it's cool. That was my friend, not me." Serves him right for waking me up.

Dahn Pahrs and Cinder Bloch ride over. Gnarmire is missing. We agree that he must have stayed home because his mangina was sore.

The moto revs. We roll away down the gravel. Stay to the front. Can't get stuck behind on this first section of single track. Just stick to Ferrari. The single track is coming up. The pace picks up a little. I see the turn. Hit it.

I cut to the inside of the turn, and slot into the single track in the top ten overall. Perfect. Ferrari is a few riders back. Sharp rocks everywhere on the ridge-line. Stay smooth. A guy in basketball shorts stops. He's way too far up. Another dude keeps yelling at me. I let him pass in a rock garden. Not sure what he thinks he's doing. He sprints around, then Stan's sprays all over the rocks as his tire blows out. Dumbass.

"Go left!" Ferrari yells. I follow the Scott guys and go right. I don't make the move. Ferrari passes. Shoulda listened.

Thunk. I feel the rim. My back tire is going soft. But I can't stop now. If I let people start passing, I'll never make up the time. Ferrari flats. This trail is eating people. I'm in 6th overall. Just keep air in that back tire. Thunk. Thunk. I try to put all my weight on the front wheel.

I'm in the back of a pack of four. Little Dylan Johnson is in front of our group. We hit a fork in the trail.

"Which way?" Dylan yells.

We don't know. Didn't see any arrows. There's tape going to the left. Dylan goes left. We follow. A few minutes later, we come out on a road. It's not the right road. Shit.

One of the guys thinks he knows where we are, so we sprint to the right. Bummer. Suddenly we're back at the climb where we need to be. That was quick. There aren't any tire tracks.

"Hey, I think we're ahead of everybody now," somebody says. Somehow we ended up with a shortcut. This is way worse than being behind. We agree to stop and wait. A couple minutes later, the lead two pass us. The other guys give them 30 seconds, then start chasing. I put some air in my tire, and decide to wait for Ferrari. I don't have to wait too long.

I ride up the climb behind him for a while. I'm a little bummed. I don't know if I'm going to be disqualified, if I should even keep racing. Ferrari attacks. He bridges back up to the pack of geared guys, where I would be if I hadn't taken a shortcut then stopped. Nuts.

Decide to keep racing. I put my head down and grind across the top of the climb, down the fast jeep trail, and into the single track.

Rocks everywhere. Logs, thrashing mountain laurel. This is awesome. I love these trails. Lunging up big boulders, rattling through sharp limestone teeth, winding through tight trees. I wish I could spend all my time pounding rocks like this. I forget about being disqualified and behind.

My back tire is still going soft. Should be using something a little bigger than a 2.1 Nano Raptor. A geared guy moves over to let me pass. I'm ripping now. Down a steep descent. Little too fast. There's a big rock on my left. Three feet high, completely flat face. I'm bouncing right towards it. Balls. I'm gonna hit this thing.

Slam into the rock. Tire bangs, rim crunches, spokes pop. My bike comes to a stop. I turn the bars to the right and slowly slide away from the rock. I can't believe I rode that out. Now my front wheel is buckled, and rubbing badly on my fork. I laugh. I'm good with it. A broken wheel is better than a broken face. Only 25 miles to go. I'll just ride it out.

Voot voot voot voot. My front tire slips along the edge of my fork. Vootvootvoot. I pick up speed on the gravel.

At the last aid station, I stop. Maybe the tech support guys can get it to stop rubbing. I hand them my bike and hang out for a few minutes.

Ferrari rides through the aid. Hell in a beef basket. How is he behind me? Apparently I was winning. A minute later, another single speeder rolls through. This tech stop just cost me first place. I gotta go. I grab my bike and sprint down the road. The guys at the aid station succeeded in making my wheel rub on the left side instead of the right side. And now my spokes sound like they're going to rattle out.

I chase the first single speeder down and start one of the last climbs. Then he surges and pulls away. Voot. Voot. Voot. I'm trying to go faster. I'm not going faster.

The last climbs hurt. Damn Chris Scott and his damn hard finishes. I round another turn, and see another false summit.

On the last bit of gravel. This is it. Finally. I turn onto the single track descent. My spokes are rattling like a box of tic-tacs. I pick my way down the hill and cross the line. 4:30, third single speed. Not bad, but I felt really strong. I could have done better. Shouldn't have made that wrong turn and hit that boulder. I'll get it together eventually. Preferably by August 12.

An hour later, Dahn Pahrs makes it back to the start. He doesn't look too good.

"Every time I got into the sun, I threw up! It was just like BLAAAHHH! Coming out my nose! Stopped at an aid station, threw up everything I ate! Everything I drank! Everytime I was in the sun I threw up! Everything! Everytime! DAHN PAHRS!" Dahn Pahrs yells.

Four hours later, Ben pulls his bike out of the back of some local's beat-up Honda Accord. He missed the last turn onto single track, and rode back onto the start of the course. When he hit the base of the first climb again, he stopped and thumbed a ride.

"I was going up this steep gas well, had no idea where I was, and I wanted to cry. It was so hard," he said.

"Yeah, sorry I told you the course wasn't that bad. I think I forgot," I say.

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