Sunday, June 24, 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.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I feel like a brick. I'm pedaling up the big climb out of Loudenville. It's taking a big effort to keep up with the other single speeders. Gnarmire is ahead of me. I sprint to pass him. This isn't good.
Over the crest of the hill. Nate, JPok, the Pflug and company speed away down the road. I should be up there with them. Actually, I should be ahead of them. I'm doing the sport race, I only have to ride 60 miles while they're doing 100. But there they go.
Into the woods. I try to pass a get around a long train of geared guys. One sprints and tries to block me. Two miles into a 100k race, and the guy is blocking.
"We're not in the same class friend. Let me go please," I say. He lets me pass.
The first miles are different than last year. Steeper, more climbs, more running. It hurts.
I ride into the woods and start the State Forest loop. The trails are perfect. A little rain tacked the dirt down last night. Spots of sunshine flicker as the trees wave in the breeze. Turns sweep left and right. Hop over a little root, down a buff descent. It's 65 degrees. This is Ohio at it's best. I still hate it.
JoeJoeJoe Malone is following me like a shadow. I've gotta get away from him somewhere. I ride off the trail into a pile of sticks. My bike stops. JoeJoeJoe stops and waits for me to get back on the trail in front of him. This is going badly.
More miles of flowing state forest trails. There's a crash behind me. JoeJoeJoe is picking his bike up out of a mud hole. This it. Need to get away. Right now. I sprint.
I have a few sweet miles of solo riding. Then I hear brakes warbling. JoeJoeJoe is back. Dammit. That guy is persistent. And he needs a new mechanic. And I need to piss. I'll just wait until we hit the road. I think there's only a mile or two of state forest left.
Pass the 19 mile sign. Then 20. 21. I can't hold it much longer. 22. 23. Have to stop. I pull off. JoeJoeJoe doesn't stop to wait this time. That's fine. I'll catch back up to him. I get back on the bike. I see him on top of a switchback and start counting seconds. 14. No problem.
A few miles later, I still haven't caught back up. I'm getting worried. The Birdman is standing standing next to his bike.
"Birdman! What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you," he squawks.
Moving slowly up the hill, ankles turning on loose, muddy rocks we start to bitch.
"I don't know why I'm here again."
"Yeah. I hate the course, I hate this mud, I hate these rocks, I hate this hill. I hate Ohio."
"Yes. Fuck Ohio."
"Are you dropping out of the 100 mile?"
"Why do you think I waited for your ass?"
Sweet. Someone to complain to. This should make the day better.
Ian Spivack is at the bottom of the next hill, squeezing the rear end of his bike. The Birdman asks what happened.
"I hit something really hard in the back, then it just exploded everywhere. It sucks because I was riding it sooo hard," he says.
"Anything I can do?" says the Birdman.
"Want to give me your back wheel?" says Ian.
The Birdman pauses. "No. I'm not helping that much." We ride away.
Out onto the pavement and gravel. The wind is ripping through the brown fields. We pedal for a couple hours.
"Fuck these cornfields."
"Yeah, fuck the cornfields."
"And fuck those vultures flying around up there."
"Yeah, fuck those vultures. And the wind and this gravel road. Actually, fuck Ohio."
"Yes. Fuck Ohio."
I've pretty much given up on catching JoeJoeJoe. We hit one of the last big gravel climbs. The Birdman flies away to catch Jason Cyr, who's also having a terrible day. He does. Then he stops, picks up a baby shoe, turns it around in his beak, squawks, and throws the shoe at me.
The shoe bounces off my helmet. "I hate you." My legs are completely shot. I barely roll over the top. Roll along more pavement towards the finish. We're moving at a very conversational pace. Actually, we've hardly been moving for the last 30 miles. I can't believe no one's caught us.
Into the last few miles of single track. I try to go fast for a mile or two, then give up again. Screw it. The Birdman flaps away. 20 minutes later, he's waiting for me around the corner from the finish.
"Alright Birdman, are we gonna sprint for it?" I yell.
"Fuck you man, I've been towing your ass around all day," he says.
I sprint hard and edge him out at the line. Victory.
But not really. JoeJoeJoe has been in for 10 minutes. I walk over and congratulate him.
"Nice job man. I kept trying to dump you on that single track, but you just wouldn't go away," I say. He smiles. No one should smile in Ohio.
The Birdman and I hang out at the finish for a while. We're done. We were slow. Felt kind of tired. Oh well. I blame Ohio and a lousy nights sleep.
Then Christian Tanguy rolls in. 6:37. A hundred miles in 6:37. He tries to lift a leg off his bike. Can't do it. Then he tries again, and gets it over the top tube. He hobbles over to the shade of a scrubby tree, propping himself up on his bike. The guy is moving like a 90 year-old. Nobody in the crowd really notices him.
The Birdman and I look at each other. We suck. Birdman grabs a pint glass of full of water and takes it over to him.
"That was awesome man, great work," he says and pats Tanguy on the back.
"Ooh, that hurt me so badly. I am in pain," Tanguy says . He takes off his wire rim glasses and wipes dried sweat off his face.
This guy absolutely crushed himself, can barley walk, barely stand. I gave up because... actually I don't have a good reason for giving up. Unlike the Pflug, I haven't found a tick on myself (unless I count the one that was buried in my scrotum earlier this year.) I just rode like a wiener all day. Had no guts, no determination, nothing. I was just a slab of meat on a bike. Being pulled along by the Birdman.
For my lack of effort, I win $200.
I'm disgusted with my race. For the first time, I start to realize that it might not be Ohio's fault that I was slow. It might have been my fault. Tanguy clearly wasn't having the funnest day of his life, but he crushed it anyway.
After I get my envelope full of money, we go over to the go-cart track and smash into each other. It's awesome. I think about switching to go-cart racing full time.
Back at the cozy cabin, the Birdman drinks a four-loko. His face is redder than an inflamed saddle sore. He points at me.
"Dude, you we're horrible today. You're a total turd," he says.
"Yeah, you failed big time n'at. YOU FAILED! FAIL! FAIL! BAD! DAHN PAHRS!" shouts Dahn Pahrs.
Cinder Bloch nods and eats a big fork-full of pasta salad. Gnarmire giggles while tickling his new slam-piece. I agree with all of them. Next time I do Mohican, I will not suck. As bad.
Or maybe I will, and I'll complain about Ohio some more. I like whining about that place almost as much as I like racing my bike in other places. Screw it.
Beer and Gear this Saturday, Stoopid 50 on Sunday.