This bit of the story continues from here.
After peeling my muddy, soaked gear off and slipping into something at least dry, I wandered out to find the gang. JimG had brought brownies, and between those and a quick slug of strong and hot coffee from the thermos, I continued to feel pretty warm and upbeat. The folks up in Santa Rosa put on a right fine and homey show. At one tent, bags of free pretzels were in attendance. Others had food, beer and coffee offerings. Fundraising raffles and the BikeMonkey magazine folks. An exuberant marching band (the Hubbub Club) arrived to regale us with tunes. A couple of beautiful weimaraners and a puppy or two hung out, wondering both about all the complex smells about and the sanity of their owners for bringing them along on a sloppy day.
It felt like I was surfing a bit of the post-race elation, but as the capillaries began to constrict again, the cold and damp seeped in a little bit. After a quick facilities check, it seemed to make sense to sit for a spell and see if there was any reason to think that racing again was a good idea. I regained the motor vehicle, wrapped some jackets over myself and sipped my way through the Clif electrolyte beverage. When mixing it that morning, I realized that I had bought a “Hot Apple Cider” which the instructions specifically said was to be made hot - the implication of a glowingly warm drink being a friendly recharge. Ignoring those instructions, I had made it with cold water - it isn’t like I had a large enough thermos to maintain another hot beverage anyway. Still, it was pretty good, and the chemical compounds seemed to do their thing.
Somewhere out on the other side of the front windshield, the women’s wave went off. A few of the fast folks I recognized from the BASP races moved out to the front, the thickening mud making progress iffy and soiling the pink-and-flowereed Sheila Moon racing kits that were in attendance. Singlespeeds, A’s and B’s were all out in a 45 minute race. Whoever was off the front moved through the conditions with an amazing momentum and fluidity. But, her dark jersey quickly became mud-sodden, so by the time she went by, I couldn’t pick out any logos (and as of right now, they still haven’t posted results on the Bikemonkey.net site).
By this point, I had maybe an hour and half until the Old Guy Geared race at 2:30. I had two thoughts on the subject. One, I didn’t feel totally torched by the first race, and in fact had felt a little better towards the end of it. Two, I have a pathological dislike for racing/riding for less time than it takes to get to the race/ride. At this point, I’d gone for about 15 minutes less than it took to get there (well, if you discount the warm-up riding).
Stepping back out into the day, I made my way down to the signup tent, and inquired what one had to do if one was so idiotic as to want to take the organizers up on the offer to engage in the free second race. Unfortunately, the Human Services Officer was down at the beer tent, heckling the women’s racers, so there was no one to engage in an intervention. Thus, the sign-up folks were all too happy to give me a second number, and transfer my information to the next start sheet. At the same time, I met a fellow who was also older and multi-geared. We chatted a bit, and I mentioned that I’d done the singlespeed race earlier. He said, “Oh man, I did that earlier this season. It was a great workout, but it hurt! “
Somewhere behind me, there was the of sound a large and heavy door swing shut on rusted ancient hinges, closing with a resonant echo that dissolved into eerie silence.
Since commitment to a stupid idea is often key, I decided to change back into a more cycling-oriented attire before completely losing my nerve. Luckily, I had a backup set of dry clothes, so there was not the chilling sensation of damp and muddy chamois contact. About this time, it struck me that the C. Xavier Hilsen was shod with my older, much more worn set of tires. If any course conditions cried for every bit of tire surface area and knibbly bite-ability, this was it. Conditions continued to degrade visibly as the other race laps continued.
This was during the women’s race -
Hemming and hawing a bit, time suddenly seemed much shorter, and the reappearance of JimG was highly fortuitous. He dove into the task of swapping my muddy front tire from the Quickbeam over to the Hilsen. Quicker than I could hand him levers and a pump, the newer tread was in place, and there was pretty much nothing left to do but race.
I pedaled around a little bit, found a Honey Stinger Gu-analog in my pocket and fired that down for whatever good it might do. Then lined up in the wave of guys who were old enough to know better. Putting my foot down as we waited for instructions, it seemed to set very deeply into the mud. There was no longer any grass left to speak of. When I picked my foot up for a second, the attached mud made it appreciably heavier. Of course, once you are out there with a number pinned to your side, you have pretty much traded away any opportunity to slink unnoticed back to the car.
An electric guitar version of the star-spangled banner played, and then the young pup B’s headed out. A minute or so later, we dug in and saddled up. Things felt a little clunky at the start, and it seemed as though my swapped-in-from-the-MB1 WTB saddle was a trifle too high. Beginner’s error, but no time to mess with it.
Actually. Honestly. The “beginner’s error” in this race was bothering to bring a bike with gears. For the next 45 minutes or so, there was no chance of spinning out the Quickbeam, and although the C. X. Hilsen would’ve gotten jealous, I think it secretly would have been very happy to stay in the back of the dry vehicle. Plus, there would have been a few less surfaces to pile on mud.
I suppose for the first 15 minutes or so, things didn’t really feel that bad. Slipped, slid and slogged a bit, to be sure, but nothing really horrible. Then I noticed that the mud seemed to be packing up a bit. Then a bit more. The bike began to get noticeably heavy. Then my body began to get noticeably heavy. The bicycle had an excuse, as it was adding mud that I couldn’t manage to shed through momentum, the odd bunny hop or simply dropping the bike hard after shouldering it. The race became a bit of a slog.
They say when you’re head is down, you’re in a bit of trouble. In the above photo, you’ll notice that if my head were any further down, it would start going up. I must point out though, in this small sized image of Gino’s photo, it appears as though my eyes are closed too. They weren’t. I mean, it wasn’t that bad.
The course continued to dish out its challenges. The intended directional input seemed to matter less and less with each lap. Each time down the creek dip brought with it new and interesting explorations of geometry. I think I manged to stay upright most of the times, but it wasn’t pretty and the tangential angle began earlier each time. The runups were, well…runups. In the singlespeed race, I’d managed to pedal up some of the time, but now the power had seeped out of my legs and it became a game of trying to ride the momentum to the moment of inertial loss, then hop off and try to find some angle of toe entry or foot splaying that would generate something resembling grip.
I think I cursed once. Well, I know I did. But, I did apologize.
However low optimism set in the west, somewhere through the mud-soaked haze I could hear Gino and JimG yelling. At some point, Gino ran alongside for a while (well, let’s be honest here - he trotted… Ok…he at least walked briskly…) barking encouragement and snapping a few photos. I don’t think I thanked him enough afterwards - it was actually quite helpful.
The short stair runup became a weird thing to fear each lap, but the tactile sensation became quite loathesome. As it was the one place to be shouldering the bike, I would grab the downtube. Each time, there was a thick, cold hunk of mud which would form into my glove, creating one of those weird, finger imprint shapes that was popular on golf club handles for a while.
The announcer took up some of the heckling as well, as I would generally go by with few, if any competitors around. At one point, I guess he figured out this was my second race, and offered the observation that it must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. Only, he again mined that for all the humor it was worth.
Yep. Like I didn’t think of that, myself.
That, my friends, is one muddy bike. I guess it kinda gives away the fact that I didn’t use the big ring too much during the race. But, it was over.
We hung for a while watching the A’s go past. The rain which I’d prayed for during my race finally came. I used up 8 or 10 water bottles to try to knock off enough mud to load it onto the roof rack. JimG was kind enough to offer the use of the shower at his hotel room. Gino was resourceful enough to notice a stray hose outside the same hotel and I got to play euro-trash bike racer and hose everything off near the front entrance.
We rested a bit, and then headed up to Healdsburg, where aside from a tippy table dropping a pint or so of someone elsee’s beer onto my lap, it continued to be a great evening. Bear Republic serves a great root beer and ale, some darned fine polenta and one of the zippiest concoctions of garlic fries you are likely to come across.
The company was off-the-charts great, and it was wonderful to cross the streams - introducing the Bay Areans and Chico Hooligans forged friendships which should continue to grow in future rides and outings.
Rumor has it that we may all head to the next CX Nats up in Bend, Oregon in December. Word. (Um… do the kids still say that?)