Oct 15, 2007

Iron Cross+Cookies+Crashing=50th place

Homemade Cookies. Cheaters. What the hell!
Racing at a high level requires a lot of sacrifice. Apparently that includes homemade cookies at aid stations. I found this little secret out as I pulled into Station 3 this weekend at the Iron Cross race. "The Worlds Longest Cross Race." Normally for these long endurance races I have no idea what the promoter has at the stops. At one time, it meant a lot to me if there were an abundance of random goodies, like Swedish fish, pringles, and PB & J's. As of late, we've gotten nutrition so dialed, along with drop bag grabs, I never stay at a station long enough to know what's on the buffet. So from now on as I approach those tables I'm yelling for a handful of homemade goods as I cruise by. There is a story as to why I was able to enjoy the bounties of aid stations 3 and 4. But that will come later.
"For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes not that you won or lost - but how you played the game." (Grantland Rice)

Below is what I consider to be a good summary of why sportsmanship is important. It comes from a slo-pitch softball guy.

"It seems in our sports today, the concept of good sportsmanship has been lost. While winning at all costs and poor sportsmanship may be condoned and even promoted in professional sports, this does not mean it is the proper way for athletes to behave. Whether we like it or not, sportsmanship in sports is a direct reflection of our own ethics in real life. Sportsmanship like ethics concerns both the character and the actions of an athlete. The image you project as an athlete is a product of your character. Good sportsmanship is not just what you do on the field, it is hopefully the way you conduct your life both on and off the field. In the same way, unsportsmanlike behaviour on the field is probably an indication of your off the field conduct. Unsportsmanlike behaviour -- acts that are unfair, dishonest, disrespectful or against the rules - are unsportsmanlike because they are unethical. If you are unethical in sports, can you be ethical in the other areas of your life - your business dealings, your treatment of others, your family?"

John Ariss - Touching Base Magazine - February, 2000

What's really at issue here are course manners. Or more to the point, unethical acts/ poor sportsmanship. Maybe there needs to be a lesson.
1. Making a mistake on the course, (lets say missing a turn and accidentally cutting part of the course.) And I do mean accidentally! Some times that happens. It sucks, your race is kind of ruined unless you turn around and go back to the missed turn. Then it's trying to make up lost time. There is a certain pride in coming back from a huge deficit.
If you have done this, accept it and turn yourself in. That's much better than being called out for it on someone's blog. If you roll in to the finish and act like nothing happened: lame.
2. Also consider this. Maybe it's not as cut and dry, but it's definitely on the slippery slope to yucks-ville. You organize with someone outside of your class to pace you around the course to get a better time against your competitors. Not necessarily illegal, especially in road racing, but there is a fine line. Many marathon foot races specifically have rules against pacing. Often times it's a male pacing for a female, because the male is only average in his class but it's enough to carry a good female racer to a better position.
Again this is an area of ethics that would have to be self regulated. But if you think about it, sportsmanship in road cycling dictates that if you are going to sit in and let others work for you, it should be for a few good reasons:
-you should have a teammate in mind,
-your giving everything you have already
-it's close to the end of the race and you want your competition to do more work.
That is boring.
Now the fun.
How Harlan got his cookies back.
Sunday bizarre.
Surprisingly I got a call up to the start of the race. That was nice of the promoters, and meant I had about 180 riders behind me on the start line. 180 people for me to use in a massive pileup.
At the "GO" I stepped on the pedals and my chain skipped, causing a looney tune reaction of riders falling on my (Topher's) rear wheel. People were cursing me as I tried to untangle from Bob and the leaders plus another 50 people launched themselves into the cross course. Back on the bike I made it about 200 feet and realized that somehow my rear brake had come undone in the tackle from behind. A quick stop saw it fixed, while another 30 people went by.
Okay time to start chasing.
I got about a hundred feet. On an uphill left hand turn a rider in front of me bailed and for some reason decided to flat my front wheel. Explicative!
I pulled off the course, and started to get down to business, but Theo came by and saved the day by giving me his front wheel. Thanks Theo! I'm off through the cross course death spiral almost out of the camp, and then realize the front brake is undone. Another word to the sky and I stop and reattach it.
So in the first 10 minutes of my 4-5 hour race I've stopped 4 times. A hundred people are in front of me and the leaders are attacking each other. What can I do but start chasing.
On the way to the first climb of the day someone informs me that my rear brake will hit my tire if I try to brake. I decided that since it was uphill for 15 min I'd wait till the top to adjust it. I was making some good time on the dual track climb. At one point I caught Pete who was riding no hands on the rocky terrain. It sort of looked like he was walking a tight rope.
I kept the the pace as high as I could, reeling one group in after another on the climb. Little did I know the boys up front were attacking each other up the KOM. At the top I stopped to adjust the rear brake. The descent down into the apple orchards was a blast, and the climb back out was the second test of the day.
At the top we rolled down Piney Ridge road till we turned left on Lipencote trail, where a mountain bike would have ruled the moment. Rocks and logs for hoping on the cross bike. Arms were tightening up, but it was a perfect spot to pick off a bunch of people. At the bottom I had different reports of times back from the leaders. 2min, 5min and 10 min. I liked the idea of 2, but 10 was more likely.
Coming out of the woods I saw who I thought was Mike Hebe, and tried to chase up to him. He slowed down to let me get on, but about 10 feet too soon I said okay and he took off, leaving me in the dust. That was Colin. Not Mike. Eventually I caught him and Hebe on the Wigwam run up, and we all cruised to about mile 40 together.
At that point our group was in about 14th place. Not bad I thought, but suddenly what I had went and I decided that my day, month and winter would be ruined if I kept trying to push it. Hell, it's fall, this race wasn't really one of my goals, and I discovered that if you stop at aid stations there might be homemade cookies.
So I shifted perspective. Eat cookies. Ride with different people, sit on the side of the trail and watch the race. People kept asking if I was ok. It was great. I got to see the women come through and cheer them on.
Then just before the finish line I tried to bunny hop the barriers and made a fool of myself infront of all the finishers. Over all a great day.