May 11, 2009

Two Races: Mind over Mud

I'm only going to post pics from the Dirt Sweat and Gears race I did this past weekend in Tennessee (none of them I took. Except the car). Problem is I've been unmotivated to get my camera battery charged, and I think I'm a little burned from the photo explosion that was India. (Yes I'm sorry that hasn't been updated!)

That story is so overwhelming, I'm not sure where to start, so I'll get current and travel back in time later.

Here are a couple of links with good coverage.

See picture above, feel the utter hopelessness that man is experiencing. In the middle of the race, in the woods, in the middle of the course, if you were silently trudging along listening to the sound of your feet making the sucking noise as they were pulled from the jaws of the mud at each step, the silence was bound to be broken by the primal scream of some spirit that was being broken by the trail.

My own spirit was in danger of being stolen away. I had to yell some explicatives at the ground because it's well known that is how you deal with mother nature. Scream in her face like she's a crowd sometimes.

I'm not sure what it is that makes me hate quitting. I guess ultimately I realize that very few things kill you, and our bodies have an amazing ability to forget pain due to a natural process that helps us repeat mistakes like returning to the abusive relationship I have with racing. That took a year off my life. Mother nature is coming for me. I knew she was waiting, but I walked right into her backhand.

Last week I thought I had gotten the advantage by surviving Michaux Maximus, (a known abusive partner), when I came out in first place after riding all day in the rain, playing it cautious and tip-toeing around the rocks in my way. That was good. I was on a high, thinking I had achieved a new mental level of calm in the face of prize fighter.

Apparently the forces of nature were only delivering their warning through meger messengers, and when it it came time to answer to the sky directly I was humbled. I was reminded that I'm not that in control of my chi as I'd like. I think alot of Chi was demolished in the woods of southern Tennessee last Saturday.

I guess it's fitting that when you gather some of the biggest names in American endurance racing in one spot you are bound to have other forces ready to tussle. A big pot of money brought the names as well the fact that the race is part of the National Endurance Calendar. Name dropping would include Jeremiah Bishop, Evan Plews, Josh Tostado, Brandon Draugalis, Ernesto Maranchin and me.

I had cordinated with Bishop to car pool down, but he decided his wife and kid were more important, so I lucked out and had my tenant/roommate/ housemate/ Sponsor, Levi Olson come down with me. His parents lived an hour away from the race and he knew how to drive/ change tires and build bikes. Ultimately the most important function Levi performed was cleaning bikes.

Thank you Levi! Each bike took about 20 minutes to get the mud off and he was cleaning 3 bikes a lap between me and Bishop. I'm not sure who was more beat at the end than I was.

So Levi and I loaded up my new/used car and headed south with two bikes on the roof and one frame with a bunch of parts in the car. I'm sad to see my little Subie go but my nephew will get a few more good miles out of her, and I now have 'the grey squirrel' to take care of.So we made it down in luxurious style, with working cruise control and AC! 14hrs of traveling, one bike ride, one rack replacement and multiple conversations about bike related things Levi and I got to his parents house at about 2:30am on thursday night. The next morning we drove for the longest consecutive period with out being rained on since we left to the race venue, where we found a field full of weirdos riding two-wheeled machines obscured by a layer of mud and hay. Turns out they were bikes and when I realized that my pre-ride would result in that I decided that a road ride would be the best choice for a warm up. Jeremiah and I went out for a cruise but on the way back in curiosity got the best of us and we decided to explore a little of the course. I got a mile in and said no thanks, turned around and tried to get out of there before Jeremiah returned to ask Levi to clean his bike.

Plus we had a bike to build if I was going to have a second ride for the day. Turns out I couldn't have done it without another machine. I had just gotten my 08 bike back from the factory with reconditioned with a new team paint job and I was eager to get'r up and running, knowing that certain death was instore for any bikes being ridden the next day.

Of course I was missing an essential (in my mind) spacer so I had to make the bike go..Coaster in place, the outlook was good since it hadn't rained yet and the race was bout to start. At the start line with a minute to go, the skys delt us the joker card. Rain was coming down as the RC plane circled above us, inviting lightening.

Lap one I took it relatively easy. I had the wrong tire on the back, and figured I had plenty of time to make up time on the three people ahead of me. I'd get Levi to switch tires as I went out for the next lap and things would be good. About an hour later lap one was done, my bike was exchanged and the rain was starting to slack off. JB had 3 or 4 minutes on me. That didn't seem like a big deal since we had 11 more hours to go.

This is where I make note to self. When a muddy race is emminant go to front. About 15minutes into lap two the rain had stopped and the mud began it's grabby, sucky, sticky, clogging ways. I soon had no drive train that I could see. My tires were the size of mack truck rubber and my bike weighed 50 lbs. This is where the trail ended, the novelty began for 2 minutes and the misery began for 6.5 hours. Riding downhill was hard and required pedaling. Riding on flats felt like a sprint on a stationary bike with the resistance turned to 11.

Bikes began exploding all over the course, as if someone had a super weapon that tuned into the frequency of bike, and shattered them with sound waves. Some how my bike escaped, probably because it was no longer a bike and had turned into the swamp thing.

Not my bike above, but a good representation. By the end of lap two I had screamed for forgiveness a few times while somehow moving past Tostado and Brandon, which put me in the unfortunate position of being in 2nd place and in the money, enough to think that quitting was real stupid. I concluded that if I trudged forward as if a sherpa carrying the goods for the money I would be alright. A couple curses along the way would release the steam building up in my 30 lb shoes.

It didn't even bother me that I was grabbing trees with poison ivy all over to help me hoist myself two extra feet up the trail. One of the rare times I could ride. Notice this bike had my 700x45c tires on it. The no longer in production Mutano Raptors cut a half hour from my 3hr lap times. That meant I could ride 2.5 of the 10 miles verses 2 of 10 with the other bigger tires. But no matter what tires you rode, it sucked. As in the mud didn't let go.
I couldn't believe what we were doing to the trails or ourselves by continuing on with the charade of a race. Fortunately they were private trails and the owner was the promoter, and he said keep going, until he realized that with 4 hour laps no one should go out past 6, inorder to avoid people getting lost in a mud bog at night. I came in around 5 and Jeremiah was there waiting for me, and was ready to call a truce in order to avoid going out for another lap. No protest from me and we waited to see if third place was willing to do the same if they came in before 6.

I lost a couple of years in the race, but Levi was key to Jeremiah and my success. I stayed in second, while the legendary Andy Applegate got 3rd with 4 laps also. Last year the winner got 11 laps in. Draugalis only did 2 laps and got 4th overall after getting 2nd last year with 11 go arounds.
Indy Fab rider Kylie rode on a coed-duo team for her birthday!
Seriously that was the worst thing ever. But like I said before, my brain has a way of making me forget the miserable activities so I might go back.