Monday, October 20, 2008
As I watched my bicycle and left leg roll beneath the Honda SUV last week I felt a mix of horror and frustration I haven't experienced in a while. Attempts at positive thinking have been marginally successful; I am not broken, just slightly smashed. Hobbling on crutches is both a source of frustration and embarrassment at being turned into a spectacle for sympathy. Plans have been altered and season goals reassessed. A trip to the Northwest is now for scenery and aesthetics rather than advancement of physical conditioning. I read and hear of others doing that which I desperately desire but cannot accomplish. In time, wounds will heal and they are not of the magnitude which was certainly possible. I am lucky for the support of loved ones, both friends and family. The patience afforded my frustration is appreciated more than is possible to express. There will be other races,other bicycles and other opportunities. For now I bask in the knowledge that I have the best people imaginable in my life, even if it is difficult to show it to them at all times. I am not broken and with time, my body will mend the relatively minor injuries given the circumstances and I will cease to take for granted the gifts of good health and good people. Everything happens for a reason and I welcome the reminder of all that I have to appreciate.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
This past weekend marked the fifth anniversary of a twelve hour race Mesa puts on called the Burning at the Bluff. Each year has seen the race grow in stature and participants and the 2008 edition took each aspect to a new level. This race has truly become a high caliber event and with this year's inclusion of chip timing, national champions and giant novelty checks, the bar has been raised.
The weekend started with my annual course marking duties. A slow ride on the course tacking up mile markers and caution tape showed the trail to be in the best shape I'd ever ridden it, despite the year's worth of water and erosion making things markedly rougher than years past. Despite the new element of non stop pounding, the course was tacky enough to be rippin fast and had a minimum of the skating rink quality that characterized the preceding four years. The course marking went smoothly despite my first year on my own and after my ride, I helped with registration and packet pickup until it was lights out. After a meal of pasta and a couple PBR's, I tried to sleep in preparation for the next morning's seven AM rider's meeting.
The following day, I made the rider's meeting in time and set about preparing my bike and equipment for a long day of riding. I was set to go off first and tackle the traditional LeMans start and ensuing first lap chaos. In the last four years, I've never been the first to ride and as such, didn't realize how critical a good position off the run would be for the overall results. I got into the woods about halfway down, but more crucially, I was stuck behind a line of riders who dabbed many obstacles, causing me to put more feet down than I would have ever imagined in the first few miles. I slowly worked my way through this group before the major climb at four and a half miles in, where I managed to detach myself from the group and set off in pursuit of the front. I was riding very poorly having not ridden the trail at all in 2008 and racing a new bike I was unaccustomed to. I popped out of the woods after the first lap with a 1:15. Three minutes slower than last year, but I figured I had room for improvement throughout the day. I assumed we were in the lead, but was dismayed to find another coed team already six minutes up.
After Christopher and Amy ripped the course a new one, I went out for lap two and instantly felt smoother and faster than the first lap. I felt like I was really flying, but jammed my chain a few times requiring a dismount. It didn't really seem that it took too much time, but I somehow rode a minute slower than my first lap. Christopher and Amy continued to post solid laps with Christopher taking twenty minutes off his time from last year and Amy posting the fastest woman's lap of the day. Unfortunately, the women on the top two teams were very evenly matched and the two males on the lead team were slightly faster each lap than Christoper or myself and their lead grew to fifteen minutes after six laps.
I went out for a third lap, extremely wary of the potential for my annual major crash at the Burning. Somehow, it didn't happen and I continued to clean obstacle after obstacle until I came through the lap having only taken two minor dabs, which was a victory in and of itself. Additionally, I kept all the skin on my body and kept us in contention for the win. Christopher and Amy cleaned up the race with the last three laps and in the end, we finished second at about fifteen minutes down. Not the result I was hoping for, but it was competitive racing and the fastest Coed race at the Burning to date so I can't really be disappointed. We left it all on the trail and were bettered by a slightly superior team. No worries, there was plenty of PBR flowing and with tons of great people to hang out with post race, there was enough to keep my mind off the defeat. There's always 2009.
The race of the day had to be in the men's solo 12hr. Teammate and friend Zach Brace slowly chipped away at a forty five minute deficit that local endurance king Dwayne Gosainski held to take the lead in their eighth lap. When word came in that Zach had flatted on lap nine while in the lead, the collective heart of the Mesa team sank only to be jubilantly renewed when Zach emerged first from the woods to take his biggest win to date. It was an amazing end to an all around epic day of racing and one that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Saturday night consisted of much partying with A-class individuals and Sunday held the traditional groggy cleanup. The weather was the most face-meltingly awesome fall explosion I've seen at the race yet and it made me long for extended time in the forest away from the daily grind. It's always fantastic to end the MTB season this way and remind me of all the great people in my life and the sometimes taken for granted aspects of my home state. Hopefully, the upward slop will continue for the Burning next year and we will continue to watch it grow for years to come as it is a truly special event.
Much credit for the race goes to my co-workers at Mesa, the good folks at GORC, the ICCC for neutral support, Specialized for sweet demo goodness and PBR for the biggest infusion on quality since the race began. Thanks everyone and we'll see you all next year!