04 July, 2007

The Firecracker 50 (revised)

yeauh! kenny, grant, and i raced the 50 today. one word: pain. okay here's how it unfolded. the racer's are also participants in the parade. back in the day it was just one big group; but this event's so huge (it's also a national qualifier for marathon mountain biking national chump and world's qualifier), we had to start in waves according to our categories. that meant i didn't get to ride with my teammates jared, lance, and kenny (who's also my bud-row), and my college roommate, grant. my category's sport men 40-49. i think i was the only doofus in my category who rode a hardtail. it was neutral start and attendance of the parade i think (per the announcer) was 5k. it was awesome. kids were lined up gauntlet-style with their hands out to sideways-five us, the racers. it was cool. once the lead vehicle pulled over, the mayhem started. normal strategy is to go chilly-chill first lap then turn on the afterburners come lap 2. i was feeling good and i went faster than i should've on the first lap. walked a wee bit before the scree field and the super cold snow melt making up the creek crossings. hoowee was it cold! it woke me up and made my feet hurt when you pedal with wet feet on a carbon footbed for 5.5 hours. on the scree downhill the singletrack was so skinny that if you went over, you weren't going to stop anytime soon. it was like balancing on the high wire. any little bobble would be kinda fatal or at the very least, painful and expensive. lap two comes 'round and i'm in survival mode. i shoot hate rays out of my eyes on the one lappers that go blazing past me in clean kits whereas all the two lappers are filthy with mud and dust. so a fifth of the way up on the second lap i hear somebody doing a rawhide, round'em up yeehaw. it's my complicitor kenny telling me to get on the train. the train for the laypeople out there is a term where you can sit-in while people (other than yourself) is yanking the pace along and you can motorpace/draft off of them free of momentary guilt (to rest a wee bit) to increase your speed (eventually you'll have to pull...). the train is different from the bus. the bus refers to a group of people off the back (not in the lead group) that forms a gaggle for the sake of survival (e.g. the group of sprinters in the tour de france who can't hang with the climbers-all arounders). the train is being driven by kenny, his new buddy from broomfield and a really fit and cute one lapper homegirl. they are cranking. i accelerate (if you want to call it that) to sit-in and my vastus medialis on my left leg starts to cramp. not good. so i say, "thanks, but no thanks", and i get into my survival rhythm once more. that's the last i saw of kenny. he was now officially flying uphill and downhill to the finish.
on the downhills if you didn't ride the correct line, the rocks-centered mostly on the natural fall line of the bike-are large enough that it would easily catapult you into a tree or taco your tire (or both!). you had to follow the beaten path singletrack or else. people were flying! i was passing people, people were passing me. it was amazing. due to the camber of the trail i had to fight not going into the middle where all the big rocks were. i almost biffed it once. i had to do a major bunnyhop to avoid taco'ing my tire and avoiding bodily harm. i start remembering the singletrack and this is my note to self that i'm close to the end. my goal now is to pass this small group of six or so riders ahead of me so i can establish my hierarchy in the narrow singletrack. it would be foolish to pass on this so i need to get in front of them to improve my overall placing. furthermore, i'm in this personal, friendly battle with another competitor in my category who's sporting a gary fisher sugar and we're trading places. i lead on the ups, he leads on the downs. it is a race and other than being polite verbally, your goal is to beat your competitors in your category (while also having a good time). i'm spent from passing the six uphill and as luck would have it, the gary fisher dude throws a chain on the inside. i say something complimentary to him as i pass. here comes the gnarly, final singletrack downhill and i'm riding the brakes to avoid crashing. my forearms are losing it but thank god here comes the finish line. i look behind me to see if anybody's going to ninja me out of my placing, no one's there so i just soft pedal to the finish line, looking like i went 15 rounds with mike tyson, pumping my right fist (non-verbally gesturing, "if you do that again!...")in the the air as i cross the line. kenny being the good friend that he is greets me at the finish line. he's probably been waiting more than 10 minutes (as of now, the results aren't yet posted on-line). i greet grant's lovely wife christina at the finish line, after our salutations, she's bustin' out the binoculars looking for her betrothed. grant finishes about 10 mins behind me.
we grab some food and proceed to eat. when kenny's angling for another beer, i see tinker juarez at the cannondale tent. i also get his autograph and we talk a bit. what a great guy. he was one of my early mountain bike heroes when i began to cycle competitively. he has crazy rasta-dreadlocked hair and is probably one of the most approachable and nicest guys that races bikes for a living. what a great way to end the day. i-70 was like a ghost town on the way back to d. tomorrow, we're off to lake tahoe (and it's forest fired self), so i'm cutting this short so mr. sandman can visit me.
addendum to blizzy-blog. here are the official results with splits for grant, kenny l., and yours truly. scroll to sport men 35-39 for g-ster and kenny l. and sport men 40-49 for moi. kenny drilled his first 50. way to go kenny! i'm daydreaming of a moots soft-tail (not the singlespeed version picture above) for next year's 50....
here's our gastrocnemius muscles labelled according to our category. can you figure out who's who from our calves (sorry for the blatant, not-so-subliminal bit of consumerism)? the topmost picture's a self-portrait of team ill after the fact...

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