05 July, 2012

Firecracker Fiddee 2012. Happy 4th!

L-R, Brian, Kenny L., me
 Man, the fourth year of doing this.  Other than the first year being memorable, the other years stunk.  The last time I did it I triple flatted and course officials had to use radiometric dating to exactly figure out what time I actually finished.  This year was different.  I actually trained.  It is amazing how much a little support for one's endeavor can do for results (that is another story as well).

The Natural Grocer's (unofficial) Dirt Team had a good turnout for this event.  Let's see, there was Bill  Herwig, Dr. Timothy Bauer, Tim Fandrich, (the irrespressible) Kenny L, (new guy) Brian Link, and moi (not to be confused with a moa, a flightless bird found in New Zealand).  That's six (and I kept my shoes on too for accuracy!)!

Bill and Tim B. were obviously on another plane of fitness.  They rode all fiddee miles as individuals. Tim F. pardner'd up with a long time friend and did it as a team (one lap for each).  The remaining three-we-stayed together on the first and part of the second lap.

Each lap is 25 miles long with 3300' of climbing.
Gnarly don't you think?  We did this twice.  
The promoters made slight course changes for the better (i.e. no more two-way traffic on a screaming downhill!) and I think they cleaned up the super-rocky descent back into the finish area.  Either way it made for a smoof day or at least as smoof as one can be in a 50 mile off-road race.

The beginning.
E(xpert), 46's my age, and a bad looking ankh above my ankh-el.
We got there early enough to get our race plates, t-shirt, socks, (and the pint glass filled with beer, post-race).  They mark your calf with age and category and for the sake of aesthetics I had the girl put an ankh on it for luck.  Kenny had a pentagram and his number had horns and a pointy tail.  That girl was cool.  The guy after Kenny plagiarized Kenny's idea-the bastard!  The socks are black, Wooly Booly 3/4 length sock so I wore 'em for the race because I want the extra cush-cush for when my feet get wet during the creek crossings.  The creek crossings-once on the course-were a trickle this dry summer.  As we're dressing from the side street, an old racer teammate and good friend back from Tejas comes up and we hug and say our mutual salutations.  Right before that, I asked Kenny, What are the chances of meeting a co-worker up here?  Well he's no coworker but he was a good friend.  Rob tells me he's volunteering at Aid Station number 1.  How cool is that?  Later after Rob leaves, Kenny asks, Hey man, you some secret weapon stuff?  It's from one of our sponsors-Cliff- it's a Cliff Shot Turbo (Double [sic]Expresso) Energy Gel with 100 mg of C8H10N4O2.  I take three.  After we locate Brian (through my magical powers of echolation), it's off to stage in our respective category-Expert Men.  I'm no expert ('cept for maybe belching really loud, long, and baritoney), but dammit I'm a Man-or at least that's what your Mom said...LAD NIGHT!.....I'm sorry.  At the staging area, I ingest the secret weapon (bwahahaha!). 

After the promoter counts us down we roll out neutral for like a mile because all the racers are part of the fourth of July parade in Main Street Breckenridge, CO.  We're rolling down Main Street separated by barriers from the spectators and the kids stick their hands in between the fencing to side-five (or high-five) us as we begin the race.   It's pretty cool and inspiring seeing all these people watching and cheering you (and flashing us their boobies-c'mon there're families here!!) on before you begin the pain.  No. They don't flash boobies here.  This is a respectable town.  Incidentally between Brian, Kenny, and the flightless NZ bird our number plates are 89 (Brian), 90 (Kenny L.), and 91.  We would finish in reverse order today.  That's a good omen right?  For a man who teaches science, I sure am superstitious about my race day rituals.  To name a few examples, I don't shave my face two days prior to event (legs are different) and I ALWAYS wear black, 3/4 length crew socks from our sponsor.   I don't carry food nor water for this event because the Aid Stations are plentiful and the promoter's left no stone unturned for feeding and hydrating the racers while actually racing.

Lap 1.
Jeez.  You'd think there's a race going on with all these people pedaling so darn fast!  Kenny, Brian, and I don't match their speed (and they are cooking!) up the long-arsed climb.  We have to conserve for the last lap.  We climb as a trio and once we get into singletrack we pretty much stay together too.  On the climb there are usually some fun loving criminal spectators that setup a ramp where riders, if they choose to, will get up to ramming speed and get airborne.  Hey!  I'm riding an Airborne!  A Guardian to be precise.  Once they land, after a boisterous show of appreciation from the peanut gallery, they are rewarded with a shot of Wild Turkey.  Unfortunately, they didn't wake up in time for our category. The singletrack was WICKED!  I was thankful at the SCREAMING downhills where I could follow a pack of riders and not ride the brakes because I had no reference of the speed handling capabilities.  The highest point 11,000-ish feet or so you had to climb a scree field that crossed a creek a couple of times.  Since it's been a dry summer my feet weren't too soaked.  At the top, the single track was so narrow you had to be careful on the leeward pedal stroke so as to not launch yourself on the downstroke sending you careening down the steep embankment!  It was almost like a tightwire act.  Made a mental note to be more smoov with no deathgrip on the handlebars here on the second lap.  Last 1/3d had the new singletrack cut.  It was in a relatively clear patch where the singletrack was super dusty.  They cut the trails with berms so you can keep it fast while carving.  Very cool as well as rocky.  On any given part of the course-especially the downhills-you'd see riders patching flats.  Not me, I run tubeless.  The only thing I scan for is tallish rocks with sharp, side-wall cutting edges!  Then a roller-coastery tight singletrack with a wee stiff climb that dumps you on the technical descent into the finish line to begin the second lap.  We had a pack descending into the park when a group of Pros asked us for a pass rather politely so we pulled over.  These guys have to be hitting 40 miles per on the super screamers.  First lap done with a time of 2h 20 mins.  Hey I can do this is less than 5h!

Lap 2.
If you've been around awhile and watched Greg Lemond win his Tours de France you might've notice a guy before the scene named Bernald Hinault (aka The Badger).  His pedaling strategy was to always ratchet it up a notch (increase wattage) the closer you got to the finish line.  It didn't matter what the terrain was but you could not let up, or diminish intensity so within meters, or miles, or whatever measuring units of length you use you had better be bleeding out your ears near the finish line.  That would be my strategy because I survived lap 1 and my tank wasn't empty.  On the climb, I ride a bit quicker to make up time.  What do I see ahead?  My fun loving criminals with their ramp set up and the Wild Turkey flowing and applauses and screams for the suckas that get tempted.  I see the ramp!  I increase my wattage and boom I'm airborne in my Airborne.  Applause and cheers for this sucka!  Seconds later a guy gives me a professional handup.  Instead of a musette bag it's a plastic cup with Wild Turkey (aka the Kickin' Chick'n!!) in it.  Strangely enough, I like the heat when it touches my tongue and the heat following my esophagus's path as it passes onto my gullet (c'mon liver, process those toxins!).  Soothing it is.  At Aid Station number 1, I see Rob and fill up the tank.  I'm walking the scree field to the apex of the course and time's a'tickin.  Probably not going to get a sub-5h time with this.  Kenny's riding like a fiend and passes me but Brian (after I learned his situation) is starting to cramp and has to ratchet down his intensity.  So after hanging onto groups, getting dropped, passing groups, I settle into a group and I have to have the tenacity to hang because I lost so much time walking the scree field.  I see dust flying so we're near the finish.  My group passes a Sport girl and the singletrack gets tight so I get gapped from my group.  I am cool and not a road snob so I say, can I pass when it's safe?     O my God!  After an eternity she's still on Sunday driver pace and to slyly show my sense of urgency and annoyance I calmly say, Can you PLEASE pull the fuc* over and let me pass?  She pulls over and I'm riding like a possessed, twin-turbo charged, v-12 diesel motor hoping to catch my previous group minutes ahead by now.  I am pedalling at every opportunity to close the gap.  The dust is flying so they must be in the open field.  I hit the open field and I see the last guy in the train duck back into the forest.  Not too far.  I increase the watts...
Now I'm in the forest and after 10 or so minutes of roller coastery, tight singletrack and threading the needle through the tight stuff I'm on the back of the group.  We begin our last climb, and now I'm wearing horse blinders because I'm so focused on staying in this group while climbing technical stuff.  With my 10x2, I notice the guy's cadence in front of me isn't synched with mine.  Why?  Because my mind is now wandering from being tired, anxious for the finish, and getting a smidge hypoglycemic (I didn't fill up at the last Aid Station).  I have to dismiss this and focus on increasing watts applied smoofly to the pedals, or else I might lose it mentally and implode.  Roadies call it cracking as opposed to bonking aka hitting the wall.  Although a source of cracking could be bonking.  I wasn't going to bonk.  Not today at least.  We pass Kenny on the climb.  His rear tire got knicked by a sharp rock so he had to get off the bike and pump it up while his sealant plugged the cut.  By this time this choo-choo is in for the kill.  We're sharks looking to eat and spit out the chum!  I notice my legs are fresh and I'm ready to go around people on this climb but it's so narrow I have to bite my tongue and soft pedal to maintain the line.  Finally we climb the last steeper part of the narrow fireroad and pass the slower climbers like Moses parting the waters.  From our group of 8, 5 get around.   We settle in after the initial acceleration and my legs still wanna go so I pass another rider.  4th!  I see the right hander singletrack where it's near impossible to pass in the descent to the finish so the order is going to stay like this if I don't go for another pass.  I punch it (don't bother to lock the fork), get out of the saddle and I pass one more.  Years before, in this particular descent to the finish, I was fighting my bike and riding the brakes because I was so exhausted.  Now, my mantra is, DON'T TOUCH THE BRAKES!  The two in front of me have dual boingers but I am so focused that there isn't but a three foot gap max I maintain from second rider.  One more look at my top tube for Eric's (Eric from Airborne bikes and kindred spirit) words of inspiration FLY OR DIE to increase my wattage via the placebo effect....As we're flowing like water on this screamer of a downhill, I swear Penelope is screaming, WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!  Bam!!  I get Stan's sealant spewing all over me.  Second in line shears/burps his rear tire on these sharp rocks littering the downhill on the apex of a switchback.  I offer my condolences and try to hunt number one.  He's gapping me ugly so I assess how far the next guy is behind me.  They're not too far so I keep it pegged.  The last four switchbacks, you can see clearly who's behind you (and in front of you).  The guy behind me has his missile sights radar locked on me and he's pedaling like a fiend.  Probably 5 car lengths?  So I pedal with a little more desperation.  With the finish line coming up, I check my six and even though he's possessed, he's not going to pass me before the line, so I ease up, zip up my jersey and pump my right fist in the air as I cross the line.  I hear the announcer say my name correctly and one second later, homeboy behind me crosses the line.  Booyeah!  5h and 12 minutes later I finished.  A PR for me.  What I do know (sadly it's not a lot) is this:  I am humble and thankful for a plethora of components-whether organic or inorganic-harmoniously and synergistically coming together in this cosmic mish-mash (although training probably occupies a large piece o'dat pie) for the event known as the Firecracker.  Take that other years of extreme lameness!  Happy days!  Now it's time for free food, slaps on the back with my competitors/teammates, and beer in my new pint glass....   
Stick a fork in me.  I. Am. Done!

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