When I left Denver it was 34° F 'round 7:00. As I started rolling through Northglenn the mercury started dropping (actually they don't put mercury in thermometers anymore, just red dye and alcohol nowadays for the sake of uber-interested, orally fixated kids). That's when I said, "Self? Why didn't you pack your Corsa weight Natural Grocers jacket?" I did bring sandwich bags though for me feets and by golly it worked out on the course (homemade, internal booties)!
When I got there, I knew my girlfriend's brother Drew would be out there because his wave went before mine so I was looking out for his yellow X-Terra. As I got out of my truck to pick up my number he rolled up and asked if he could borrow my helmet because he forgot his. I've done that. At the Denver Federal Crit earlier this year, I had to borrow a helmet from a bystander because I forgot mine at home. The deal breaker's usually the helmet or the shoes. That's when you say to yourself, "Self, you better put that second helmet in your vehicle just in case." Of course, my second helmet's over the shelf in my laundry room.
After I get my number pinned on my three layers of kit I get the green flag to preview the course. One of the referees bust me because I'm flying the colors and riding sans skid lid. So I tell him, "My teammate (Drew races for another team, truth be told) forgot his helmet and he's currently racing that's why I don't have mine. May I borrow yours if you brought one?" He says it's my lucky day because he brought his helmet. So I put his helmet on, designed for someone who has a severe case of hydroencephalitis apparently (size: mellon gargantuan), but I was so happy to preview the course and it fit under my kinda slightly bulky head gear and as I rolled on I said, "thanks." So preview and warmup here I go...
When we get our callups we're eight wide and and I count nine, yes nine, rows. Yikes! I get third row and I line up for the holeshot on the inside line (the first turn is a righty-tighty) so if people want to pass me I have the line and they have to ask themselves, "Self? Do I want to risk crashing because that handsome gentleman flying the Natural Grocers colors with the sandwich bags poking out of his shoes riding the Airborne Delta because he has the the inside line and I know 'cross racers aren't afraid to throw shoulders or elbow check hence running the risk of taking myself-and others possibly-out in a crash at the onset of the race? I think not."
This week because of my apathy (not only that but I didn't care!) during my last race I learned a lesson. My lessons to practice was my starts: clicking my non-drive side shoe onto my pedal and sprinting out of the gate like Satan-not be confused with Santa but that's coming up! My Shimano mountain bike shoes have very tight, recessed clearances between the cleat and the outsole/tread so it's not as easy as it seems and with the added mental stress of the official counting us down it's sorta difficult. Another strategy I employed was some advice my Ninja Billy told me the night before. He told me to channel the Filipino Clint Eastwood-my father for inspiration. I showed him pictures of my Dad when he was younger and truly my Dad looks alot like the younger Clint Eastwood. So that's what I did. My Dad was the stoker and I was the captain. Beautiful isn't it? So I did that and it worked out nicely. We are off and digging in, my behind looking like a swimming alligator's metronomic arse, my hand's rocking the drops and head bobbing like a savante (pedal Dad, pedal Dad we're catching 'em!! I miss you Dad!). In slow motion I see the guy directly in front of me front wheel kissing the guy's in front of him rear tire thus ensuring his one-way ticket to the pavement. Sir, I regret to tell you, you have date with the X axis. A competitor behind me with his GoPro filmed it. I'm the guy in the orange pockets, white shouldered jersey with the silver cross bike. Click on the link.
So he get's bucked off his pedals and he's hanging onto his handlebars-I'm seeing this in slow motion-and I say to myself, "Self? You sure can pick the winners to line up during callups." As he's actually sliding off his bike to his right, he finally releases the handlebars and the momentum of his forward force scoots his rig over the gentleman's rear tire in front of him and it catapults his bike at least six feet in the air. Here I am saying, "Slow motion Self? The negative coefficient of this current, skinny parabola of the flying bike will make me the first thing that gets hit once his bike conforms to gravitational attraction at the current velocity I'm traveling." So homeboy is cartwheeling to my left and his bike's trajectory is also to his left i.e. me as its target. I do a major Atari lane change and some drift braking (thanks disc brakes!) as we're charging out of the gates like Pamplona's Running of the Bulls and I just graze homeboy's shoulder (with my left leg) and the bike lands/bounces millimeters off my left side. Amazingly he only takes himself out but of course I lose some placings as people get around my unlucky self.
So I'm lined up in the singletrack and getting passed in the frenzy but also fighting for position. At the super twisty portion I'm at the slowpokes's mercy (some people are actually off their bikes running) but at least I'm somewhere in the middle as opposed to being lanternrouged like last race. When it filters out I'm in a string of riders where our skills and dieseling ability are close. Here's the surreal and quasi-embarrasing part: the guy directly in front of me is dressed up in a Santa suit complete with cheesy white beard! I say, "Self? You're NOT going to let Santa put the smackdown on you are you? Uh, no self, that is not going to be an option today." After the twisties a super long straightaway's coming up and I say to myself, "Self? Burn a match, open up the twin turbos and pass Saint Nick!" Sheeyat. Saint Nick kicks in his afterburners and actually put's a car length on me as we're both digging in! I can't get him! Deem Saint Nick!
Here's some more surreality: after the first lap the stitching on his pants is coming undone on his arse side and I don't know whether to laugh (which I did) or get more upset (did that too) because Santa is testing my mettle! Again, we pour it on on the flats and he ever so slightly gaps me. Finally he pops before the second round of twisties and bumps come up. I'm dieseling pretty good and this is my position plus or minus a couple of hominds towards the end. As I pass Santa I say something encouraging so as to be more nice rather than naughty.
|This run-up beats stairs any day. Still sucked though|
Last lap, I'm gassed and I'm leading a pack of 4 four. You know what that means, if the dude behind me has more juice at the end I'm gonna get passed. We're flowing, he tries for the pass at the top of the run up, I punch it and I'm leading towards the right hander onto the finish line which is pavement. Hands on the drops, chain on the biggy-small (as opposed to the rapper Biggy Smalls), we both wind up our sprints, heads hovering above our stems, rocking our steeds digging in. He's coming for the pass but the finish line is also coming up so I throw my bike to break the plane first but as luck would have it, he finishes before me officially (thought I had him!). Nice! Left everything on the course and our Natural Grocers placings are 27th, 30th, and 34th (me) out of 70+ people today. I'm average. Oh well. Had fun as opposed to last race's efforts and mental satisfaction. I shake the dude's hand who squeaked by me and we do a partial cool down (more like a freeze down) on the course and head back to the staging area. I see Santa checking the results and I say, "Good Job Santa." At this point, his pants now look like ass-less chaps adding to my day of fun, satisfaction, and race-induced surrealism. My teammate from Wyoming says, his next race is an endurance race in Castlerock. 60 miles of easy topographically speaking, mountain bike racing. Okay, April 21st I'm going to be looking for fitness and it's a date with racing again. Stick a fork in me, I'm done for the season y'all. Now, I'll have to be extra vigilant dietetically and aerobically while doing freezing group rides with my peers, teammates, and competitors in the Colorado off-season.
On the way home, Drew and I eat an amazingly unremarkable breakfast consisting of short stacks o'pancakes at Johnson's Corner outside of Loveland; but, at the very least, I've got a good tale to tell Karen at her Christmas party which was amazingly remarkable.