Monday, May 14, 2007

Mayhem In the A.M: 12 Hours of Lodi Farm Race Report (Part 2)....

(Okay, on with the next pedantic exercise in literary self-apotheosis, sprinkled liberally with 25¢ words that are almost as efficacious as their 7¢ brethren. Believe at your own risk...)

Lap one is done and no amount of race-course revisionism is going to change my time. I didn’t wreck, I suffered no flats or mechanicals, I climbed all but a couple of steeps, I have a handle on the trail, and now this root-weary bag of bones heads back to camp along with Butch, who was kind enough to play spectator near the finish instead of grabbing some rest.

Back at camp, I chug the nearly full bottle of Accelerade I had neglected on my lap, washing down a Clif ZBar (49¢, moist, tasty, slim, all natural, no partially-hydrogenated test tube oil, sized right) for good measure. We haul the chairs up near the rear of Moby Dick, then throw our heels up on the bumper to let the blood drain back to the core. It's time to engage in a little glad it ain't me out there right now banter and to reflect on our laps. Butch is the old Butch again, risen from the dread; he of the Popeye Doyle grimace and monomaniacal focus has returned to show what he's made of—a damn fine thing, too. We share our experiences. Minutes later, I realize that the energy drink I took out on lap one wasn't the only thing I hauled around needlessly: My Camelbak is full of water; I barely touched it on the trail, preferring instead to keep both hands wrapped firmly around the grips. And the two packs of energy gel are still in my shorts pocket, unopened. I down one of these just to get rid of it.

We break out some food, something eminently forgettable, and sit there waiting, trying to keep warm. It's a ritual for me. Whenever I race Lodi, I never consider the weather conditions when packing. And it's always cooler than I expect. This year was no exception. I brought no leg warmers or long tights; just a couple pairs of baggy shorts, several pairs of socks, a long-sleeve woolie and another made of polyester, a sleeveless base-layer, and my old team race jersey. No down-time blanket—almost a sine qua non for lounging comfortably at race events. No sense crying about it now, just have to make do. I pull out my sleeping bag and wrap it around me. Much better. Too wound up to sleep, I close my eyes and think about the ride, re-running the route in my head. Scenes flash and flit across my mind, as indistinct and intractable as the tiny luminous ghosts that drift beneath my eyelids. They offer no meaningful input.

Some twenty or so minutes later, we hear DT call out, "the big meats!" as he rolls through mile three, close to camp. We reply in kind. It's a funny moment, at least for us, probably damn annoying to everyone else—if not now, then later when we use it repeatedly as a sort of clarion call to mobilize the next rider (this practice originated at Big Bear two years ago, where I caromed off a bridge rail while throwing up a hand to project my voice. I sport a nice little scar on my right shoulder as proof of this mishap. It is strangely impervious to ultraviolet rays). We suffer a burst of panic, as Butch seems to think DT is much closer to completing the lap than he really is (it wasn't till later that we marked the spot as mile three). We reason it all out and sit back again in our chairs, wrapped up like fat grubs dreaming of spring.

Night limps on. The first hour after your lap—this hour, for me—creeps by interminably; the second one has already passed: during a race, time's terms and conditions, experienced subjectively on and off the bike, obey no continuum and are subject to change without notice ("all rights reserved, all wrongs reversed"*).

The air is relatively quiet, the campsite soiree has settled down a bit and become serious. Under the glow of the rear dome light, I take some time to get a little deeper into Berryman's Dream Songs, which I'd been reading just before the race because it works. Butch readies himself for his next lap. He seems strong and focused and oddly eager to get back on the bike. We head over to the start. Gwadzilla is there early—towering like his eponym over most of the other riders—and ready to make amends for being tardy on his first lap and causing the lead rider to pull a double shift. (Seconds matter everywhere; they are the cells of lifetimes.)

Soon DT rolls in with a time of 1:08. This on a single speed with maybe 18-inches of hacked handlebar and only a front brake. It's a former fixie, a DIY 96er (I've ridden around on this bike before; the combination of big front wheel and stubby handlebar means the front end wants to flutter haplessly about like the tail of a landed fish), whose rear hub self-destructed months ago. No matter, a freewheel fits nicely and never mind the damn rear brake—no room on the bar for the lever anyway, not really. It's a counterintuitive strategy that works in his favor, as he's forced to swap stopping power for cornering prowess for a quicker lap time. It's not for me.

(An aside, indulge me here for a second: DT is a technical rider. Throw big-ass logs his way and he's over them like a gazelle, typically while straddling a fixed gear. He is by no means super fast, and climbs to him are anathema, but when the trail gets gnarly or points downhill over sketchy dreck, well, I'd put him up against anyone I know. Simply put, the boy is talented and either super-stupid or eternally fearless. Take your pick; it doesn't matter either way: in the end, you still get to see the show.)

Butch takes the "baton" and is off in a flash. I congratulate DT, and we wander back to camp, where I pretty much re-enact the last hour spent off the bike. This time, though, I'm amped up a little more as I know my turn is approaching quickly. I try to eat a bit, try to drain the lead from the legs, try to get motivated, try to stay away from the treasure chest that is our beer cooler, the bottle caps glinting in the moonlight like gold doubloons as I pull out and pound down a Monster Energy drink.

Soon we hear "the big meats!" as Butch zips through the mile-three point. DT and I return the call. It's my cue to take mental inventory of what I need to do before I'm up. I consider dumping the Camelbak in favor of the lone water bottle and a saddle pack, then abandon the idea, thinking this time I'll actually need the extra water. I swap my old team jersey for a long-sleeve polyester shirt to layer with the damp woolie I had on earlier. With time to spare, I sit down and relax a little longer.

Just after 4:00 a.m., I ride over to the starting line to wait. At 4:13, Butch comes hurling out of the darkness to snag a 1:00 lap time, same as his first one. I take the "baton" and hammer off, anxiety evaporating with every turn of the crank. Almost immediately, I catch and pass another rider, who seems all too willing to relinquish his place in this lemming line. I notice the things I hit on the first lap when my light was maladjusted, and manage to avoid them this time. At the mud fall, again I'm forced to dismount and charge up it, throwing a leg over the bike at the top and uglying my way down the other side unclipped.

The start of the lap goes well for the most part, though the roots that melted away beneath my tread earlier seem to have vitrified in the hours since. My tires bounce over them now, and the back end rebels against the rest of the bike on rooty corners. I make a note to lose some air for the next lap.

Somewhere around mile two, I glimpse a rider behind me coming directly towards me via the magic of an acute switchback. His failing headlamp is a feeble, piss-yellow glow and he's right on the ass of the rider in front of him. Then, unexpectedly, he passes the rider, catches up to me, and asks if he can hang on my tail for the rest of the ride. I tell him yeah, no problem, then proceed to describe the trail features as I encounter them, calling out "log over" and "sketchy downhill" and "whoopdee" by turns as they appear in the beam of my headlamp. We chat a bit (it's still free). The rider stays on my wheel; he's intrepid and skilled, and his presence pushes me a little harder. We pass several riders, and the tag-along tells me he's glad to have "finally found someone who can fucking ride." I pedal harder in response, determined to live up to this backhanded compliment.

Near mile-point three, I tell the tagger that I'm riding on a team called The Big Meats—a name I have to repeat—by way of warning him about my impending call-out, which happens seconds later. Butch and DT respond in kind. We roll on, passing riders when we can, the tagger so close I can't tell where my bike ends and his begins: my bike thwacks the trail on a dropoff and the echo behind me is almost concurrent. He sticks with me to the end, pushing all the way as I reach the start/finish line. I feel like I've pulled a much faster lap than my first one, but the results belie this impression: my time is 1:03—a mere two minutes quicker than my first lap. It's 5:16 a.m. Over a third of the race is no more than a memory now.

End, Part 2

*This clever phrase appears on a Pavement CD (I still want my "Who the fuck is Stephen Malkmus?" t-shirt, dammit!).


DT said...

That old Dodge looks like one of the vehicles on "LOST"...

Thanks for the props, but it won't be much longer before you've figured out all my secrets and whip my ass both uphill and down!

Maybe that will be my legacy...bringing Spearmint into the tech world, well that and calf high brown socks for riding.

DT said...

Ha, oh yea, and you riding my bike...I wish I knew how to type up the circus clown song, but sadly I can only hum it.

gmr2048 said...

Another fantastic partial writeup. Can't wait for the remaining chapters.

I did notice that you encountered a bit of a time warp on your lap. You mention Butch pulls in at 4:13am, then at the do too.

iconoclasst said...

An oversight; thanks for calling me out on it.

Numbers...I like words!

gwadzilla said...


iconoclasst said...


Tuesday at the latest. Now, stop terrorizing Tokyo—er, Mount Pleasant—and grab some z's.

(Three comments in one night...what's the world coming to?...)