The last two weeks seemed to evaporate- between daily crises (yes plural) at the mag, the three dudes camping on my floor, and beating myself up in racerland, my navel has begun to suffer from a definite lack of gazing. Which is probably a good thing, though I checked it out today- don’t worry, no lint.
Quick Aside: I don’t believe in blogs without pictures, but I haven’t taken any in the last month so I’m going to intersperse some images of things that make my world go ‘round right now. In other words, if you happen to be one of those word-o-phobes, fear not! You won’t have to read my inane rambling and can instead just enjoy these lovely shots of things I see a lot of.
Anyway, I’ve been a little hesitant to write about the racing of late. One, because the trailmaster only allows me three days of negativity after any event. Two, because I think I’ve already buried most of my memories in that deep, dark corner of my brain reserved for lost bikini tops and other traumas. But this is a blog devoted to all you passionate followers of my (kind of dubious) racing career, so I’ll do my best.
Keyesville was an event I’d first become acquainted with in my very first day at Bike. It was my initiation task to write a little web thing about the event, and I had enthusiastically created a three-page outpouring of verbal vomit to do it justice. It was swiftly and silently hacked beyond recognition, thereby teaching me my first magazine lesson; keep it below 500 words, and when you want to add a personal story; don’t.
I thought it would be a cool full-circle thing to have my first race of the season also link up with my first bit of writing for Bike, but I was wrong. The universe had zero interest in any of my sentimental delusions. I began to get an inkling of this after spending six hours in LA traffic (watching the possibility of a preride trickle away) and arriving in the bustling metropolis of Wofford Heights.
Wofford Heights is a town of simple pleasures, with a tattoo parlor right next to the “beer cave” and not much else. One of the cool pastimes there is to try to touch a gigantic petrified stump, which is supposedly very heavily guarded by the police and many layers of fencing. Wofford Heights sits on the edge of Lake Isabella, which sounds like an asset, but isn’t really. It was the sort of town where the grocery store features refrigerators on all four walls, all of which contain solely beer, excepting one shelf in the corner which houses one kind of milk and the soda. I went in looking for hummus, oats, perhaps some organic peanut butter- I came out with bread, whole milk, and some scary bananas. I resisted buying the pickled pigs feet.
The racing sucked, but the riding (which, after I got dropped, was pretty much what I spent all three hours out there doing) was awesome. It was a very cool, very pretty course, and with something like 1500 feet of climbing per 8.5 mile lap, it definitely provided a physical challenge. I’m all for epic races, though I don’t think the promoters quite realized what they’d signed us up for- after all, 32 miles of racing is a marathon, not an XC, and we would have been looking at 4 hour finish times if they hadn’t dropped the last lap. It was kind of a bummer though; I was having a survivor moment out there alone on the trail, starving and fried, facing the prospect of another lap and wanting to die, when the official kindly ushered me off the course. I was like what th- ok.
I ended the day determined to drink away my sorrows, but ended up getting too tired and falling asleep instead.
I came home to three of my favorite bike pals camped out on the floor. Though I’d forgotten about the key technicality and had ended up giving them instructions (like a good hostess) on where to optimally break in to my house, they all seemed to have settled in just fine. I hadn’t realized how much I missed bike folk, but having those guys around turned out to be super refreshing. We ate a ton of food, went on some great rides, and did a little hanging out at the beach. It’s easy to forget what kind of place you’re living in, but having people to show it to makes it seem cool again. I also realized that my solo training rides are kind of lackluster. Aside from the fact that there’s considerably less hollering, skidding, and falling into holes, I think I just don’t ride that hard when I’m on my own. Just something to work on, I guess.
The week was over too quickly and suddenly we were all in Fontucky, a town which embodies all the finest qualities of the sprawling Inland Empire. Every visible building seemed to pertain to “trucks!” and a sickly sort of haze was settled over everything, which brought to mind weird images of inhaling bits of rubber and the like. Fontana seems like the last place you’d ever see a bike, yet somehow out of the middle of it all there springs up this totally improbable park, upon which all the bike nerds descend every year like “yeah! lets go ride!” There’s a good reason- those improbable trails are gnarly.
My first look at the course was disastrous- I couldn’t make it up or down anything without getting scared or stupid, and by the end I felt like a quivering noodle. It’s true that I haven’t seen a whole lot of singletrack since my surgery, but I was a whole different level of wimpy during that ride. It was not a great feeling to have going in to the race, especially with the fast girls. At dinner I ordered the scariest-looking of the thai meals at our table and prepared for a battle.
It turned out not to be much of one- again I got dropped, again I spent the day just hoping to finish, and again I debated just tossing it all in and taking up needlepoint. The differences between Fontana and Keyesville; about 30mph of wind, the presence of every name I associate with mountain bikes, and the In-n-out burger truck. After three laps of pain I was annihilated, but I didn’t get pulled so I had to eat another gu (which at that point tasted like death and poison) and finish my race. I toiled through the lap alone, hating everyone, and then as a grand finale had to push my way through the entire men’s field just to get to the finish line; they’d forgotten I was still out there and had started staging the boys. Awesome.
The positive I’ve been trying to glean from this miserable day is that I somehow cleaned every section that had stumped me preriding, and continued to do so every lap despite my deteriorating mental and physical everything. It’s like I got over some hurdle and started to be a mountain biker again, and it felt good. In that twisted, nauseating, mountain-bike-y way, of course.
So then my pals went home, leaving me in a house that I now see is entirely too lacking in Shakira and almond butter. Back to life as a hermit-y intern. I’m focusing on riding like less of a pansy, not shriveling up under the fluorescent lights at work, and getting up the chutzpa for the next event, my very first Sea Otter, in two weeks. As always, the trauma fades and all I want to do is give racing another go. One of the many things I love and hate about this sport. Yee haw!