This morning, I made cake. Lots and lots of cake. I made it good and early, just in case I messed up. After all, I had promised The Best Cake in the World to those who made it to the top of The Double-E Half Hour of Pain, and I did not want to disappoint.
Even more remarkably, I cleaned my bike. In principle, I am opposed to cleaning bikes — if you start cleaning them, they come to expect it and develop a diva complex — but I wanted to impress.
When the time came, I put the cake in the car and drove to the top of the climb, then descended to the base of the climb, where we’d be starting. All the people I had marked as my nemeses were there: Eric, the boss’s boss, and Raymond Chen. I joked to the riders — there were about ten of us, all told — that I had already biked to the top of this nasty 2.5 mile climb a couple times that day, just for practice.
And with that, we took off.
Are You Just Toying With Me?
Most of the people on this ride were there just to get to the top, but as anyone who read yesterday’s post knows, I had trash-talked myself into a corner. I was going to have to do my utmost to win. (Meanwhile, I should point out, Eric the Evil had secretly offered a $20 premium to anyone who could beat me to the top. But that’s his story to tell.)
I went out hard, hoping that if I just flew off the front initially, I could quickly convince everyone that I am not to be trifled with. The Boss’s Boss (herein known simply by his name, John), matched. In fact, he matched easily. Two other guys matched, too, Nathan and a guy who shot off the front so fast and far that I never caught his name.
From there, Nathan, John and I took turns leading our chase group. Neither of them seemed particularly challenged by my pace, but I was right on the edge. I asked John, "Are you just toying with me?" He did not answer.
As we got close to the summit, I was right on the edge of cracking; I knew I would not win a sprint if it came down to that. So, after "resting" in the back of our group of 3 for a minute, I stood up and attacked, figuring I’d either drop these two guys, or I’d explode spectacularly and fall of the back. Nathan matched, and then as I faded, he bridged up to the leader.
Still, the gamble hadn’t been a complete failure. I was blown, but John was too. And I had 50 feet on him. All I needed to do now was keep looking back and make sure he didn’t recover any faster than I did.
I made the final (and only) turn, and churned up the final third of a mile, finishing a few seconds ahead of John. Of course, next time we do this climb, he’ll be familiar with it (I’ve ridden up the Zoo Climb several times, this was his first), and so I’m guessing a rematch could have drastically different results.
With the race portion of the ride out of the way, I immediately went back into what I like to call my "Spastic Mr. Rork" mode. That is, I started thinking that it was my duty to ride back down and then ride sweep at the back of the group, making sure we all got to the top. And then we’d have cake.
And that’s where things went horribly, horribly wrong.
I had made the fatal mistake of believing Raymond Chen – who I had made a special point of inviting on this ride — when he said he was a slow climber. So I didn’t even look for him as I blasted down the first half mile of the climb. [Update: Turns out I didn't just not see him. We missed each other wacky-sitcom-style. Raymond explains here.]
Sometime during that half mile, we crossed paths. I would continue down looking for him, blithely unaware. And I would continue descending, thinking at each corner, "I’ll see him around the next corner."
Eventually, I got to the bottom third of the climb, came to the conclusion that Mr. Chen had turned around and gone home, and I — slowly, slowly — began the climb again.
Meanwhile, I assume, he — along with everyone else — was at the top of the climb, increasingly angry that I had failed to deliver on my promise of the Best Cake in the World (which was safely locked in my car, mere yards away).
I Have My Cake and Eat (Lots of) it, Too
By the time I got back to the top, most everyone had gotten bored of waiting for this flibbertigibbet of a Fat Cyclist and gone down the other side, cakeless.
Eric (who’s really not so evil, once you get to know him) and Simeon were still waiting, so I opened up the car: between the three of us, we had two cakes to eat.
The thing about the Best Cake in the World is that it is remarkably dense — scientists have shown that it subtly alters nearby gravitational fields), and none of us were able to eat more than a couple pieces, leaving me with a 1.5 cake surplus.
Hey, Who Wants Some Cake?
So now I am sitting at home and, five pieces of cake later, no longer believe this is the Best Cake in the World. Somewhere around the fourth piece I hit a point of diminishing returns. I also do not believe that — having done the Zoo climb twice in one day — I could even climb a set of stairs should the need arise (luckily, my house is entirely stairless).
And finally, I believe that I shall not step on a scale for a day or two; after this much cake, I don’t want to know what it has to say.
I’ll be freezing the rest of the cake (oh, there’s still plenty; don’t you worry about that) and bringing it to work Monday. Anyone who braved the climb and then got stiffed, cakewise, please accept the humble apologies of the Fat/Dorky Cyclist, and come by and have some of this cake.
Otherwise, it will go to waste. I can no longer stand the sight of it.