It’s amazing how little decisions can make an extraordinary difference in the outcome of huge events. How little things you have done — or failed to do — can wind up helping or hindering you in ways entirely disproportionate to the trivial effort you invested.
Consider, for example, the following small things I did when I finally decided I should make at least some kind of preparation for the Park City Point 2 Point race.
- I called Kenny and told him I still had the gearing I used at Leadville (34 x 20) and whether he thought I should use an easier gear. He said I should, so I called Racer and told him to swap the 20 out for a 22.
- I was unable to find my favorite mountain bike gloves right off the bat, so rather than hunt for them, I packed a pair I haven’t worn in a couple years.
- I briefly considered stealing the suspension fork off of The Runner’s Superfly Singlespeed and putting it on my FattyFly instead. I let the thought pass and did not think of it again. For a while.
- I dug an old Camelbak out of a bin, deciding to ride with it instead of using bottles for the day.
- A butterfly landed on my shoulder and flapped its wings a few times, then it flew away.
Cause and effect, or synchronicity? You’ll have to read the story, then decide.
I Find My Place In the World
It’s tempting to compare The Park City Point 2 Point (PCP2P) to The Leadville 100 (LT100). After all, they’re both epic mountain bike races. Both at high altitude. Both have multiple words as part of their names, not to mention the fact that both races have names and abbreviations that employ letters and numerals.
Eerie, I know.
But apart from the fact that both races are guaranteed to kick your butt and leave you dirty and stinky at the end of the day, The PCP2P and the LT100 are vastly different.
This was apparent as I arrived at the starting line an hour before the race. Instead of more than a thousand cyclists cramming their bikes into place, hoping for a favorable start position, there was no line at all. Instead, racers were just riding around in the parking lot, chatting.
So I got in line for a portapotty, then took a final pre-race poop.
When I came out of the portapotty — now feeling much better about myself and the world around me — everything had changed. Now there was a line. Folks were sorting themselves into their hoped-for finishing times.
I found Brad Keyes in one of the groups and stood by him. We were in the 8 – 9 hour group.
“Do you know how many people finished in fewer than nine hours last year?” Brad asked.
“No,” I said. “A lot?”
“Hardly anyone. Let’s move to the 9 – 10 hour group.”
So, hollering, “Downgraders! Make way for the downgraders!” Brad and I worked our way further back down the line. We waved to Dug, who had placed himself in the 10 – 11 hour group.
If any of us had any idea what the day was going to be like, all of us would have moved further back.
Brad and I rode together for the first 25 miles or so — all the way to the first aid station. And I’ve got to say, it was the most fun I’ve ever had during a race. I think there are a number of reasons why. The first was — oddly enough — that the field was crowded. The PCP2P goes to singletrack almost immediately, which meant that long trains of riders would form.
My tendency was to get frustrated with people who had sorted themselves into too fast of a starting group, but Brad calmed me down. “Calm down, Elden,” Brad said. “Later today, you are going to be really, really glad you didn’t kill yourself at the beginning of this race.”
And since Brad had in fact ridden this race last year, I took him at his word and just enjoyed the fact that it was a beautiful, cool, sunny day and I was on my mountain bike, on nice singletrack, riding with one of my best friends. (Oh, and Brad was absolutely right.)
Then, since I wasn’t riding at my limit, I had enough wind to talk. And since both Brad and I were wearing CarboRocket jerseys, I decided it was a good idea to do some on-bike advertising. “Hey, Brad!” I yelled ahead (there were often a few racers between Brad and me).
“Yes, Elden?” He’d yell back.
“Is it true you’re racing with CarboRocket’s CR333 today?” I’d ask.
“Why yes,” Brad would reply. “It’s a new endurance fuel I’m premiering at this very event!”
“I understand,” I would enthuse, “That CR333 is half-evil! And that, furthermore, it’s formulated so as to be potent enough to be the only thing you consume during long endurance activities like epic mountain bike races!”
“As a matter of fact, all of that’s true!” Brad would affirm.
“That’s amazing!” I said, amazed. And also, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
I’m sure many people found us both entertaining and persuasive.
Stickshifts and Safetybelts
As we continued on our journey to the first aid station, I wondered at the fact that my hands were feeling a little bit sore. Apparently, even though my old gloves were the same brand (Specialized) as my current favorite gloves, their seams weren’t in the same places, or the padding was different somehow. In any case, I thought that the fact that my hands hurt less than two hours into an all-day race was a bit of a cause for concern.
Oh well. Nothing I could do about it.
However, I was starting to get a little bit antsy at the way people were holding us up. Thinking that maybe it was because they didn’t know we were behind them, I told Brad that I thought people would be more likely to get out of our way if we were singing a song.
Yes, my logic is impeccable.
“Sing us a song, Brad,” I said. Without hesitation, Brad launched into an a capella version of the Cake classic, “Stickshifts and Safetybelts.”
So pleased was I with Brad’s choice that I joined him for the chorus. I cannot, sadly, comment on whether anyone besides Brad and me enjoyed our singing, but I can report that it did not expedite our progress in passing other racers.
So there you go: singing will probably not help you move past others in a race.
How to Have a Mechanical
As I rode, it occurred to me that I honestly had no idea of what this course was like. Oh, sure, I had looked at the course map (leg 1 shown below):
But in my head, it felt more like this:
“That’s OK,” I thought. “I know all the important parts — it’s 78 miles, and around 14,000 feet of climbing. This is terrific singletrack, and I’m feeling good, except for my hands hurt, but I can live with that.”
What else did I need to know, really?
And then, as I pulled into the aid station . . . my chain fell off. I climbed off, grumbling, because I was looking forward to relaxing for a couple minutes while The Runner pampered me, not to working on my bike.
And then, as I rolled to a stop, a guy stepped up to me. “Let me take care of that for you,” he said.
“No, that’s all right,” I said. “I’ve got stuff to do this in my bag.”
“Hey, I’m the aid station mechanic,” he replied. Then, pointing to a gazebo set up about ten feet away, he continued, “My stand’s open right now. Go take care of whatever you need to do and then come back in a couple minutes. I’ll have your bike ready to ride.”
Yes, I had managed to have a mechanical five steps from an available, friendly, and — judging from the fact that my chain didn’t drop again during the race — very good mechanic.
Allow me to recommend — if you’re going to have your bike break down — doing it in exactly the way I did.
I thanked the mechanic, and walked to The Runner, who gave me a Mountain Dew and refilled my Camelbak (I was smart to use a Camelbak, the trail really was too technical for me to have been able to drink often from bottles).
“Are you having a good race?” The Runner asked.
“I’m having a blast,” I said. Which was absolutely true, at the moment.
But, as soon as I rolled away and began the second part of the race, it would cease to be true, for the rest of the day.