A Note from Fatty: This is Part 2 of my (three-part) Park City Point 2 Point (PCP2P) race report. Click here for Part 1.
When I was a child, I would sometimes think about what happens when you turn off a light switch. First, current stops flowing, and then the filament starts cooling down, which means that it starts producing less light. The room, then would get dimmer as the bulb cooled down. A gradual process. It just seems immediate, because I wasn’t quick enough to notice the process.
I bring this anecdote from my childhood up for two reasons. First, to make you think that I was a deep thinker as a child, full of unusual insights.
Second, and more to the point, because I think it’s metaphorically appropriate. In the same way there’s an imperceptible amount of time between when you flip a switch and a room is genuinely dark, I expect there was some amount of time between when I started the second leg of the PCP2P (“Which way do I go?” I asked Lisa, as I finished up a Mountain Dew. “Up,” she replied, pointing at the switchbacking snake of riders that traced up the face of the mountain.), and when my own personal light went out.
Some amount of time. But not a lot.
Brad, JJ, and Jamie — three friends who I had wound up riding the final couple miles of the first section of the race with — had gone on ahead while I ate and waited for my bike to be fixed. So I rode this section alone.
OK, “rode” may not be the most accurate description for what I did for the next little while. Maybe instead I should say, “So I walked my bike alone.”
In my defense, I wasn’t the only one walking. As I switchbacked up the mountain, I looked up the trail, keeping an eye on where people were dismounting and — head down, leaning forward, arms stiffly out — pushing up the hill until they thought they had a reasonable chance of getting back on for more than twenty feet.
Or at least, twenty feet was the amount I set as my personal “It’s worth it to get back on the bike and ride” yardstick.
“C’mon, get on your bike and ride, Fatty,” someone urged on one section, even as he pushed his own bike. I laughed at his clever use of self-deprecating irony and tried to form a hilarious response.
It came out as “Huhhhh.”
Friendliest Bike Race, Ever.
So I marched. And sometimes, I rode. And it was all very steep.
But everyone I talked with was very, very cool. Like, suspiciously cool. Like, when I wanted to pass, I’d say, “I’d like by, whenever you can get a chance.” And almost always, whoever was in front of me would just pull over right away.
Similarly, when I heard someone catching up to me to pass, I’d holler back, “Want me to edge over?” The answer would usually come back along the lines of, “Whenever works for you. No rush.”
So I developed a theory. Since everyone was getting passed, and everyone was passing, everyone realized that we were all in the same boat. Everyone understood everyone’s situation, because we were all in the same situation.
Or it just might be that everyone was too tired to cop attitude or pass aggressively, and we all welcomed opportunities to pull over for a second.
Revenge of the Grey Gloves
By the time I had rowed my bike to the top of this section and had a huge downhill back to the aid station I had just left, my hands were starting to feel more than achy. They were raw. Painful.
And basically, they were really, really sore.
But the pain I experienced climbing was nothing, compared to the pain of descending. The technical, rocky-and-rooty singletrack, combined with my rigid fork, combined with my ill-chosen gloves, left me hating and every downhill section. So that practically every person I passed on the climbs passed me back on the descents, as I minced my way down the trail.
I imagined how my hands must have looked, blistered and bleeding under my gloves. I successfully began to pity myself.
“This hurts,” I would tell anyone who would listen.
“And I’m really, really glad Kenny convinced me to switch to a 22-tooth cog,” I thought to myself.
My Memory Fails Me
The second aid station stop is at the same place as the fir, which is convenient to the people who were crewing for the racers (except for the fact that there was not a single portapotty in evidence). While Lisa took care of filling up my Camelbak, I stood at one of the aid station tables, eating orange slices.
Probably six or eight of them. Really.
To everyone who arrived later, hoping for an orange and having to make do with bananas, sorry. That was my fault.
Then I think I drank a can of chicken and stars soup. I’m not certain, because my memory is kind of blurry on what happened from this point forward.
And then Lisa told me she loved me and I started riding again, because I hadn’t developed a good enough excuse for quitting yet.
Too Much of a Good Thing
I’m pretty sure that the PCP2P is proof that there is in fact such a thing as too much of a good thing. Because that race has a lot of singletrack. I mean, oodles of it. I’d guess that 76 miles of the race is singletrack, with the balance being doubletrack and brief stints on pavement connecting one trail outlet to another.
And in short, by the time I got to mile 40ish, I would have really liked some featureless, non-technical jeep road. Or doubletrack.
And downhill singletrack — the kind that twists tightly enough that you have to worry about your back end, not just your front — hardly gives you a rest from all the climbing you’ve been doing.
It’s also possible that I was just getting really tired. And it’s also possible I should have given a suspension fork a little more than just a passing thought..
There was — at about mile 50 (I noted the distance) — about two seconds of which I was extremely proud. I was riding along, just keeping the cranks turning, “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” now tormenting me by playing endlessly in my head (just ten seconds of the chorus, of course).
And there were a few guys, sitting in the shade off the side of the course, cheering racers on. Extremely cool of them — every time someone urged me on, I felt transformed for at least a minute or two.
But these guys were different. These guys were challenging the racers.
“Take the ski jump! Take the ski jump!” they yelled, and pointed at the “ski jump” they had constructed: A log — about 14 inches in diameter I’m guessing — laying on the ground, with a ski leaning against it, forming a long, skinny ramp.
“Only three people have dared take the ski jump today!” one of them yelled. “Take the ski jump!”
And so I swerved slightly and headed for the ski jump.
Now, before I detail how my ski jump effort turned out, allow me to detail some of the things I did not consider as I rode toward this ski.
- Whether this ski — when used as a ramp — would support my weight.
- Whether any ski — when used as a ramp — would support my weight.
- Whether, in my fatigued state, I was likely to be able to ride up a flexing, 2.5-inch-wide ramp.
- If the ramp broke — or if I simply fell off while riding up it — how serious my endo was likely to be as I suddenly plowed nose first into a log.
But none of these things happened. Instead, I rode up the ski and did a nice nose-first drop off the other end, finishing off with a little nose-wheelie flourish. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had.
“Yeah!” yelled the guys, as I pumped my right arm in the air (and then quickly dropped it back down, because when I raised it I was reminded that I have no range of motion with that arm right now).
It then occurred to me that I had just done something very stupid. Also it occurred to me that I am extremely susceptible to suggestion when I am addle-brained.
Which is not always, thanks.
High Drama and Cold Beverages
I was so happy when I got into the Park City aid station, because I had big plans. For one thing, I was going to kiss my wife. For another, I was going to sit in the camp chair she had brought along and drink a whole Mountain Dew (Note to the whole world: Mountain Dew is the best during-race pick-me-up in the whole world). And for yet another thing I was going to take off my gloves and earn a ton of sympathy from Lisa by showing her the wreckage of my hands, which I was certain were nothing but a network of popped, bloody blisters.
Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) was there (not racing due to an injury) and captured the moment of me removing my glove:
Hey, what?! My hand looks a little bit red, but not bloody, nor even seriously blistered?!
So, um, I guess I’ve been behaving a little bit like a baby? Oh, OK.
In that case I guess I’ll stop going on about my (to all appearances uninjured) hands, and how bad they hurt.
But it still felt really nice to get a kiss, to get a drink, and to sit in a camp chair for a few minutes.
And you know what? Nick Rico — who had purchased Rick Sunderlage’s entry but then couldn’t used it because Sunderlage’s entry was evidently cursed and caused Nick Rico to break his toe just before the race — noticed how much I was enjoying that Mountain Dew and went and got me a cold Coke.
And that Coke was really good, too.
And so I had another.
Then it was time to leave. Just 18 miles to go.
Can you guess what’s about to happen to me? You’ll find out tomorrow, in Part 3.