A Note From Fatty: If you want to score a free FatCyclist.com / Rockwell Jersey, today’s the last day you can sign up for the Rockwell Relay. So get off the fence. Go sign up.
You’ll have fun. I promise.
And you’ll also be a whole new kind of exhausted afterward. I promise that, too.
Another Note from Fatty: I won’t be posting tomorrow; I’ll be out of town. I hope to post something on Monday, though.
Susan’s Book Is Almost Finished
I’m really happy to announce that Susan’s novel — The Forgotten Gift – has been through editing and production; proofs are now at the printer. I’ll be getting those next week, making whatever changes I catch, and then — in just a couple weeks — the book will be available to purchase.
Hey, let me show you a little bit of what it’s going to look like.
Front cover and spine
And — just to tease you — here are a few pages from the middle of the first chapter.
Okay, that’s enough for now. You’ll be able to read the rest soon.
I Need Your Help
I want a lot of people to buy and enjoy this book. And that means I need to get the word out.
If you are a reviewer or know a reviewer or you have a way to get the word out about this book, please email me. Use the subject line The Forgotten Gift so I can prioritize reading it over the exciting offers I get to go on cycling tours in North Korea (the touring company has left a comment to that post, by the way).
Next, while I love each and every one of my own readers and would give all of you a totally not-awkward embrace if given the chance, well…a lot of you aren’t the target audience, which would be pre-teen and teenage girls.
But I’m guessing that most of you know someone who is the target audience. So when you have a chance to buy this book, get one for yourself and maybe another for someone who will hopefully love it and spread the word to her friends.
In short, your assignment is to help spread the word, any way you can, including in ways I haven’t thought of — because this is a little bit out of my realm of expertise. If you have an idea of how, let me know.
A Note About Today’s Post from Fatty: This is Part 5 of my race report on the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.
Five laps. Five.
I had done five laps (including the pre-ride lap) at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. And I had one more to do. Which would set me up to about 96 miles, all told.
I should have been tired. But I wasn’t. I was excited. Because I was doing this race the way I like to race. Which is to say: whether I’m in contention for anything (we weren’t) doesn’t matter. Giving it everything matters to me.
I’ll talk more about this in a minute.
The Queen of Exhaustion
The Hammer and I walked back into camp and found Rebecca Rusch, once again getting ready to do a lap.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Really tired,” she answered.
“I’ll bet,” I said. “The last time I saw you I thought you were saying that would be your last lap.”
“It turns out I have to do another one,” she said, not sounding all that happy about it.
“How many laps have you done?” I asked.
“I don’t even know anymore,” she answered.
I could tell that Rebecca really just needed to rest and not be pestered by rabidly goofy fans. But I made her take a picture with us anyway:
A few years ago, Brad Keyes — the inventor of CarboRocket and one of my best friends — moved to Chicago. I don’t see him anywhere near as often now as I would like to.
So it was awesome that he had come down to Arizona and set up a booth at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I had seen him a few times during the race, but wanted to check in with him one last time before my final lap. So I changed into a fresh kit quickly and The Hammer and I went out to Brad’s tent, where we took this completely unstaged photograph:
Wow, Brad’s starting to get gray hair. How did he get so old?
Brad also hooked me up with some of the new Lemonade CarboRocket 333 Half Evil Endurance Fuel. Best race-day drink ever.
I got to the exchange tent at 11:30 — way too early. At 11:43, though — meaning he had done a 1:08 lap for his fifth lap — Stan came flying in. That guy is as fast as he is consistent.
I took off, and immediately noticed that for the first time during the race, the course was almost empty. Sure, I’d still catch and pass the occasional person, but clearly there were a lot of teams that had opted to not go out on a late last lap.
I started asking myself if I were being silly — pushing myself like I was in contention for the podium or out to set a new personal record, when clearly neither were in the cards.
So why was I going hard?
I had a very good reason. Because a race is meaningful if you give it meaning. That’s circular, but it’s absolutely true. When I’m training, I’m almost always thinking about racing. Thinking about extending myself. Being faster than I ought to be. Going at my absolute limit.
So when I show up at races, if I didn’t honor that image I have of myself when training, I would be cheating myself, in a way. If I didn’t do what I had signed up to do, why take a day off work, get all my gear together, and drive all the way out here?
What I’m saying, in my own muddled way, is that I like every part of racing: the training, the planning, the excitement, and the effort of going above and beyond myself.
And frankly, I worry that if I ever didn’t give my all at a race, I’d beat myself up endlessly about it for months to come.
I finished my last lap in 1:12. Not as fast as some of the laps I’d done, but feeling that incredible well-being you get from having left it all out on the course.
Team IMBA – Featuring the Fat Tire Five had taken seventh place out of 34 teams.
And if I hadn’t gone out on that last lap? Well…we still would have taken seventh place. I hadn’t changed a thing, team standings-wise.
But I’m still really glad I did it.
It’s Awesome to Have a Cleaning Lady
The Hammer was at the finish line, and got this picture of me as I finished my last lap:
We walked back to where the camp should be…but there was no camp. During my last lap, the rest of the team had headed home, looking to beat the rush.
And The Hammer had completely broken down our own camp and loaded the camp. As in, completely. All I had to do was change clothes (which The Hammer had thoughtfully set out for me), and we were out of there.
Have I mentioned recently how awesome The Hammer is? Well, she is.
“Let’s get moving,” said The Hammer. “We should try to get as far as Vegas tonight.”
PS: Remember, if you’re going to sign up for the Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George during this month, you’ll get a very cool combination FatCyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey. But you’re down to the last couple days. So go get yourself signed up right now. You’ll be glad you did.
A Gentle Reminder from Fatty: At the beginning of this month, I told you that if you sign up for the Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George during this month, you’d get a very cool combination FatCyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey.
Well, that month is just about over.
It’s time for you to start putting your plans together for the season. And I can’t tell you any more strongly than I already have how much I love this race.
So, if you are considering doing the Rockwell Relay, go get yourself signed up right now. You’ll be glad you did.
And if you’re not considering doing the Rockwell Relay, well…maybe you should reconsider.
A Note About Today’s Post from Fatty: This is Part 4 of my race report on the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
After I got Stan out of bed and then climbed into my own sleeping bag, I fell asleep pretty much instantly, and I slept soundly — a rare and wonderful thing during a 24-hour race.
Because of this, I can’t exactly vouch for the accuracy of my recollection of what happened during the next five hours or so, nor for the motivations of those involved.
The Fog of Sleep
At some point — before the sun came up — Stan got back from doing his two back to back laps. And — as is Stan’s way — he had done them very fast indeed. Even taking into account the amount of time it took for me to get back to camp, wake Stan up, and for him to get ready and to the course, he did his first lap in 1:34.
That’s incredibly impressive.
Stan then ripped out a 1:14 for the second of his back-to-back laps. Which is even more impressive. Bob wasn’t at the exchange tent to take the baton when Stan finished his laps, though.
Evidently, our team needed to work on its nighttime lap communication skills (this is, in fact, probably the most common team mistake in 24 hour races).
I’m not sure why, but Bob didn’t get rolling ’til about an hour after Stan finished. So between the Fatty-to-Stan miscue and the Stan-to-Bob miscue, we lost around 1:20 — almost exactly the amount of time our team took to do a lap.
There went our chance at the podium.
Do I sound bitter? I’m trying to not sound bitter.
Anyway, as Bob got going, Stan let The Hammer and me know, and I re-set the alarm clock to be an hour later. Even in my sleepy state, I was able to do some quick math and knew that once Bob got back, everyone would be getting in one more lap each.
I went back to sleep.
I Am Very Nearly Heroic
It’s interesting how quickly you can adapt to a new situation — how quickly something that had been scary and new only eighteen hours ago can become pretty much normal.
Where I was jumpy and antsy for the first of The Hammer’s laps, running around and making sure everything was not only ready but just right for her, I just did the basics this time: get the lights off her bike and helmet, make sure there’s some water in her bottle, give her a Honey Stinger gel to put in her jersey pocket, just in case.
I didn’t bother with air in her tires or lubing her chain. I gave them each a quick look and figured they were fine.
That’s not foreshadowing, by the way — her bike actually was fine, and didn’t give The Hammer a second’s worth of trouble on her last lap. Check her out:
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media
I know, it looks kind of weird to see someone dressed so warmly in the full sunlight, riding through the cactus.
And it was.
See, The Hammer took off just as it was getting light. Within fifteen minutes, though, the day had fully warmed up and she was soaked in sweat for the rest of her lap.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, because I want to talk about how I very nearly saved Rebecca Rusch’s day.
See, after I handed The Hammer her bike and sent her off on her way to do her last lap, I went back to the camp to get myself ready for my lap.
There, I saw Rebecca, looking over her bike and getting ready to do her flazillionth lap:
The tolerant smile she gave me as I took the picture notwithstanding, Rebecca wasn’t happy. She had just discovered a major problem with her cranks — they were very loose — and she didn’t have the time or tools to fix them.
“Take my Stumpjumper,” I said. “It’s ready to go.”
“Really?” asked Rebecca.
“Sure,” I said. “I have two more bikes I can choose from for my next lap.”
“That sounds good,” Rebeca said. And I started getting all excited because having Rebecca race on my Stumpjumper would be kind of like having Elvis drive my Cadillac (Note: I do not actually own a Cadillac).
But then an actual mechanic appeared out of nowhere, with an actual replacement bike ready for Rebecca.
And thus ended my bike’s best chance at ever having a claim to fame.
I suited up for my last lap. With plenty of time ’til The Hammer was due back at the exchange tent, I wandered into camp, where Stan and Bob were resting.
“We need to figure out how we end this race,” Stan said. “After Lisa comes back, you go out, and I go out, there’s a good chance we’ll still have a few minutes before noon. So do we do another lap? Or do I just stay out ’til 12:01 on my last lap and we call it good?”
“Stay out ’til 12:01,” said Bob, whose turn it would be to go after Stan.
“No, we keep racing,” I said. “We do another lap.”
“I’m not doing another lap,” Bob said. “I’m cooked. Done.”
It was a fair point; Bob had done four laps. I had only done three (I was about to head out on my fourth).
“No,” I insisted. “It’s a race. We’re racing. We finish the race as a race.” It’s possible I used the word “race” too often there, but I was trying to make a point.
“I’ll do another lap,” I said. “I’ll go after Stan.”
“To be clear,” Bob said, “You’re going before Stan, and then going after him too?”
“Sure,” I said. “I won’t be fast, but once I’m done with this race, I’m going back home to 20″ of snow standing on the ground. I want to get in as much riding time as I can.”
So I went back to the tent, and ate another 6″ Subway sandwich — I was getting so sick of those things — and waited for The Hammer at the exchange tent.
She came in, right on time: 1:17. As consistent as can be. I took off, riding with everything I had, not worrying in the slightest about the fact that I had just taken on another lap, so that — including the course pre-ride — I’d be doing the whole course six times: 96 miles (6 x 16 miles, for those of you who don’t like to do math).
The thing is though, by now I had become acquainted with the course, and had transitioned from being OK with it to really liking it a lot.
I loved the quick dips through ravines. I loved the stark beauty of it. I loved swerving between cacti at top speed:
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media
In fact, by the time I finished my lap — which I did in 1:09, my second fastest of the race — I was glad the race wasn’t over; I wanted another trip around this prickly roller coaster. In spite of the fact that I had a prickly pear cactus spine embedded 1/2″ into my braking finger (it took an industrial-strength pair of tweezers to pull it out).
As I handed the baton off to Stan, he asked, “You sure you want me to finish my lap before noon, so you have to go out again?”
“Oh yeah, I replied. “I’ve gotta have one more turn.”
Which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow, for the conclusion (I promise!) to this series.
A Note from Fatty: This is Part 3 of my race report on the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
Before I get to telling today’s installment, I’d like to give you a little bit more information about NICA Executive Director Austin McInerny, the guy on our team who turned in an incredibly fast first lap, only to be injured right at the end of that first lap.
First of all, here’s a great shot of Austin during his lap:
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media
Obviously a fast guy, right? Not to mention a guy who’s seriously involved in making the world a better place for both kids and bikes.
And so it was especially a bummer to find out that Austin’s X-ray looks like this:
That’s a tibial plateau fracture, and it means surgery (plate and screws) within the next couple days, and then about three months of no weight on that leg.
As another guy who loves and pretty much lives for biking, I feel for Austin, and hope he gets through this quickly and is back on his bike as soon as possible.
I wonder how many times he’s said to himself, “If only I’d made sure I was wearing the right shoes!”
I’m going to guess ten million.
It’s Always Darkest Just Before It’s Almost Just As Dark
As the fifth person to ride on the team, I finished my first lap pretty much as the sun was setting. Oh, and guess what: I caught video of the lap (then forgot to turn off the camera, using up my battery and filling my memory card, so would not be able to get any more video of the rest of the race).
Check it out, if you’d be so kind (or maybe watch it all biggish-like over at Vimeo, where you can see it in all its HD glory. It’ll give you a much better sense of what the course was like:
While I was riding, the rest of the team decided that Stan and Bob would go ahead and do single night laps, after which we’d do a rotation where each member of the team did double laps, hence giving us each a better shot at getting more rest during the night.
Stan continued to show he was the alpha rider of the group by turning in a 1:10 — only four minutes slower than his first lap, and that included doing half the lap with the sun in his eyes and the other half in the dark.
Bob then did the first full night lap for the team. Check him out, getting ready to ride:
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh Media
No, wait a second. That’s actually a photo of him as he finished his night lap. Yeah, he was that fast — only ten minutes off his day lap pace.
And then it was The Hammer’s turn. She’d be doing two laps back to back, in 1:20 (only six minutes off her day lap time) and 1:23 (only three minutes slower than the one she just did).
While she was doing those two laps, I paid a visit to the NiteRider booth, hoping to get a replacement cable for my setup. They took care of that without any hassle.
Seeing as how they were so friendly, I decided to ask for some additional help. “When I power my 3600 up to its brightest setting,” I said, “the battery status immediately says that the battery is almost dead. That can’t be right.”
They told me it was a software problem and that they could fix it right there if I’d leave the light setup with them for an hour or so.
Which I did, then went back to my tent and changed into my riding clothes — bib tights (no chamois is necessary for rides under five hours as far as I’m concerned), Smartwool tshirt base layer, long sleeve jersey — and ate another one of the Subway sandwiches we had brought along.
I noted to myself that I had hit the point of diminishing returns for Subway sandwich enjoyment.
Finally, I picked up the light setup on my way back to the exchange tent, set it up on my bike, and was ready to go.
It was my turn to do two laps, back to back.
Night Lap 1
The Hammer came in within three minutes of when I expected her. Seriously, I have never seen a team that had such incredibly consistent lap times, even during the night.
“Running your lights at medium is perfect,” she said, as she handed me the baton and gave me a kiss.
I’m pretty sure I saw the volunteer at the table roll his eyes. Hey, whatever.
Having learned my lesson from my first lap, I immediately located my bike, hopped on, stepped up both my helmet light (a NiteRider Pro 1800 LED Race) and bar light (a NiteRider Pro 3600 LED) to medium, which was in fact plenty of light.
The wind had calmed. The temperature was mild. I had enjoyed a five-hour-long break since my last lap. It was clearly time for me to go at full tilt, racing as if I were only going to do a single lap, instead of two.
Because I am a moron.
Most people were riding a little more conservative at night, possibly because they’re tired, probably because they can’t see as well. But I could see great, and I had all kinds of energy. And since people could tell I was coming up behind them — thanks to the blindingly bright wash of light I was suited up with — I hardly ever even had to say a word as I approached. People would just move out of my way.
They probably thought I was an 18-wheeler or something.
Night Lap 2
I felt triumphant as I finished my first night lap, having knocked it off in only 1:13 — only five minutes slower than my first day lap!
But then I had to do another lap.
Which, as it turns out, I probably should have taken into account when I attacked my first lap as if it were the last ride of the day.
I first noticed a surprising lack of power as I rode The Bitches. Instead of just standing and sprinting by other riders, I sat and rode in a conservative gear — not being passed (at least not constantly), but certainly not passing people very often either.
And then I started feeling a pit in my stomach: the feeling that I was getting hungry, and would soon — if I didn’t do something about it — be bonking.
“I don’t want to take off my gloves to get food out,” I said to myself, and kept riding.
Because I am a moron.
The thing is, though, it’s really hard to tell how fast or slow you are when riding. I knew I was slowing down, but by how much? Was I really going half as fast, like I felt, or was most of my slowdown just in my head?
Regardless, I was feeling beat and just wanted to get to the exchange tent, where I could send Stan on his way for his two night laps.
And yet, I continued to not eat anything. I expect you can guess why. (Hint: because I am a moron.)
Bring On The Dark
With about a quarter of the lap to go, I started to notice a problem: my vision was blurring. I had a harder and harder time focusing my vision, and no matter how much I blinked, I couldn’t see sharply.
“Maybe,” I thought to myself, “I just need more light.” Since I only had another 20 minutes to ride and my bar light battery indicator showed I still had plenty of juice, I figured I could step up to full power.
So I did. And it helped. For about two minutes, after which — with no warning at all — the bar lights shut off altogether.
And they wouldn’t turn back on.
Fantastic, I thought. But at least I still had my helmet light.
And so I struggled on, closer and closer to a bonk (but stupidly unwilling to just grab something out of my jersey and eat). My vision poor. My lights about a third of what they had been.
Then, without seeing what caused it, I crashed.
“GAAAAHHH!” I yelled. Or maybe I said “GAAARRRGGH!” I can’t remember exactly.
The truth is, though, I wasn’t really hurt. I just didn’t want anyone to crash into me as I collected myself and my bike off the trail.
I got back on the bike and continued. But more tentatively.
In the end, I finished this lap in 1:20. Seven minutes slower than the one right before. Which, objectively, is not too bad.
But it felt like I had been out there for days.
I rolled up to the table in the exchange tent…but Stan wasn’t there. Should I wait here for him? I wondered.
No. If he wasn’t here, I reasoned — it is now amazing to me that I was able to reason so clearly — it was because he didn’t know he needed to be here right now.
So I rode back to camp, found Stan’s tent, and yelled, “You in there, Stan?”
“Yeah,” Stan said.
“You’re up. Time to ride,” I said.
“Is Elden going to finish his laps soon?” Stan asked.
“I just did,” I replied.
Stan was up in a shot, getting ready and on his bike in just a few minutes (the handoff miscue happened because Stan was hoping for a wakeup call, and The Hammer didn’t know where to find him to wake him up).
Meanwhile, I found the tent and climbed into my sleeping bag. Suddenly, my hunger wasn’t anywhere near as important to me as getting out of these clammy, cold clothes and getting some sleep.
“I’ll get the lights off our bikes in a few hours,” I told The Hammer. “I’ve got to get some sleep now.”
And in fact, I was already fading — strange, when you consider how hard it usually is for me to sleep right after a race — when The Hammer said, “You’re wheezing.”
It was true, although I would have said the more generous description of the weird sound my breathing was making would be “rattling.”
“Sorry,” I replied. “But you’ve got earplugs in, so that shouldn’t matter.”
I set my alarm for my best guess of how long it would take Stan and Bob to each do their two laps, and then I was asleep.
It’d be daylight before I had to ride again.
Which is where I’ll pick up the next installment of the story.
A Note from Fatty: This is part 2 of my 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race report. Read Part 1 by clicking here.
With Austin out of the picture, our team had to scramble. Could we substitute in another racer (i.e., steal one from the eight-person IMBA corporate team)? No, as it turns out we could not. If we wanted to stay in the race, Austin had to get certification from the medical tent that he was injured, at which point we could stay in our existing category: Five-person Co-ed 200+ combined age.
So, we figured out a new plan. We’d continue doing one lap per person until we got into the late night, at which point we’d switch over to double laps — making it so everyone got a longer rest during the night.
Stan was our second racer (and with Austin’s exit, now our first and fastest), and turned in a blistering 1:06 lap — the fastest lap the team would turn in during the race.
While Stan was out, Bob Winston — Chief Executive Honcho over the Board of Directors at IMBA (not his real title) as well as our team captain — warned us that he wasn’t a fast guy, and was just out here for fun, and that we shouldn’t expect too much.
Which just goes to show that Bob (who is 50+ years old and looks 38) is a total sandbagging anti-trash-talker.
He turned in a freakishly fast time of 1:11.
It was official: our team was here to race. Which is just the way I like it. Play when you’re off the bike, hit it hard when you’re on.
As it got to be close to the time Bob should be getting back in, The Hammer and I went to the baton exchange area. There, she stood with the rest of the racers waiting for their teammates to come in, waiting for their team number (ours was 409, which was super-easy to remember). The Hammer gave me a thumbs-up:
She was ready to race.
Her number was called, she ran to the table, signed in with the volunteer (major kudos to the volunteers for doing an incredible job in the exchange tent for the entire race), got our team baton from Bob, and she was gone.
I walked back to our camp, changed into my riding gear and headed back to the exchange tent and started looking for The Hammer. My guess was that she would turn in a 1:15 riding time.
I was wrong. 1:14. But as she came in, I could see she was very dirty and her chest was covered with little spiky quills.
“I had a crash,” The Hammer simply said, then gave me a kiss, handed me the team baton, and wished me luck on my lap.
Which is when trouble began for me.
Wherein I (Once Again) Show What A Complete Dork I Am
I think I’ve mentioned before that when I’m racing, I am not the same person I normally am. Which is to say, the bloodlust overtakes me and I want nothing more than to completely ruin myself, while hopefully crushing all those in my line of sight.
I am not a strategic racer. I’m not even tactical. I’m pure, unadulterated, 100% attack dog, no longer even thinking in words, but rather simply in targets to aim for and obstacles to avoid.
This way of thinking — i.e., not thinking at all — became a problem for me before I even got on my bike.
After getting the baton from The Hammer, I ran out of the tent to where, along with every other racer, I had set my bike in a bike stand.
Except I couldn’t remember where I had put my bike.
I ran back and forth, looking for my red-and-white S-Works Stumpjumper (I was racing a geared bike, though I had brought a singlespeed as a backup).
I couldn’t find it.
Running back and forth, I scanned the rack again. Then ran and looked at the next rack, even though I was pretty sure I hadn’t put my bike that far away.
Still couldn’t find it. Had someone stolen it?
And then: there it was! A red and white Specialized S-Works! I grabbed it, threw a leg over, and then…realized it was a full-suspension bike and was therefore definitely not mine.
And that’s when I realized that while I had been looking at bikes on the racks to the right of me, I had placed my bike on the rack to my left.
And with that little adrenaline rush out of the way, I jumped on my bike and took off, charging at maximum speed, hoping to catch all the people who had calmly gotten on their bikes and started the race while I ran back and forth like a headless chicken.
Say Hello to My Little Friend
The 16-mile course starts with some fun, twisty, flat singletrack to get you warmed up, after which you get to make a decision:
Do you want to ride The Bitches?
You see, in this context, “The Bitches” are a set of seven (I think) short but steep hills, one after another. Hitting them at race pace takes a lot out of you. And so you have the option: go around The Bitches. But you should know: it’s a longer trail to go around.
And so — not wanting to be the only guy on the team to skip The Bitches, I went after them…and was glad I did. Because, at least on this first lap, I had plenty of energy to just rocket right up them, staying in my big ring, in fact.
A quick flat section then brought me to where the singletrack began. And where vigilance became absolutely necessary. You see, on the singletrack portion of this trail, there is always a cactus on one side of you or another. If you crash, you’re going to be a pincushion. If you drift off the course a tiny bit: pincushion.
If you try to pass where you shouldn’t: pincushion.
Luckily, the singletrack had lots of good places to pass. Very regularly, the trail would diverge for 20 feet or so, then reconverge. And — absolutely completely without exception in my experience — racers were astonishingly courteous about letting other racers by.
It made me happy to be among these people.
However, I was still wanted to pass often, and pass fast. And so, at one point, thinking I had room to pass, I shot around another racer, only to find — too late! — that I in fact did not have room to pass. I tucked in front of the racer I was passing, grazing some plant.
My right shin suddenly felt like it had been cut wide open.
I looked down, and there, embedded deep in my shin, was a golfball-sized, football-shaped little cactus ball.
I got queazy just from the sight of it.
Before the race, though, Kenny had told me, “If you pick up a cactus, just finish your lap with it, because there’s no way you’re getting it out without a comb.”
So I kept going. In fact, the pain focused me, and I went harder, looking forward to when I could get that stupid little hitchhiker out of my shin.
I noticed that it would hurt worse in certain situations. Like when I stood to climb. Or when I bottomed out in a gully. Or when a gust of wind caught the thing and tried to blow it around.
It kept me from enjoying the trail like I think I otherwise would have. I just wanted to get to the end and get that little intruder out.
So I rode harder. Standing for the climbs, even though that hurt, because it was faster.
A Whiskey Tree Miracle
As I rode, I wondered, “Do we even have a comb back at camp?” I don’t have any hair, and The hammer uses a brush.
How was I going to get this stupid thing out?
And then I remembered: The Whiskey Tree. During the pre-ride, we’d seen that there were lots of hair picks (combs) dangling from that tree. I started planning: I’d stop at that tree, grab one of those picks, and go. It would be worth the time lost.
If there were still any of those combs left.
Great luck: there were. I stopped, saw that one pick was at just the right height for me to grab. I saw that it was attached with nothing but a twisty, and so just gave it a hard tug to break it off, jammed the comb into my jersey pocket, and took off again, excited for the moment when I’d get to use that comb to get rid of that thing.
Another half hour of hard riding went by as I fantasized about no longer having a cactus stuck in my leg.
And there it was — finally — the exchange tent. I rolled to a stop, dismounted, and walked to the table where we made our exchanges. I handed the baton to Stan, who took off on his second lap.
1:08. Not too bad for a guy who lost his bike, picked up a cactus, and stopped to grab a comb off a tree.
But now it was time for me to see if I could get that stupid cactus out.
Which is when The Hammer walked up to me.
“You did great!” she said.
“Look at my leg,” I replied.
“Ooh. How are we going to get that out?” she asked.
I handed The Hammer the comb and — being a battle-hardened nurse of around 13 years, she didn’t say a word but just stooped, slipped the comb between me and the cactus, and popped it out.
She then set about pulling out the individual quills that remained in my legs. “This would be a lot easier if you’d go back to shaving your legs,” she muttered.
“I will as soon as I weigh 165 pounds,” I replied. “I don’t deserve shaved legs yet.”
Soon, my leg was a little bit bloody, but entirely free of cactus parts.
And I was left with a fine little souvenir:
Oh, what the heck. Let’s see that up close:
You can see blood on the spines.
One rotation down, four to go. It was time to set our bikes up for the night laps.
Which is where I’ll pick the story up in my next post.
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