I forget things. I forget things all the time. There is very likely, in fact, something I should be doing right now, but I’ve forgotten what it is. I forget appointments. I forget to call people back. I forget names (instantly, usually). I forget why I’ve walked into a room.
And until last weekend, riding Rebecca’s Private Idaho, I had forgotten what it’s like to be riding in an event that has a few hundred people in it, rather than more than a thousand.
But now I remember: it’s really nice.
Another thing I had forgotten: it’s really nice to just ride a big event sometimes, rather than race it.
And that’s what The Hammer and I were doing: riding side-by-side, talking, enjoying the view, and saying “hi” to folks as we passed them, or as they passed us. Which happened pretty infrequently.
And Now for a Word From Rebecca’s Sponsor
I generally don’t drink Red Bull. It’s not that I have anything against it — it’s just not a big part of my life.
But Red Bull is one of Rebecca Rusch’s sponsors, and there was a nice big ice chest full of Red Bull at each of the aid stations.
And so, as I ate handfuls of baked potatoes and potato chips (as if I were trying to support the local economy or something), I opened a Red Bull. And it was fantastic.
My problem, evidently, is that I hadn’t ever had Red Bull while in the middle of a long, hot, dusty ride, while eating a big mouthful of potato chips.
“C’mere,” I said to The Hammer. “Eat some of these, and then drink some of this.”
She agreed. Red Bull, under these circumstances, is even better than Coke.
And thus, without regard to whether I was leaving any for anyone else, I drank a minimum of one Red Bull at each aid station. But usually two, because the cans aren’t really all that big.
And also, because I’m a glutton. No, not for punishment. I’m just a glutton.
And I liked the way they made my eyeballs vibrate at a barely-subsonic speed.
I Believe I’ll Pat Myself on the Back Some More
The Hammer and I rode our all-day pace, happy on our bikes, the headwind keeping the day from becoming uncomfortably hot.
We got to the third aid station, which is the beginning of the loop part of the lollipop-style course:
And it was during this part of the course that I went from suspecting the mountain bike was the right kind of bike for me for this course to knowing it was.
It’s a bumpy course. With a lot of loose gravel. And a lot of rocks. And a lot of people on CX bikes, changing out tubes.
And, as the day got hotter and the course got rougher, we could see it in people’s slack faces and dead eyes as they endured yet another stretch of downhill washboards on their CX bikes: they envied me.
And who could blame them?
[Note: For what it's worth, I did not see a single MTB rider changing a flat. And also for what it's worth, I really can't imagine that the Buffalo would have gotten around that course without flatting (and I had no tools or tubes to fix a flat on that bike).]
I Am A Wonderful Husband
Which was particularly hard to bear, considering that based on the group photo we had taken earlier in the morning, we are BFFs. And stuff.
Greg’s the one in the middle. Oh, and also, he stars in this, my favorite bike race ad of all time:
(Greg’s the one doing his toenails, shooting the blowdart, and operating the compressed air horn.)
Well fine. We’d ride without him, then.
According to the way everything should be in a neat and orderly universe, The Hammer and I had a nice, easy 25 miles or so. It was downhill, and we’d had a headwind on this section on the way in, so we should have a tailwind on the way back.
Which we did. For about four minutes. “This is wonderful!” The Hammer exclaimed. We were cruising along at 25mph, without even trying.
And then, in an instant, the wind switched. Somehow, we had a headwind again.
“This is…no longer wonderful,” The Hammer exclaimed, with considerably less enthusiasm in the previous exclamation.
And here’s the part where I show what a wonderful husband I am.
For the next fifteen or twenty miles, I got out front and did the pulling, with The Hammer only coming around and taking a turn pulling when I was completely wiped out.
Which, if my calculations are right, was no more often than 50% of the time.
Yes, you read it right. I pulled at least half the time on the way back, in spite of the harsh headwind.
It’s possible I even pulled more than that.
I Am Very Strategic
As we worked our way back to the Trail Creek Summit Aid Station — the first and final one, as well as the end-point of the first and last KOM segments — I started looking forward, trying to see where the timing mat was.
I had heard reports that the start of this segment was anywhere from two to four miles away from the summit, which meant that once I hit the mat, I needed to go at the hardest pace I could sustain…pretty much indefinitely.
But I had a theory that made me think I was going to do OK in this segment. And my theory was this: I had been going below my limit most of the day (except in the first KOM segment). Which meant that I still should have quite a bit of gas left in my tank (figuratively).
I was thinking that this might give me an edge over the guys who had been going at full-tilt for their whole rides. They might have a much faster finishing time than I’d have, but I’d be fresher for the second KOM segment.
And there it was: the timing mat. “Bye, Hon (I call The Hammer “Hon,” which I know is a very unusual nickname for a spouse),” I yelled, then stood up and attacked as if I were doing something meaningful.
The first two miles went by. I had passed a lot of people, but the summit was nowhere in sight.
There was Greg. I passed him and yelled at him to come ride with me. He declined, possibly because he didn’t understand my invitation, which might have sounded like, “Grggcmmmrrrrmm!”
I kept going.
Three miles had gone by. I was in an ugly place. A place where I was going as close to a sprint as I could without blowing up. And I had no idea how much longer I’d be riding before I hit the summit. I had no idea whether I was going as fast as the fast guys, or nowhere close.
I didn’t turn around and look to see who was behind me, because I was worried that as I did so, someone would ride right by me.
Then. There it was: a flag indicating the summit, and the timing mat right by it. I stood up and went through the motions of a final sprint, though I’d bet pretty much anything that I didn’t actually accelerate.
I pulled off to the side of the road and went and had what probably my fifth Red Bull of the day.
Within five minutes, The Hammer pulled across the mat, looking beat. She dropped her bike and came and got a Red Bull too.
Moments later, Greg rode across the mat, gave us the backhanded V flip-off and continued on his way.
Greg rides alone, man. Greg. Rides. Alone.
The Hammer Is Very Strategic, Too
Rebecca had done a very smart thing when organizing this event: she put the timing mat for the finish line out of town. That way there wouldn’t be a bunch of attacking cyclists barreling into the center of town where the ceremonial finish line was.
This resulted in an extraordinary opportunity, which The Hammer pointed out to me: the condo where we were staying was between the timing mat and the ceremonial finish line. Which meant we could get our finishing time, then take a shower, then ride across the ceremonial finishing line.
Which was a good thing, because after a day of riding on dusty dirt roads, I looked like this:
The stripes on my head are particularly attractive, wouldn’t you agree?
We showered, put on comfortable clothes — cuz we were planning on staying at the finish line party / festival for the rest of the day — and got back on our bikes, startling everyone there with our extraordinarily dirt-free faces.
I Am The Fastest Guy Except The Guys Who Are Faster Than I Am
The Hammer and I dropped off our bikes with the bike valet, then saw Levi and Odessa having lunch at a nearby restaurant. We invited ourselves to sit with them and eat. Knowing Odessa is a vegetarian, I looked carefully at what Levi was eating before ordering myself.
Elk burger. I was safe.
We sat around, eating and telling stories about the day. Levi asked why I didn’t come up and ride to the lead group at the start of the first climb. “I wasn’t going that much faster than you,” he said.
“I was going my very fastest,” I said. “I wasn’t holding anything back.”
“Huh,” Levi replied. He then opened his mouth as if to say something, and then refrained. Which, I’m pretty sure, was an act of kindness.
Then it was time to find out how I had done in the KOM segments. And I’m happy to report, I WON. Check out the green bar about midway down this image, indicating the winner of the men’s KOM contest:
Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that unbelievable?!
Unfortunately, it was unbelievable. In reality, there were at least a few people who did those sections faster. Levi did, for one thing — it’s just that he had ruined his timing chip by putting his race number on all wacky (and evidently not putting the redundant timing chip that attaches to the seat post on at all), so he didn’t show a time for those segments. But he did have Strava going, so they were able to get his time posted, moving me down a notch:
But wait a second. What about Burke Swindlehurst, who had the fastest time for the overall event? As it turns out, he had done something wacky with his timing chip too. But he didn’t Strava the ride, so he didn’t have a time show up on the KOM results.
Pros. Pffff. I tell you.
Oh, and what about Yuri Hauswald, whose time was the second fastest for the whole event? Well, Yuri did in fact have his timing chip set up correctly; he just was too focused on racing the whole thing and didn’t bother with the KOM timing mats.
And there were probably more people who had faster KOM segment times than me who didn’t get recorded, due to not following directions. But I think I can safely declare myself: KOM Champion: “People Who Are Not Flummoxed By Technology, Attended the Pre-Race Meeting, and Followed The Directions” Division.
Hey, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Levi still got the KOM hat, though:
Taking silver (or bronze, or whatever it is I actually got) to that isn’t so bad.
Most Awesome Moment of the Day
With racing and awards out of the way, we moved on to eating, hanging out, and — for those who were brave enough to try — Gelande Quaffing, the rules of which I never understood, and also the rules of which I don’t think are very important, because it results in photos like this:
But to be honest, I didn’t care much about that, because I saw a guy finish the ride on the absolute coolest bike in the world, which he let me try out:
A fat bike with aero bars.
I can now die happy.