Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tales from the Backside

Update: I wasn't last.

Feb 11th …The plan : After spending the winter going up and down mountains— amping up the training and loosing 20 lbs should be no problem. Look out Morgantown road race.

April 11th…The reality: Showed up at the starting line 30lbs overweight and 30 days under-trained. So…I prefer the term “participate” over “race”. Say it with me, “I went to the participate today.” Don’t you feel better about yourself now? To those of you who didn’t show, I got nuthin’ for ya.

However, it seems that not many stayed home. Mt. Morris was a maze of confused racers, out of sorts in their autos, trying to find the backcountry starting line of The Morgantown Road Race. The hills of Mason Dixon Park were in full bloom. Cars and bike racks filled every furrow. Treks, Cervelos, Cannondales and even an Eddy Merckx buzzed all about, pollinating the local race scene. All told, there were over 160 racers on hand—100 or so more than anticipated. For a little perspective, about 180 riders line up at the Tour De France. Congratulations to JR Petsko, Gunnar Shogren, and the rest of The Back Yard Bicycle Club for making it happen.

The Grimpeurs were well represented. The Flanders Fat Cat, Big Daddy Birdman, Aerobinator, Killer Bee, and Phallose were on hand. It was good to get some moral support from Goldfish and his son, up there in the hills directing traffic. Talks-With-Legs said he was going to be there—more talk, I guess. I was surprised Slider wasn’t in the mix. Who was The Fat Cat gonna follow off a mountainside? It was also great to see the boys from Pittsburgh, who came down for the cross races in the fall, back in West Virginny.

(Phallose on 218. No wonder he didn't win.)

As far as my race, it was really quite a success, considering. In several prior races, I had only been able to stick with the peleton for about 1 mile. My training plan’s chief goal was to keep me with the group longer, maybe even all the way to Blacksville. I know, eight miles out of fifty…Hey, I’m a realist. But, as I said before, the old training plan failed to launch so hopes weren’t high.

The Masters rolled out 5 minutes after the Cat I II and IV. My plan was to start as early as possible class wise, so as not to keep the officials waiting at the finish until Easter. I was assured that the Cat V’s were starting after the oldsters. Ryan, resplendent in his stripety striped motorcycle moon suit, tried to thwart my plan. JR showed in the nick of time to set things straight and calm my bleating.

Just Twenty-five yards in, the crumbling bridge across Dunkard Creek did an impromptu bike fitting. One of its many cracks and craters knocked my handlebars into a new, much lower position. I suppose the bunny hopping didn’t help. Note to self, cross season is over. We rolled onto route 7 at a nice starting pace. These guys were much smarter than the Cat V’s. Those buffoons usually blast out of the gate and into anaerobia. It was nice not to have to yell, “50 miles to go, jag-offs!”

Route 7 is a road full of little to middling rollers. My biggest fear was getting dropped right off the bat on one of these. I managed to keep my self mid pack, surprisingly comfortable with my hanblebars brushing fellow racers thighs as they moved fore and aft. I tried to get near the front on downhills, so I could fall back uphill. Hey, I’m over 200lbs. You use what ya got. The strategy worked well and Birdman even gave me a little push once. Nice guy, eh. The last climb before Blacksville finally saw me off the back— all part of the plan. I gasped up past the old jet plane and then tucked into myself, letting gravity drag me back to the pack.

In my mind, I was sure that if I could be with the pack at Blacksville, I could suck wheels all the way up the forgiving flats of route 218. Unfortunately, a critical error was made. I needed to be in the middle of the pack, not on the rear. They, all gung ho for some good drag racing up the valley, accelerated out of the sharp curve in town. I, not yet recovered, got caught out of the draft. For a long time, I and a chick on my wheel, chased tantalizingly close to the beast. I really thought we were going to make it. Alas, it was two against twenty-five. We just didn’t have that last kick needed to get there. If we’d have tried, I’d have probably just fallen back off, exhausted. In retrospect, I should have asked my girl if she could hang if I dragged her up. My bad. Or, my Good. She turned out to be a great partner. We did turns at about a 3 to 1 ratio and made great time. She helped me accomplish my second goal—beat the Cat V’s to Waynesburg. (A disclaimer: I have been informed that the term, "my girl," may be misconstrued to have amourous connotations. This is not the case, I assure you. The term indicates that we had so little conversation that I don't even know her name. All I remeber her saying was, "I'm suffering like a dog back here," and I grunted in response. She worked like a man, man. Anyway, I got more woman than I can handle over here.)

And that was the end of my race, now it was a ride. That was the plan all along because that was how it had to be. The second half race profile is a vicious succession of hills, a couple of which get pretty steep. Really, it was no place for the false hopes of a fat man. So it went, people passed me on the up hills, I caught some people on the descents, and a large procession of backsides disappeared into the hills.

Actually, I kept thinking I was the last man. But every now and then, another heavy breather would eek his way past on a grade. Each time they had a harder time getting by. eventually, they couldn’t get away.

By the climb on Gump I was having serious back spasms. They started on the first climb. Apparently, I had put too much into pulling my girl to Waynesburg. I didn’t mind though. She was able to catch on when the trailing pack rushed up the climb on Sugar Run Road. I felt good about that, a happy domestique.

Anyway, I could not put any kind of a push on up the grades. As I limped towards Gump, slowing to take a drink and a shot of Gu, a crew got behind me. Where the hell did these people keep coming from? “We’ve been trying to catch you all day,” they said. They were wishing I’d slow down, they said. I laughed out loud. If they were chasing me, they were in trouble.

One young upstart jumped up ahead. I couldn’t follow, the back said no, but I marked him. He’d pay for his insolence. The cool thing was, since my back wouldn’t let me push up the hills, I couldn’t really get into the red. I looked slower than I was, but I had something saved for the other sections. As soon as we got over the hill, I poured it on. I picked up my former chasers and then dragged them up to an Irish fellow. I pulled that sprint pull out of the bag that I didn’t use earlier. After a little recovery on his wheel I pulled through and we worked together swimmingly, what a blast. We dropped everyone. That insolent youth was never seen again. It was almost like a race .

The Irishman and I turned it down a bit on the run up to Combat’s backside. We had a nice little conversation and I gave him the rundown on the remainder of the course and how to race it. We both knew he was going bye-bye on the steep hill to come. One of the guys from behind caught back on and we watched the Irishman round the hairpin above us. We may or may not have hurled a playful insult or two at him from below.

So now, the climbing over, it was my turn to do some more pulling. My charge carried gallons of water all over his bike. He had bottles on this tube, bottles on that tube and bottles under the seat. I guess he thought there was a desert stretch. Waterboy (Maybe I should call him, "My Guy.") was a nice fellow with a deep West Virginia Twang. I really enjoyed giving him a tow. He hung on like a Japanese beetle as I rolled through familiar territory. Occasionally he’d reluctantly come through and give me a few seconds break. Between his crapped out legs and my twisted back, even the smallest bumps in the road hit us like brick walls. It really was comical.

On the home stretch a dude passed us up one of the last bumps. I sprinted onto his wheel, leaving Waterboy to fight the wind himself. I sucked it up for one more glorious sprint to the finish. JR said I looked fast across the line. Well, I had some in the tank since I couldn’t push the hills. If your gonna come in twenty minutes or so behind, at least give the fans a show at the end.

When I got off the bike, I could hardly move. My spare wheels had beaten me to the finish and were waiting there on the ground. I literally could not bend to pick them up. Thanks for the help, nice lady. As I twisted with great pain and difficulty into my car, Gunnar bid me farewell with a reprimand for taking two cans of some energy drink. There goes your Christmas case of PBR from the Grimpeurs.

What a great race. It was well worth a day of ice. I was really a lot stronger than my prior road races despite my crappy preparation. I’m convinced that I’m just 30 lbs away from being a force. My favorite part: getting my girl (I wish I did know her name so I could see where she ended up in the standings, same goes for Waterboy and Irishman) to Waynesburg with enough gas to fly away with the crazy Cat V’s. That’s just me, I guess—force or not— a simple domestique at heart.

Now someone tell me what happened up front!


E T Williams 2 said...

Good story, nice edit.....

bluecolnago said...

goddddddd! that's good stuff! i can feel your pain.