Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back in action

It's been 59 days since I fractured my scapula. Today was the first day back on the bike since August 1st. Yes, folks, I'm back in action. (Well, if you call spinning for an hour back in action.) Two months ago this point was so far away that I had to let the desire to ride leave me else I would've grown bitter. That desire was so far gone, in fact, that I hadn't decided to ride until, I got home from work today. And how could I not? The weather has been so spectacular I could lick it. Not a poof of cloud to be seen. The only breeze would be of my own doing. Ryan asked if I wanted him to come with me. I did but I didn't. I wanted the ride to be my speed and I didn't want to be distracted from seeing and feeling. I was surprised that I felt so anxious, like waiting in line to see Santa. All my gear was right where I left it after returning from that fateful trip. Airing up my tires was a tad painful but I put my body weight into it and managed just fine. I had planned on driving myself to Aksarben Park to avoid traffic, pot holes, etc. but I couldn't lift the thing onto the rack and didn't want to mess with putting it inside so I braved the streets. My legs were pretty pathetic but I didn't care. They're pretty much the size of runners' legs, buy maybe this will be to my advantage next season. Light and lean, maybe? A couple times I stood up on the pedals to test the pain. Hmph, nada. That's good. Up one little tiny climb I rocked the bars. Pain. Won't be doing that for a bit. I purposely went over some cracks and bumps to see if the feedback would bug my shoulder but the only sensation was from my ass. Seems I lost some padding back there during my sabbatical. Once at the Keystone, I turned south for no reason other than I wanted open sky. It didn't matter that I was going into the wind first. I would have ridden into a tornado. (not really). They sky didn't disappoint. That golden, Indian summer light where the sun is lower in the west, casted long shadows across the landscape. The air tasted sweet and just the sound of rubber on pavement lulled me into a state of bliss. Even the annoying clouds of bugs didn't bother me. I rode for a total of an hour. My arms were pretty tired but they'll get stronger over time. The great news is my shoulder took it like a champ. Roxy 2.0 has begun.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dakota 5-0; from the sidelines

It's been just over a month since the accident. A very long month. I'm doing pretty good, thank you very much.

No, not riding. Probably won't be off road the rest of the year. Just don't want to put myself in a situation where I'd have to tuck and roll. Nope, I've resolved to the fact that my work outs consist of speed walking. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to run this off-season and getting back into Yoga. Sarah has promised to help me attain six pack abs. I'll teach her to tear up single track. Look out!

Over the last month, I've slowly checked out being in 24/7 training mode. (Now it's about what can I do to keep from dying from boredom). Watching Ryan and friends leave for rides sucked at first but now it's like, eh, wake me when you get back. And so, you could say, I've become a sloth, but not by my own choosing. You could say since I have this hall pass to chill, well, I'm gonna do it right.

Which brings me to this past weekend. There was no freaking way I was going to stay home while the short bus went north to the 5-0. Okay, so not exactly chill, but can ya blame me? For anyone who hasn't made the trek to our neighboring state to the north, let me tell you, you're missing out on one of the best venues around for racing. The secret is out though. This year they sold out, so keep eyeballs on the lookout for early sign up next year. I'm telling you, like Ive been for five years, GO!

I digress...back to the weekend. I have to say it was kinda nice not having to stress about packing nutrition and bike gear and all that. I did make up for it, however, with the extra food, cooler and queen size mattress. But it all fit in the bus. Damn, shoulda brought more. It was funny, cuz Mod sent out an email saying him and Annie were choosing not to bring food but would be eating out. Most followed suite, but since I had replaced being in race mode with camp mode, dammit, I was gonna camp and eat camp food! My menu was brats, guac, chips, chicken strips, salsa, crackers and cheese, smore's fixins, cereal, fruit, OJ, veggies and dip and of course some white wine in a container that was similar to a pint carton of milk. A cheap hang over is the same as an expensive one, so I took the low road.

The drive up was great. We were packed in but that's what you do when you road trip with a bunch of racers. We motored up to Mitchell and dirt bagged it at a Hampton Inn, thanks to the business needs of Miles, who had to log in to do some early morning trading on Friday. Hope the boss took notice. LOL. One breakfast bar later, and were on the road by 9. By mid afternoon we had made it to camp, but unfortunately, so did many others and most of the shady spots were spoken for, so we took the sunniest spot in the place and set up base camp. It was pretty comical watching RF huff and puff about as he put up the tent we borrowed to use the mattress pad (I can't exactly lay on the ground yet). You'd thought he was erecting the Sears Tower for crying out loud. A few excruciating minutes went by and the tent was up. Next was the mattress. We drug it over to the RV area and plugged it into an outlet to auto inflate. That was the shit. I wish my bike tire pump did that! We enlisted Jeremy to help us carry it to the tent. This thing was huge. Two layers high and it had a head board so the pillows couldn't slide off the end. Yes, I said it, "don't come a knockin...." I'm sure it was a sight seeing us try to fit the thing through the tent door. Once inside, it took up 2/3 of the space but was pretty comfy, actually. As a matter of fact, I'm confident enough in myself to say I really liked sleeping on the mattress. Not once did i wake up with a screaming back ache or a hip ache. That alone could convert me into a full-on car camper. Fuck, I'm old.

Hey, our campsite at the Spearfish City Campground made it on a roll from Mountain Flyer Mag, due out in Dec. Hah! The princess tent with the mattress is the big gray one on the left.

As per usual, the trail called the group. They kitted up to spin out the day's drive and introduce the trail to the newbies, Miles and JC. Rafal had just arrived as the group was heading out but he opted to stay camp side to set up and hang out with his new Mrs. Rafal. I couldn't sit too long so I strolled up to the fish hatchery and continued through the park. Families were picnicking and reunioning. It was a famously gorgeous late summer day. The only thing missing was a tall lemonade. The path mimicked the rushing spring. I stood and listened and watched it, lost in the joy of being where I was on a later afternoon on a Friday. Life was good. I continued my walk through the park and then turned back down what would be the finishing straight of the race on Sunday. Lucky SOBs!

Back at camp, I decided to be productive, so I took it upon myself to find kindling for the fire that would blaze that night. Even with one arm, I think I did a good job. By the time I made it back, the group had returned from their recon ride. The smack talk was rabid. But it soon shifted to food talk and it didn't take long before folks were dressed down, ready to chow down. We hadn't eaten since breakfast, so a good meal was in order, especially for the racers. I rode with the Dolotos while the rest of the group pedaled. We hit the local waffle fry establishment and imbibed on a cacophony of carbohydrates. I washed my down with a couple of beers. Our over indulgence of the waffle fries would haunt us all later.

The first night at camp was a chiller and most of us from the land of Hot and Humid hadn't anticipated such a chill, or had forgotten such a temperature existed. CWolfe didn't even have a coat. I forgot gloves. Ryan and I both didn't think to bring a knit cap. Ryan ended up sporting a very stylish one from Walgreens with the popular local sports team SPARTANS across the front. He made it all the more memorable by keeping the tag attached. Proof that he had just bought it and that it wasn't a staple of his ultra cool camping gear. Our camp site sat literally inches from the natural spring that flows through the camp ground, a natural AC when it's hot. When it's not, it's like sleeping in a refrigerator. I had my hoody on inside the sleeping bag with the bag slightly over my face. Our tent had mesh walls, ideal for camping in the desert, not next to a stream with temps in the 40s. But, we managed. We did wimp out and headed into town the next morning to get some warmer clothes for sitting around the camp fire and an extra layer for the sleeping bags. Okay, so Wal Mart is good for something.

The next morning, Saturday, was chill for everyone. We all got up at our leisure. That's my second favorite part of camping, next to sitting by the fire: having breakfast outside in the morning air. RF and others rode to the local foo-foo coffee house while me and the Dolotos were hardcore, drinking french press out of camping bowls. (But I gotta fess up. When we went on a Wal Mart run, I asked to stop for a foo-foo).

The rest of the day was pretty mellow. The group went out for another ride. I went for a long walk. A crushed trail leading out of the other side of the campground had me intrigued. Lucas said it was short and lead up to the paved path, so I went exploring. I found some single track but it was just a small off-shoot that lead me back to where I started. I continued back on the paved path out into a neighborhood. A sign directed traffic to Spearfish Canyon. When we were here a month ago, we stopped at a high-point on the trail and looked down into the canyon. Now I know how to get to it. I continued on the path back towards town. I walked down a road that turned into Main Street. My little walk took me past the cutest little coffee/sandwich shop, so I stopped in and grabbed a menu. It had wonderfully inviting outdoor seating, old wood floors and local art and photos on the walls. It will be my new foo-foo stop. I walked back to the park where the next day's festivities would take place. I walked past a wedding party getting pictures taken and an old man enjoying the bubbling spring as I did the day before. I caught up to Megan who was out on her own solo walk. Back at camp, I piddled around. I spread a sheet on the ground in the shade and did some arm exercises. More folks from the Big O were arriving, Todd Eiberg and his wife April as well as Alex Sanchez, who was a super virgin, as this was his first time riding outside of NE/IA. He was excited and nervous all at the same time. Yeah, been there. Soon after they were unpacked, Todd and Alex headed to ride. April and I drove them to the hole shot so they wouldn't waste day light on gravel (who does that anyway, lol). By the time we got back Andy arrived, questioning what the hell he was doing there. Then most of the group made their way to packet pick up. Knowing 500 folks had the same idea, some went early and hung out at the coffee shop until it was go time. Later, those who didn't, told tales of a snaking line around the block. Some waited a couple hours. Ouch.

Dinner was brats and beans. Mmm-mmm! I shared my bounty with my fellow restaurant eatin' campers. How could they resist. Post dinner, everyone was tinkering with bikes and gear and fuel. Lucas felt the need to polish his cassette til he could see his reflection. More a release of nervous energy than vanity, I assumed. Soon though, 7 bikes lined up along the short bus, ready for battle. After a few laughs around the camp fire, we turned in early as 5 am would come quickly. A bit of cloud cover helped keep the temps more comfortable. Perfect, actually.

But as I said, the 5am alarm came quick. I felt like I had just layed down. I didn't have to get up right away of course but as one of the beer leaders, we had a plan to get up to the hole shot before the race arrived, so there'd be no sleeping in. In fact, we were on the road before the racers were. But we had to b/c we had to make the foo-foo stop and then go on a beer run for beer ups at the 2nd aid station. Aah, the life of living from one chemical to another. So the ladies kissed their significant, wished them luck and like Thelma and Louise, were off to raise some hell. Truly, I did wish I was lining up with rest of them, but it was not in the cards this year. As we drove down the finishing straight, I watched with a mixed feeling of envy and delight. I wanted so much to be out there but at the same time, I was relieved to know I didn't have to endure 4+ hours of pretty tough racing. It was party time.

Megan drove me and Sarah in her cute but rugged Toyota rice burner while April and Heather and Will Wolfe Jr. followed in their POS SUV. (I'm being facetious here because the gravel, washboard road was not exactly meant for rice burners but Megan was a pro driver!) We drove up to the entrance to the single track and waited for the train. I was super excited. I had my cowbell and JC's flip video camera. Within a few minutes the race promoter came screaming around the corner which signaled the train was a comin'! To our amazement, somebody was soloing off the front. But not far behind was Mark Savery, in about 10 position.

Lucas was about 2 guys back. Next about 40ish place was Jay Chesterman then Gersib. Ryan wasn't far behind and when I saw his Bike Masters jersey I rang that bell and screamed for him until I couldn't see him anymore. (He later said that was one of the points when his heart rate spiked. Aaaah!). Next to follow was Miles, Rafal and JC. We stayed until we saw all of our crew - The Wolfe Bro's,Andy, Todd, Alex and Annie. I think we cheered for her the loudest!

Next stop was aid station 1. Fans lined the trail in front and after the food table. Riders were flying by. Mark was the first of our group and he had made up some spots, going by in 7th position. Lucas had lost a few spots but wasn't back by much. Ryan came next. He did a full-on stop and dismount to mix a bottle. He was off again within 40 some seconds, during which Gersib and Jay went by. We waited for most of our crew, but had a longer drive to the next station and since we had hand ups for most of the riders, we had to get on the road before we could see them all.

Station 2 was much more crowded. It was a more popular stop as it was half way through the race. We hauled our supplies up to trail side. Megan, being the veteran beer leader, said it was best to only hand riders a partially full can. Well, we had 12 full cans of Coors Light (hey, it was all the gas station had that was edible) so all the ladies (accept for Heather since she had child in tow) popped some rocky mountain goodness and got our beer on. We drank half of each can and put the rest on ice for those who cared to take a drink. We didnt have any takers from the front of the train. They were on a mission and it didn't include a beer stop at 9 in the morning

.Mark came through in about the same position as station 1. He was looking good. We got him in and out of the station in no time.Lucas was next, but unfortunately, he came back, on foot. A short distance past us his chain stay busted clear through. He was done for the day. He parked his bike and went and sat in the shade, obviously disappointed. We have him a full bottle of the good stuff.

As the riders went through, more and more took our cold offerings. Even if they didn't most were very grateful for the offer and thanked us for our support. I don't know if it was the beer or the caffeine but we were being very silly, doing all sorts of very uncoordinated and unchoriographed cheer leading moves. The only thing missing were pompoms and a tambourine.

One guy said "Thanks for the smile". I heard "More Cowbell!" many times and if we heard someone say "you're awesome" we shouted it back with 10 times the enthusiasm. Truly, I was living off of their energy and desire to go forth despite whatever devil was telling them otherwise. Having been there many times, I know the feeling of seeing folks cheering as you suffer within. It gives one wings and I was bound and determined to make them fly! I really wanted to them to understand that I believed in them and wanted more than anything for everyone of them to finish. Each familiar face brought the house to it's feet, so they say. We cheered on every rider but when one of our own came through, they had their own personal cheering section. Especially Alex and Annie.Alex was on an epic journey and I so hoped he would finish so that he could go home and tell his story over and over. He was so excited when he came through and that made us cheer more.

When Annie came through, again, we wailed at the top of our lungs. I ran down trail with her and gave her a push. My bucket was full, as they say. Not racing was okay, actually. This was pretty damn fun.

We opted not to go to the other aid stations so we could get down to the finish line in time to see Mark come through. We werent' there long when he came down the finishing straight, alone. 8th place out of 500. Not too shabby, especially considering he came in with a low tire, ala Armstrong stylee. (He missed 2nd place in SS by a mere 30 seconds. A curse he;ll have to live with for 360 more days).

Next in was RF - he made the top 30, taking twenty-eight place overall. His age group was the fastest of the day, and he claimed 15th. Not sure how many were in his age-group). Seemed he passed Jay and Matt along the way, who came in a bit later. I ran up to him in the parking lot and he as all smiles and he felt good. It was finally a good day of racing at a big event. Everything had come together as expected.

A lot of time passed between finishing riders. 50 miles can really string out five hundred people. It was hard to spot them until they were practically at the finish line. Mike was next, followed by Rafal and JC. I ran after JC to get some footage of him for Becky who was back at home.

After that, I was excited to go see Ryan and get the low down, so I left the finish line. Some of our team were still out there, but April, Heather and Sarah were there to cheer them on. Ryan was on fire. It was a great day for him and he explained in detail his strategy for success. Finally, no cramps, flats or mechanicals. It had to be the good luck spewed forth by the cheering squad, I have to believe. I was so happy for him. Now, it was party time.

We went back to the finish line. One by one members of our team showed up and we let out a big cheer. We all eventually gathered under the trees to eat, drink, eat, drink and live off the post race buzz.

Bands played, a keg was popped, a buffet was devoured. When Marks' name was called for placing 2nd in SS, we whooped it up. He shook his beer on stage and sprayed it like true pro. When he came back, his once white Tshirt was spotted with beer. His rendition of the polka-dot jersey, I 'spect. We hung out until the last award was given out. Lucas won some only-lucas-would-wear sunglasses. Sort of a cross between something Elton John would wear and those old people sun glass covers. Very the Lucas. Hopefully that made up for his DNF.

We went back to camp. Talk was of food, naturally. We returned to the home of the waffle fry. As I mentioned before, our over indulgence of said waffle fries a couple nights prior came back to bite us. Not a waffle in the house (Todd got the last two in all of SD).

Said the waitress. Would you settle for steak fries? The room was silent. You could hear crickets. But, being the hungry bikers we were, food was food. They weren't as can't-eat-just-one good, but they weren't bad. The almost funny part was they ran out of those too, but gave us regular fries until they could make more steak fries. We're all like, people, there are 500 waffle-fry eating maniacs in town today. How is this possible??? But we managed not to starve to death and got our fill, even bringing back some doggy bags.

And do I even need to say was ensued the rest of the night. Smack talk-o-rama. Fueled by booze and racing hangovers, it was one crack up after another. Nobody, thankfully, fell into the fire. We did polish off some serious smore's, I'm proud to say. The night was cut somewhat short as lightning was seen on the horizon. Just as we zipped up the tents, the rain fell. As I drifted off into my fuzzy cheap wine sleep, I remember thinking, even though I didn't bring a bike, this was a great weekend of racing.

Most photos courtesy of Heather Wolff. Others I shamelessly stole. This last one I took.