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This topic is: It's about the ride.......
Name: Larry Grossman
Date: Tue, Oct 10, 2006, 11:28:54
Somewhere in the middle of the night, when the wind is blowing like a mother and you begin to rouse yourself for the inevitable next lap, it hits you like a freight train square in the middle of the face. Amidst the smoke filled air and the taste of sand and grit in every breath we take now, we all lay alone with our thoughts while one of “us” is on course driven by his or her own individual thought process. We are all suffering, some more than others at particular times of this race. Why are we here? Many are here in their youth to prove that they are worthy of the task and able to do the unthinkable more efficient than others, they are immortal tonight, so many more days of invincibility in front of them. Others continue to punish themselves because to fail is simply unacceptable, these warriors have grown accustomed to being on top and ride the race to validate their status as elite athletes and maintain their reputations. If there are 1500 competitors there are 1500 reasons for being here. Then there is the common man, with no particular goal other than to compete and live the experience year after year. They revel in their youth and come to the sand simply for the pleasure of the experience, something to talk about and look forward too like a camp reunion. Beyond all of these defined groups of riders there are the “old” guys. The guys who now in the autumn of their careers as athletes refuse to give in, refuse to believe they cant still perform at a respectable level, the riders who’s skills may be diminishing physically but know that mentally they are as tough or tougher than the rest of the field. Their bodies are scarred and bruised from years of combat on the bike. But now they have found a bond between themselves, a common goal that can only be met if each and every one of them lays it all on the line, puts the team first and understands the big picture. Each man understands that if he should fail or falter that there are three other guys riding with and for him and that there is no failure, for each rider has performed his best to this point and will do so until the last pedal is turned in Moab. Doing the best you can here is winning. What each rider perceives as a “bad” ride is not a bad ride at all, just the best he could have done given the circumstances. Four tough guys all with the same goal, to finish something extraordinary and finish it as fast as possible. Are they really tough guys? I beg anyone to ask that question of themselves when the race is over and it is time for handshakes and hugs….these feelings are real, indescribable and quite simply a bond between teammates that can only be formed by each individual understanding what it took to get to this point, the monumental effort of each of his teammates lap after lap for the good of the team. Why am I busting a nut to finish my lap as fast as I possibly can or faster? Because there are three other guys committed to the same goal I’m here for. Nobody is holding a gun to your head to make you go ride a lap in the middle of the night when the wind is blowing so hard you must pedal your ass off to continue moving downhill. It’s for your team and the effort you know they are putting in as well. This is what drives you on. When you come back after a lap broken and battered from getting spanked by the Mountain Bike Gods, it’s time to reach deep. You are not here for yourself and your own agenda, you are here to face adversity as individuals but for the good of the team. When you are slapped down and want to wallow around in your for shit lap you just had, it’s time to suck it up, look down into the bowels of your mountain biking soul and remember that there are three others guys you are riding with that have spent as much or more time in the saddle to get to this point. They have all been on the bike for thousands of miles this year to get to this point, quitting or feeling sorry for yourself suddenly is not an option and the power of the bond that brought you here drives you forward. Energy is found in places it no longer existed before and each lap is a fresh chance at herohood……….
What if I had done this differently on my last lap? Did I eat and drink enough or too much? By the time you have prepped yourself for the next monumental effort on course you still wonder what you have missed, what critical small element did I leave undone. Is one spare tube enough? Are my clothes layered properly. It’s so easy to over do everything in this race, years of experience have taught me now that less is more. A few tools, a spare tube, and minimal water should do it for me for the effort on course leaves almost no time for a water or food break. The goal is to suffer your ass off for an hour and so many minutes and get back to camp where you can gorge on food and recovery drinks then hit the sack for some much needed sleep. Then the call comes from the rider who’s duty it is to wake you for your next lap…t-minus 75 minutes and counting. The call can be rather annoying depending on circumstances, similar to mom waking you to make sure you do not miss the school bus when you are in fifth grade. The next thirty minutes is spent wandering and digging for the gear of the warrior. Where the hell are my leg and arm warmers? It’s cold outside, the wind is howling and I may as well be smoking a pack of cigarettes breathing all this campfire smoke all night. Somehow, at 3:30 a.m. I manage to find my next round of cycling clothing, get dressed, pick my bike up from team mechanics, make sure she is running like a champ after face planting on lap two and bending my gear shifter and brake lever as well as my derailleur hanger, and then wander down to the start finish area to find the motivation to do it again. This lap will be different. Lap two was a bit of a disaster which included a crash on the slick rock which left me battered and bruised. I seriously thought my race was over when I came back to camp with a busted up elbow, bruised knee and a re-aggravated shoulder separation I received in a horrific crash six weeks prior. But I like to think I’m a tough guy, and that my teammates can count on me no matter how blasted my body is from adversity. When I woke up for lap three and realized my elbow was stuck to my sleeping bag with dry blood I had to reach deep and get my mind driving towards the ultimate goal. To finish what we came here to do. That meant reaching super deep and showing no weakness, letting my teammates know I had rallied on both mine and their behalf and that getting back in the saddle would be the best thing for all of us…..this lap would be better.
And then the moment arrives. At 4:00 a.m. another warrior, our third rider, comes screaming into the tent to the checkpoint. It all happens so fast, all the prep for this lap and concerns now just slap you square in the face and you are sprinting out to your two wheeled companion and all of a sudden “in the race”. It’s easy to go over the top here. Riding out of the arena and camp ground everyone is eager to prove their worthiness and smoke anyone close to them. Wise riders know this is a time to get reacquainted with the bike, find a cozy rhythm and stay there. There will be plenty of time to catch slower riders during the loop. The goal suddenly becomes to ride this lap with no issues, learn from my previous mistakes, and get back home as safe and quickly as possible. Half way up the first climb, while riding well and in a fairly comfortable zone, I’m struck by the fact that a rider whom I know well, who typically rides faster than me and who I started only fifteen seconds in front of, has still not caught me. This puts a charge in my cadence, is it possible for me to hold him off for entire night lap? I become focused on this goal and pick up the pace, I will ride fast but conservative which means I will be off the bike and running in any questionable sections of the course. This is not normal protocol, but I am battered and hurt from lap two and can’t risk knocking myself out of the race. I know the course well enough, even at night, to know where to dismount the bike and run, sometimes for long stretches of the course, this in the long run will keep me and my teammates in the race. Somewhere after the initial climb I realize that I have never felt better on the bike while riding at night. It’s all just working out right now. The crash is behind me and I’m knocking off the hardest part of the lap quickly. I’m not suffering but riding with a huge smile thinking that this is it, this is the moment. I’m 48 years old and have never felt more alive in my life and I’m sharing it with three other warriors. I can’t wait to come screaming into the start/finish…..then the thought hits me, still eleven miles to go, keep it together, anything can still happen. Funny thing is I still have not been caught by the “faster” rider….I pick it up another notch and realize this is the time…this is where I may be able to make up time as everyone else is suffering and I’m having the time of my life. The plan changes on the upper flats once I climb that God forsaken sand hill for the last time in the dark. I’m going all out on the upper flats to the finish. The wind has laid down and now is the time. I know I risk a blowup on my final lap but I’m going with it and I push the pedals with everything I’ve got for the final eight miles to the finish. The miles fly by in a blur and familiar sections of the course come quicker than expected. I give it everything I’ve got and the adrenaline rush of coming over the rise into the last quarter mile of the lap actually has brought tears of joy to my eyes because I know I have bounced back strong for my teammates. I’ve pulled it off and take some satisfaction in the fact that my teammate is not quite ready when I arrive at the start/finish. This means I’m in early, I can’t stop grinning and I’ve never been more pumped in my life. The faster rider never did catch me and I suspect he had some type of issue along the way…..it happens. To be continued…………………….
Name: Bill Brabant
Date: Mon, Oct 04, 2004, 00:49:21
Sorry for your loss. Keep riding. Its the best therapy. Believe me.
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