Sunday, July 17, 2011

Even DBD'ers Feel Shame

The perfect set up!
The Levis Trow 100 mile mountain bike race, one of the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series' jewels was held this past weekend. But, this report isn't about racing, well ... kinda.

Let's just get into it. Amy and I headed off to Nellisville, Wi. for a weekend of camping and racing. She'd run and ride while I just ... rode. Big Buff was going to be there racing his new Lynskey Ti while I'd bring two horses to this event, the proven Salsa El Mariachi Ti and my freshly built Salsa Spearfish. My plan was simple, ride the first 50 miles on the El M. T., then switch to the plush Spearfish for the second half.

The wild card was dealt and it wasn't pretty. As you know the entire Midwest is now in and at the time was expecting HEAT! Often times with heat comes storms. The pitter patter of rain drops began landing on the Salsa canopy around 5:30 a.m. race day. I snickered in my sleeping bag, because as you can see from the picture above, I'd pulled a fast one on ole Mother Nature and snuggled our tent under the canopy. I knew I'd be packing up a dry tent and not having to deal with the whole "set it back up" thing back home on the other side of this event, or at least that's what I thought. "Never fool with Mother Nature", remember that phrase? My snickering in the tent thoroughly PISSED HER OFF and she summoned rain that no human has seen since Noah. I mean it was "cat'n and doggin'" out there.

I checked in at race head quarters and radar reports said this was a "thin slow moving band". Yeah right! Hesitation reigned supreme as race directors baulked at delaying or possibly cancelling the race. The decision to delay seemed to go back and forth until it finally settled on a start time 1 hour later than originally scheduled. Even with the delayed start I wondered if I should even start the race, it was that wet. When I say it rained, I mean it really rained. There were huge puddles every where and it was a challenge to keep the Salsa canopy from collapsing as water gathered at the low points and began to weigh it down. I stood under it and pushed up on the roof every couple of minutes to keep it in tact.

The babies hiding under the tarp (Amy's road bike pictured between it's protectors).
Fast forward to race action. The skies had lightened up and things looked promising. The director blasted off a shot gun in true back woods Wisconsin style and we were running for our bikes in the Le Mans start. I was third into the single track after moving through a 25 yard long super deep puddle at high speed (more on this puddle later). I recall thinking, "man, that was a deep puddle, I wonder what the rest of the course is going to be like". Well, let me just tell you, more of the same. Nevertheless, I moved as fast as I dared through the flowy single track. I shook my head at sections of trail that simply weren't there, just gone. I told myself to just stay in the middle of the RIVER, that has to be the trail. I began to worry when I noticed my bottom bracket being submerged over and over again through super long sections of water. Then, suddenly it began to rain again. Now, I hope I painted a picture of hard rain for you earlier in this post and I hope you're thinking, "yes, I get it Eki, you were riding in some rain, sounds rough". Please multiply your impression of rain by about 100 from what you already have. The skies let loose with such fury that I began to apologize for snickering in the tent earlier. Apart from the slippery roots, the insane mud, the sketchy/jagged limestone rocks, the storm took on a scary feel that had my little contingent of riders (3 of us total) plastered into silence. There was no talking, no attacks, no real racing, just 3 guys riding through the most incredible amount of rain fall I have ever witnessed in my life. As we climbed up to the top of the limestone mounds for which this course is named, we seemed to be challenging Mother Nature, almost calling her bluff. She responded with flashes of lightning and booms of thunder that shook you to your core. As Big Buff put it to me later, "you could actually hear the zzzzzzzt of the lightning" as it took control of your surroundings. The flashes were so bright that I would see nothing but white for about 3 seconds during which time I'd flinch at the report of thunder, reminding me of the time Hondo did the honorable thing and withdrew his WWI revolver on a winter ride only to have the round prove faulty, thus allowing him to survive. I digress. The sheets of rain pounded me and poured through my helmet in almost a comical way. I passed by a section of trail called "cliff hanger" where the water cascaded off the limestone wall next to me in a solid pane of glass. What were we doing out there?

My mind drifted back to my earlier fight with water collecting on top of the Salsa canopy. I was certain that it was a shredded mess by this point - I was bummed. Unless, just unless Amy was back there fighting the good fight. In fact, right before the race started I asked her politely, "Honey, if it starts raining again, will you try to push the water off the canopy? I don't want it to split the seams."

Amy needs a DBD patch for what she did to save this canopy.
Miraculously, I finished the first lap to find the race staff pulling riders from the course. We'd be delayed for another hour until things proved more safe for all involved. This was my chance to go check on my pit area. As I rolled down course I marveled at the carnage and destruction of pit row. Tents were blown away, EZ Ups were mangled, and people were scurrying around trying to put the pieces back together. Then, I saw her walking toward me in a soaked white, yes white Wisconsin Badgers T-shirt laughing and looking like she had been in some kind of apocolyptic scene. She jokingly told me about all the things Salsa should do for her for saving the canopy. As it turns out Amy removed most likely a ton of water from the canvas while the camping area turned into a flash flood scene. The water flowed so furiously that it ended breaching the "levee" on the front of the tent and came over the zipper, instantly flooding the entire tent. Our air mattress was afloat within the tent. A fifteen year old bar tender listened to our story later, mouth agape, she casually added, "it's like you had a water bed". "Good one", was my response.

The floor of our tent. That's about 5 inches of water! Note the little mesh pocket at the back.
A restart had the race back underway, but in a weird way. They started us all together again, but promised to factor in our time differences later. Why they didn't just start us out one by one with our time gaps factored in is beyond me. There were many things that went on this day that I simply didn't understand.

The second lap was strange as we all tried to race each other again, but it just didn't feel right, not to mention we were riding in a flood. My bike began to sound terrible and it was only getting worse. Every time I shifted gears it groaned and popped like something really bad was going to happen soon.

I finished the lap a total mess, but decided I'd head out for #3. In the beginning of my third lap something happened to me that I'm sure will never happen again. I approached the huge lake, I mean puddle that I mentioned early on in the story. I decided to try a different line through it this time hoping for a successful crossing. It was not to be, my front wheel caught a rut and I was going down. You know when you pass over the point where you think it can be saved and you accept that it won't. Yeah, I was there. I threw out my left arm to soften the impact, but there was none. My arm just disappeared into the water. In a nano second I thought, "really is this going to happen?" and like a kid jumping into the swimming pool, I took a huge breath and went in. Silence encased me as I now lived in an under water world, a kind of peace if you will. "I can't live here", went through my mind, you need air. I surfaced with a gasp as mud water poured out of my helmet and down my face. I frolic'd around trying to unclip my left foot while the water lapped at my lips. I took note of how my gps was about 6 inches beneath the surface along with my left grip, shifters, break lever, and headset. "What the F***?!".

Some serious thinking started taking place. I thought about my beautiful El Mariachi Ti underneath me and all the pride I took while building it. I thought about my bank account and all the parts that would need to be replaced if I kept slogging through this, whatever it was I was doing. I soft pedaled the lap and gave the throat slashing symbol to the director when I came threw signalling that I was done.

Both rider and bike - TRASHED!

Big Buff on the other hand was not done. He powered his single speed to a second place overall finish and a SS win amidst a diminished field, but a win is still a win. I can't help but think that Big Buff wasn't doing it for the race, but more for the patch (DBD). As he pitted before his last lap I offered him support and in some sick way envied his filthy, destroyed being. I kicked at the dirt while some new Buff super fans went on and on about how good he was and how much they admired him. I couldn't take it anymore and I exclaimed, "YEAH, I KNOW HE'S GOOD, HE'S MY TRAINING PARTNER". They looked at me as if they were thinking, "sure he is buddy...right". I couldn't blame them.
None of it dried.

Good job Big Buff, I'm proud of you. And, good job to Chris Schotz who really went to battle on this one and came out on top.

Buff "Got R Done"


Anonymous said...

Well done. Can't wait to hear more. ~Rij

Charlie Farrow said...

Amazing....the "new" normal...still I do not believe in Climate Change... :)

Anonymous said...

Difinitely about The Patch.

schwimbiker said...

Everytime you post I'm stuck in front of my computer for at least fifteen minutes. You rock man, good posting. Keep on keepin' on.