Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Norm's Jungle

I'm a roadie prick. You know this. 

They say the first step in addressing any problem is admitting it. I say they're out to lunch, and the first step in addressing any problem is to open a beer and think about it, preferrably on the deck or patio. If your problem just so happens to be beer, then drink wine or something. Don't ask me, I just try to ponder as much as possible these days. 

Ok, let's rewind a bit. Well, let's see. First the Earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes.

Wait, too far. Let's go back to the winter, when Utah said he wanted to peak for Jungle. We never bring up the W word. W implies you have more control of the situation that you do. When it comes down to it, you are merely a P. That would be pawn, in game of life. Like Mongo. You can only work hard, line things up, and step up to the line on race day. Most of the rest is up to chance. So the W word never comes up. But you can try to have things lined up for that single day. Because...you never know. 

So Utah's goal is Jungle, and as many of you either know or have figured out, I've been moving around the chess pieces on his board for a while now. This is his big day, so I want to show support and be there for him. This all begins a few weeks back when we go for a pre-ride of what we think the course may look like. 

In the rain.

I had the SS that day and felt fine. It was our Tuesday ride which I'm used to by now. I seem to ride well on Tuesdays, which is funny, because most of you know that in general Tuesday sucks. Fast forward to the weekend, 1 week before the race. We meet again, this time with RU, young Rob, Jeremy, and Matty. Rob brought me an greatly undersized Jet 9 which I hated, then I did a lap on my SS which I hated some more. We knew the course by now and rode what the race was going to be. 

After 2 laps, I was done. That night at the team gathering I declared I was out of this race. It made no sense. Why would I do this? Like I said in the start, I'm a roadie prick. Rocks and trees and stuff? No chance, this course will kick my ass. And what am I thinking riding an SS at this race? That's just asinine. I can support in a lawn chair. 

Ok, so my race is over before it begins. But then this guy in Japan says that he'll make a deal. If he flies back the day before and races at 9:00 am, I have to race. Fine, I can't argue that. I'll bring the gears, dumb down expectations, and just try to make it a hard training ride. We pre-ride the course again, but this time I have gears, and I admit to Utah the gears make a big difference. In the back of my mind, expectations & goals start to build up. This happens. When we're not pondering on the patio, we usually think too much. 

I promise there's a race in here, somewhere.

We watch the cat 2s go off real quick, then head back to the cars to sit down for a few minutes.

Right before we roll we talk to Mike, Utah's biggest nemesis coming into the race. Shortly after we do a full lap pre-ride with Pearl. At his request, I do my best to keep Utah's mouth from ruining his pre-game, and we get out at about 9:35, which brings us back to the lot with about 10 minutes to spare. I want to be warm, and Utah is up for the long warm-up. I suffer from bad starts usually, and tend to warm-up too little. So I want to make this one longer than normal. In the end, it's just an experiment.

We go off as the 4th class, and I think Lombardo is gone before I cross the start line. For as much as I saw him they may have started him on the course. Our class is deep, which is why I have no expectations on much of anything here. I want a top 10, which seems a reasonable goal for me. This is only the second time racing this bike, and my first non-SS race of the year. With the deep class maybe top 10 isn't reasonable, but I don't care.

I get on Bill Romolino's wheel to start and on the fire road pass him, then get into Warthog in maybe 10th or so. The start hurts, but not as much as usual. Once in the woods I do my best to just follow a wheel, as I find that this keeps you on your game better. By the end of Warthog I am at the back of a fairly long train, and I see Pearl ahead and he pulls over to let us go. He was going to try to hold me off all race, but he only had a 1 minute head start, not 2.

In the back of my mind I'm wondering who the first 30-39 racer is that will catch me. As I pass Luke, he is floored that I am ahead of Utah, which makes me laugh. Or blow a kiss, or whatever I did.

All of the small spots that were tripping me up on the various pre-rides were not an issue today. The tight left that kicked me off every time, the first turn into Otter Slide, the big rock wedged in between the trees - none of these are an issue. Pre-riding is good. The only thing that got me was the end of that Tiger Pit, or whatever that uber rocky thing at the end was called. Cleaned it every time but the gravel at the end got me every single lap. Stupid gravel.

Anyway, as I turn on to Boon on the first lap, I hear Utah behind me, "YOU GOT THIS!"

Right, no pressure there. I do clean it and somehow gap him a little bit. We ride out the ST to the pavement and talk a little. He tells me he's pushing too hard, and I tell him to dial it back and make sure he paces properly. He says he will, then continues to push too hard by jumping ahead.  I ride his wheel most of the rest of the lap. The rocky Tiger Pit end-lip gets me, and he gets a small gap, which he holds through the lap.

As I ride through the S/F I get some yells and comments about how close to Utah I am. Well, at least for 1 lap. I know I won't be able to maintain this and he will. But for a lap, hey look, here I am!

At the end of Warthog I engage in what I would call a little team strategy. I know Utah is out ahead, and he's being chased by Mancuso and another guy. So the longer I can stay ahead of him, the more likely Utah stays out ahead. At the base of Otter Slide Steve asks me in perhaps the kindest tone if I could find a chance to let him by. He also admits that it's not a great place to pass.

I do my best to stay on my bike and hold them off. I manage to stay in front all the way up to the top, but they eventually get by and I follow them for a bit after that.

Roll through lap 2 with less fanfare than lap 1.

At the start of Warthog I catch 26er, who I had been seeing on & off for a while. He does his best to hold me off, but eventually he overcooks a line and ends up in the weeds. He gives up the fight there and pulls over and lets me go. As I pass he says, "Keep at it, Frank is right up ahead."

Me, like an idiot, "Really?"


Ok ok, eat me. I keep riding, my legs hurt. Up Otter Slide, my legs hurt more and almost-sorta want to cramp. I go past Luke and he tells me I'm catching Utah. Uh oh, not good. I was afraid he cooked too much to start, but I hope he's got enough of a gap to hold it.

As I run over the pipe, I know that 26er is behind me and is a solid 30 seconds behind me by now. At this point I know I just need to roll it out clean to hold server. I dial it back so I don't end up in the weeds, and roll out the lap. Other than the stupid Tiger Pit gravel, I ride it clean & easy, and roll through the S/F.

I see Utah and ask, he shakes his head yes. He managed to hold it off, which is awesome. I end up 8th in a deep field, so I'm happy. I roll it out a bit with Iggy, then get dressed and hang out with the crew before heading home.

But I'm still a roadie prick. Who likes to ponder.

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