Friday, May 13, 2011

18 Hours of Fun

The “off-the-couch-endurance-race” experience is becoming all too familiar. Why do I continue to do this to myself? Somehow that immediate post-race delirium prevents me from remembering the pain, which eventually leads me to sign up for yet another suffer fest, where I inevitably remember why I promised myself I would train harder before doing this ever again.

Nonetheless, I have accepted that I am innately attracted to endurance events. Even when I am under-fit, I continue to throw myself into these experiences if for none other than the incredible team bonding and for the opportunity to feel moderate to severe delirium in the wee hours of the night. This, of course, is made exponentially worse by the fact that I am going manic out there on the course, throwing everything I have into each pedal stroke, redlining the entire lap, and somehow recovering enough to do it again and again and again. And I keep getting away with it. I secretly hope that one of these days I’ll get severely shut down, forcing me to consider undertaking a more rigid, or at least more consistent training routine before embarking on such feats in the future. For now I will continue on - a blissfully average mountain biker with a knack for throwing down hard every once in awhile.

This past weekend was the 18 Hours of Fruita. Having been invited onto the New Belgium Brewing team, “The Chocolate Factory”, I was stoked to be riding amongst excellent friends and former co-workers.  Our co-ed team of four was White Chocolate, German Chocolate, Carob, and myself, Chocolate-Covered Cherry. What I loved most about the experience is that none of us had any attachments or expectations. We just wanted to ride our bikes. I don’t even remember checking the standings until about 9 hours into the race, when, to my surprise, we were sitting in the top 8. Needless to say, as we climbed into a solid 3rd place with 6 hours remaining I was pretty giddy.

There were more than a few memorable moments this weekend, not the least of which was the fact that I fell deeper in love with my new single speed. No surprise there.  And then there was this one early morning lap. I was in the zone, enjoying the playfulness of high-speed flow, my tires hooking up at exactly the right moments. Each birm, each twist was executed perfectly. Railing through a quick turn I caught some air, dramatically landing at the entrance to a dirt-covered bridge. My rear wheel washed out on the ball bearings, and in a moment of uncharacteristic grace and bad-assness I recovered, pedaling frantically, and pulled off an admittedly-awesome feat of balance and power. I was one with my bike. Just as I pulled out of the powerslide and cranked over the bridge, I heard a little kid maybe 10 years old (who happened to be standing directly beside said bridge in the stream bed) exclaim, “THAT was HOT!” as I blazed by with a huge smile on my face, en route to completing my fastest lap of the race.

Since we were doing blocks of two, I had yet another lap to look forward to. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, in the last mile of that 2nd lap I busted up a quick hill only to be greeted by an angel….an angel offering bacon. Bacon? Heck yeah I’ll have some bacon! The crunchy, salty deliciousness couldn’t have been appreciated any more. I laughed as I entered the high-speed descent down to the water’s edge, my eyes watering and my mouth salivating and my heart happy. The last climb out was a breeze. The tight hairpin switchback that once eluded me and my one speed was effortless. I blazed by our camp yelling “CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!!!”, then passed the torch off to our next rider.

We walked away with a solid 2nd place finish, a satisfying reward for such spectacular efforts from the entire team.

Till next time……


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