Monday, September 17, 2007

EFTA NECS #9 Grillz Memorial
Georgetown, ME

“I have seen old Israel's arid plain.
It's magnificent, but so's Maine”

-Jonathan Richman

Last night I had the strangest dream…in the dream I woke up at five in the morning and drove my car up to Maine, out on the peninsula past Bath to Reid State Park, there was mist on the highway , like you’d expect there to be in a dream. It was a beautiful day, I mean absolutely perfect, not beach weather mind you, but sunny and clear about 65° or so, good dream weather. I was driving to a bike race, when I had said good bye to my girlfriend I told her I was going to win (I don’t win many bike races so this was ridiculous) she humored me.
The parking lot for the race was right by the beach, Half Mile Beach and Mile Beach, these were some nice beaches. One reason I knew this was a dream was that I arrived early enough to ride the entire course and warm up, even checking out the hole shot a couple extra times, it was tricky, I’d probably be off the bike doing some ‘cross practice. The course, dream course, dream conditions…sorry, but it’s true. The roots were wet, the mud was rideable, there were lots of tricky moves to make, real mountain biking type stuff, up over slimy rocks, down rooty drops, slippery bridges, then you’d get a slight respite as you spun out (on a single speed anyway) down this nicely graded path before you hit the real craziness along a raised pipeline. A slip and you could easily gore your leg on one of the many pipe fittings. This section was pure upper body and balance, all rocks and roots, with a couple forced run-ups (crossin’ it up baby!) .

This is the way to roll

This dream wasn’t perfect, I’d run out of accelerade, just the type of thing which messes with a geeky racer’s head, I’d be running on Gatorade and flat coke. I balmed up my legs with some mace ointment and went to line up at the start. There were maybe six guys there, then they told us we’d be let out in waves with Open Elite going first, everyone but three other dudes backed up. So it was me CCB Pro (15th at Nats) Matt O’keefe, Andrew Freye (also Pro), and some other guy who looked strong but from what I saw on the warm up lacked the technical skills necessary to really do well at this race. I was gunning for third, the highest spot on the podium I’ve ever reached at one of these things.
Then with thirty seconds to go, Michael Patrick (Pro, 8th at Master’s Worlds, no joke either) comes screaming down the course at us and wips his bike in line. Now it was five of us and I would have to fight for that podium spot, this dream was turning into a nightmare.
The start was slightly uphill so I was able to hang, hopping on Freye’s wheel, they sent us out into the parking lot to break things up before the hole shot, we basically went out and around a barrel and back to where we came, O’keefe’s up there asking us which way to go, I’m not usually at the front of the race, so this banter was surprising, things seemed pretty relaxed. We came blasting into the woods, a gap already opening up behind us. I couldn’t believe the speed O’keefe was going into this stuff at, one minute in and he was opening the gap, Freye was just ten seconds ahead, I was trying to stay locked on him. He’d bobble, I’d gap up, then I’d bobble, he’d gap away, then we hit the dirt road/path section and he opened it right up, this was what I had feared, that section would be my undoing.

I've made a few changes in the latter part of the season, something seems to be working, don't know if it's the Multi-Vitamins or the new Deodorant

There were a couple minutes of light climbing just before the pipeline section, there I was able to close it down on Freye, conscious Thom P. could never do this, but dreamland Thom P. was able to pull it off. A ways into the gnarliness (look it up in your Laird Hamilton dictionary) I was right on Freye’s wheel when he got stopped by something in his path, he let me come around and I was able to open a small gap and extend it to maybe ten seconds by the time we came through the start finish. The roles were reversed but the situation was the same as lap one, gaps opening and closing all the while, there were a couple small, rooty power climbs before the anti-singlespeedy dirt road bit, I drilled them, I wanted to get some air between me and Freye before I got there. But even still just a minute into the pipeline Freye was breathing down my neck, but then I heard the words of Mike Ramponi’s brother in his thick Boston accent “why can’t you just go HAAA-DER!?!”, so I did, dream legs responding very well. So I alternated riding like a Ninja and a Jedi, maybe even using some of my “Gymkata” skills through this section and by the end the gap was bigger than the previous lap.
Lap three I spent alone, just trying to figure some stuff out, real deep stuff like “if there’s tree in the forest and a rider going twenty miles per hour comes by riding in a straight line and whacks the ever-living beejesus out of his shoulder on it, did the tree move or did the rider miscalculate the corner?” This being a dream (yes, we’re still going with that premise, bear with me) it is quite possible that it was an Enchanted Tree or an Ent or something so we may never know, it’s tough when you mix mathematical calculations that sound like lame philosophical questions with delusion and fantasy.
Spectators kept giving me weird gap estimations to O’keefe, “oh ya, like a minute, maybe forty seconds, you’re closing it down”. I thought that he must just be riding as fast as he needed to and not any faster, but as soon as he caught a glimpse of me he’d drop it into warp speed and be gone again, if the gap info was accurate at all. O’keefe has beaten me in the past by as much as fifteen or twenty minutes so I was psyched just to be this close, one flat or mechanical and I’d be on him. I still had the typically late surging Michael Patrick to worry about as well, I expected to see him hauling ass up the dirt road behind me, and Freye was out of sight but still a major threat.
Going into the fourth and final lap, not too far into the first technical part, I can’t believe my eyes, there’s O’keefe sidelined with a flat, he was just pulling the wheel off, I had moved into the the lead, yikes, now what? During the Tour coverage Phil and Paul always talk about how the yellow jersey changes a rider, I felt it in my microcosm of bike racing up in Maine. O’keefe could still catch me, I could flat, crash, or an Asian drug lord could have hidden venomous snakes in my seat tube and spiked my water bottles with pheromones to infuriate them so they’d bite me, anything, and I mean anything I could happen.
But nothing did happen, I did ride myself into the ground by the very end of lap, I was bouncing off everything in my path, breathing like a fat kid running from a serial killer that specializes in killing fat kids exclusively. I came across the line and did what I’d meant to do last Saturday at the end of the short track “BYAAH!”. Then I probably swore, so I apologize if I taught any children something they haven’t already heard from Kanye West or Grand Theft Auto.
Then I pinched myself and woke up, went over to the officials and asked them if I had actually just won the Open Elite race, they told me I had. As I stood there Freye came across the line followed shortly thereafter by Patrick, and then O’Keefe, this was going to be one weird looking result.

I try out the new line of IBC swim wear, it works for the Maine coast

Just to make sure I was awake I went down to the Atlantic Ocean and began wading in, the surf was high, maybe four feet, surfers were surfing, I was in up to my knees, cursing the frigid waters when a wave came in, knocked me right on my ass, then proceeded to drag me out twenty yards, filling my bib shorts with sand and sea robbins (OK fine, no sea robbins). Now I was awake, this whole day hadn’t been a dream, I’d won my first EFTA race and although the field had been small it was pretty stacked, I’d take it damnit.


jeff said...

nice one mr p! you've been racin' yer bike a lot, eh!?


Colin R said...

your choice of url for linking to me has me utterly baffled.

and i hope there are lots of downhill, paved sections this cross season.

Thom P. said...

Ah, ya see...
when I upgraded my blog template I lost my links so I just googled you and that was the first page that showed up. All better now.

No, no paved downhills, inclement weather, noreasters, thunder-snow,
anything but paved downhills!