Monday, November 17, 2008

SWANK You Kindly
The SWANK 65

Man, it’s easier to write these things Monday morning when the stuff is fresh in your brain. It’s just that I’m out of race, write, repeat mode. I’m more in eat, sleep, eat mode.

Here goes something like a race report. Saturday Chris and I went around the corner to Johnny’s to pick up Brian Plaster. He wasn’t near ready but we passed the time eating pastries and drinking coffee at his shop, it was terrible, like Guantanamo for me. Brian was somewhat reluctant to get in my Subaru. I guess it’s a southern thing. McQueen had expressed a similar apprehension, suggesting we take the Jeep, saying that people around Asheville “Don’t take kindly to Subarus”. Of course I did insist on keeping my pink helmet in the window for good measure. We were all horribly beaten to death with Axe handles, the end.
Turns out folks out that way are more likely to drive a Prius than a Subaru. Grr Priuseses.

Art Bike by Brian. I'd ride it to the bar.

Don't you know I'm minsane in the sembrane?

The drive out Black Mountain was a nice one. We were going to try to stop and ride at a spot called Kitsuma (I Googled it, never did find the correct spelling) but daylight was waning so we pushed on to the home of Tal and Jess Ingram. Ah, almost forgot about the most crucial-est part – we stopped at Chic-Fil-A. McQueen had talked this bible-thumping, closed on Sunday, we sell nothin’ but chicken and chicken by-products fast food chain until he was blue as the state of North Carolina in the face. Hey, y’know what? He was dead right. Those are some fine chicken sangwiches, just buttered buns, pickles, and a real hunk of nicely seasoned chicken breast. Allegedly this was a strictly southern chain, turns out they exist in Burlington and Peabody Massachusetts. I’m gonna bet you northen Chic-Fil-As are open on Sunday. I smell another civil war a-brewin’ “The War of Southern Indignation (Over Northern Chic-Fil-As being open on Sunday)”.

So glad I bought two of these puppies. So sad they weren't made with real puppies.

Chic-Fil-A may have infiltrated the north but a very northern chain has also infiltrated the south – Dunkin’ Donuts. Thank Gods. Chris and I decided to indoctrinate Brian into the world of “LAAHGE Reg-yuh-luh caw-fees as white as a (Caucasoid) bike-racer’s leg above the short line and full of enough sugar to put every diabetic east of the Mississippi into Hyperglycemic Shock. We even got him to wolf down a Boston Cream Donut, the worst of the worst. He had the standard reaction “Mmm this is GOOD…I feel kinda funny…now I don’t feel so good”.

"Uncle Thom, this Donut has yogurt inside" - My Nephew, Noah Sneed.

Late in the day we got to Tal’s, we were greeted by Cooper the dog or as Brian referred to him “Kitty Man!” or “Shanaynay”. We rolled into Down-smalltown Black Mountain for some food and beverages. Did some openers rolling up the substantial hill back to the house, and hit the hay.

For whatever reason I was up before dawn, totally unnecessary, but I didn’t feel too bad considering. We rolled over to the race venue, about an hour away. It was cold, like 30’s, we were scrambling to find our warm stuff. I discovered that I’d left a leg warmer back at the house, double embrocation saved my ass/legs. Brian wound up with an IBC jersey and a pair of arm warmers fashioned from socks by Cannondale rider Matt ‘Macgyver” Lee.

A Prius tried to follow us through this but it shorted out and electrocuted all the occupants. I laughed until I peed a little.

They lined us up for the Lemans start, I’m so used to SSWC Lemans starts that I didn’t bother even trying to figure out where we were going or what we were doing, so I got parked in badly. You gotta understand, I went into this with my race mentality somewhere far behind me, I think I may have left it in Vermont…in September. It’ll be back in late April 2009. I haven’t done a race with so little concern for preparation, game plan, or outcome since my first couple ‘Cross races in 2006. It’s a good time.

Plastered. He rode it on a 40Lb, Ellsworth Moment, with flat pedals, and his seat down. Props.

So we ran around in a big circle, I didn’t break my ankles, I got on my bike right behind Tal and we began riding up a hill into The Pisgah. I’m not your guy for specifics such as trails names and whatnot, if you want some of that, go HERE for a local rider’s take. At first I was content to sit in, but as the legs warmed up and the trail bit, staying on top of my gear meant passing riders. My gear, I went with a 34 X20, lighter than I normally run and ultimately too light for this course even with 7,000 feet of climbing over 38 miles. The way the climbing was broken up made it not so bad, lots of long, steady gradients. Not saying it was bad having a nice, comfortable gear like that, it was just a little slow through some of the course.

Johnny's in the AM

I can barely remember what happened through most of the race, or in what order the things I can’t remember happened in…if they indeed happened at all. I may have sat at the start/finish drinking beer and eating chips all day, who knows. OK, the climb went on for a while, a few stream crossings, things you had to hike over on small logs in, as Brian Plaster calls them “Dancing Shoes”. God, how long is this report? Is it already too long? My fingers are tired, my brain feels like it’s bleeding, I think Karate Kid Six is on where a 65 year old Christopher Walken plays The Karate Kid “I’m ordering a Buckwheat Kill on those Cobra Kai Fuckers”. Focus.

Jess and Tal's place in Black Mountain and some pre-race prep

Then we go down this rooty descent and I pass this guy that had made a bad pass on me earlier. How bad? He had a two lane dirt road, the whole thing, and he brushed my left elbow as he passed me on the inside. At that point he was my new nemesis, I really didn’t care about doing well, in the grand scheme of The Swank 65, I just had to beat that guy. I went by him with my rigid fork, now that I know how much it sucks to descend with a rigid fork if I EVER get passed by a guy sporting one, I will run, not walk (or maybe even ride) to the store where they sell balls (BALLMART) and ask for my money back.

McQueen finishes up strong and happy.

We did a lot of riding through rhododendron groves, they were gorgeous. At one point there was a climb which was up a sort of rocky gully, covered in leaves, I started playing “Stay on the bike” seeing if I could just make it to the top. I gave up when my cadence hit single digits and my knees started to sound like the woman at the end of this video. Turns out I was about ten yards from the top, god I suck!

Subarus, the new pickup truck.

The most remarkable part of the course was Farlow gap, it was a climb that went and went. Here I caught the leading single speeder, he had been climbing like a goat on fire earlier in the day. I also came up on Marshall Hance, local strong guy who I’d met at SSWC Scotland last year. We had Fish and Chips after the race, big style. I had no idea what I was getting into. The descent began, it got crazier than a conversation between Wesley Willis, Tracey Morgan, and Charles Manson. Eventually I was riding down an incredibly steep rock slide, covered in leaves, my arms crying out in pain, four fingers gripping my rear brake lever, until I had to give it up before I got broke up.

Johnny's again

It didn’t end either, I have never walked so much of a descent in my life, I have never yelled “You are a horribly failed experiment!” at a bicycle component (my rigid fork) before. I have yelled that at one of my children. “It” was taken away shortly thereafter.

Descending upon Black Mountain.

Marshall blew by me on Farlow, he was rockin’ it. I was amazed no one else came by, I even caught someone, only to lose them on the much less challenging run out from the descent. My arms would never recover, I was a rolling rag doll waiting to happen. I hit the final aid station and kept on rolling, entering a high-speed semi-downhill doubletrack for what seemed like miles. Bad-passer was back there somewhere, that rude bastard with his clicky, clicky gears “Click, click, here I come in my big ring, gonna bad-pass you again fatty”. That’s right, I got fat, McQueen would threaten me with bodily harm every time I said so, but seriously, I have gained nearly ten pounds in a month and a half. Wow. I was often transfixed by my gut as it lolled from side to side on the climbs. I had to tell myself that my strength to weight ratio had improved so much that it didn’t matter, that my “Meat Legs” would carry me through. They kind of did, I never felt that bad out there.

Tal's country bike stand.

Just as I exited the singletrack and started to head up the paved road, a geared rider materialized behind me, reeling me in, was it DB Bad-Passer? He came right up to me as we began the final climb, the penultimate climb, it wasn’t DB, it was a nice guy I’d ridden with earlier. I still decided I wanted to drop him so I spun that little gear like spinny thing that spins so fast it’s nuts and I went up and over that climb with a gap.

Cold Mountains. Registration. That's Tal walking in the background.

The finish was actually a lollipop of what we came up at the start, at least I knew there was no more arm-pumping, potentially teeth-smashing descending left. I rolled in just under four hours in 13th place. People were stoked on my first place single speediness and the fact that I had driven down from Boston. I was stoked to eat three cheeseburgers and drink free beer for a couple hours while I waited for Chris and Brian to come in.
Thanks to Chris, Tal, Adrian, Ann, Dex, Brian for hanging with me in NC. See y’all in the spring for The Cohutta!

The videos I took of me singing along to Haircut 1oo and OMD to pass the time are only for Miram to see I'm afraid. I hope to hell you're not still reading this.


beth said...

really amazing finish for not knowing any of those trails out there and with such "little concern for preparation", the field was seriously stacked.. and farlow, sheeshh.. hardly anyone can ride that thing..

and every other person up here has a subaru.. not sure what mixed message you are misinterpreting..

Slim said...


It was good to meet you too. I don't know why you would to go down that descent on a rigid, but I give you props.

Look foward to having you on the crew next year.


Andy said...

Dude, the grape smashing woman took the cake! Man that was evil, to the teeth it looked like.

oh o oh oh hoh oh oh ohooh oho i cant breath ohoohoohoh oh oh oh oho oh oh