Saturday, October 6, 2007

Road Apple Rally

I hauled the tPOD to Farmington, New Mexico on October 5th, the day before the 2007 Road Apple Rally. I parked it in the parking lot of the Lions Wilderness Amphitheater, which serves as Road Apple HQ, then got my bike out to do a little shake-out ride. I have a brand-new Fox F-29 fork hanging off the front of the Lenz, and I’d re-cabled the front and rear shifters. That had all happened without even a test ride, other than around the shop--dodging the clothing racks and display cases. Just hadn’t had time to take her for a proper shake-out ride. So just as the sun set on Friday, we did a little 25-minute dance on the Roadapple singletrack.

Afterwards I twisted the barrel adjusters on the shifters a little and let some air out of the fork. Then I locked her to the tongue of the tPOD, made some dinner and hit the rack.

When I woke up, I could hear people talking and RVs being backed around. The parking lot was already filling up as the sun came up. I fried some bacon and ate a little cereal, then I put on my monkey suit and started circling around, warming up like the other bikey geeks that were showing up from all of the four-corner states.

The nervous milling about, egos being compared for where one should line up, the countdown from ten, then the pack starts rolling. An uphill doubletrack start spreads the pack out pretty quickly. I wasn’t in this thing for a win, but any racer knows that once people start racing, people start racing.

I don’t do much cross-country racing. I’m not blazing fast. I prefer setting up a decent pace for a long haul rather than pushing my throttle down to the floorboards for a couple pain-filled hours. But the Road Apple—it’s so steeped in tradition. Ned Overend rolled past while I was warming up. And the course is a blast; long and swoopy, and flat relative to Colorado race courses.

So when the riders started sorting out on the doubletrack at the beginning I put the hammer down. When the doubletrack gave way to the seemingly endless rolling uphill singletrack, I stayed on it to the extent that I could. When the rollers got deeper, I pump-tracked my way to a couple easy passes.

About 30 minutes into a cross-country race, you get to witness what happens to people who really don’t have much fitness, but can hang with faster riders for a while. You’re grinding along behind someone, feeling pain but staying with it. Then their body language and sometimes even an audible queue tell you that it’s all over for them. They give kind of a huff, and either shift down or start pedaling slower. You say “on your left” and they happily slip to the right to let you around.

I don’t think I’m any faster than usual, but I have some pretty deep fitness in my life right now. I went out hard. I kept at it hard. About an hour and a half into it, when I was about two-thirds of the way through my race, I wilted for about 10 minutes. I didn’t drop my pace entirely, but I was feeling it. Then some guy who had been following me on a section of singletrack, about my age, came alongside me when we came out onto a stretch of road. He had an exasperated look on his face, and said “how much did we pay to do this?” I just smiled at him and rode away like he was standing still. I may feel like I’ve been beaten, but this goober is NOT going to cross the line before I am.

He didn’t.

I finished in 2:19. That put me in 7th for 40-49 Sport. I was 11 minutes behind 3rd place. Of course I had to look at where I would have been in Expert. I was only 9 minutes behind 3rd in Expert. Damned sandbaggers. I’m going to declare myself Expert next year. If I’m going to be mid-pack when I race X/C, I’d rather be a mid-pack Expert than a mid-pack Sport.

As my race finished up, the decent weather that we had started to degrade. A chilly wind came up, and the clouds rolled in. I put on some warm clothing and went to the awards and to collect my free plate of Mexican food. It got colder as the awards ceremony went on. I bumped into some friends from Albuquerque and another one from Bakersfield, CA (Sportsman).

After the awards wrapped up, I wandered back out to the parking lot where the tPOD sat. The lot was already more than half empty. The wind was rocking the tPOD. I went inside, took an Advil, turned on some music, and stretched my legs out. Within an hour the parking lot became almost totally empty, and the wind became a force. I started reading a crime novel, and thought about where I should go tomorrow. I’m doing the 24 Hours of Moab on a team next weekend, so I’m just staying out this way for the next week.

Is the weather going to go to shit? Should I just skip Durango and stay somewhere lower? Maybe I should just do a day at Phil’s World then head on up to Moab.

Tom Waits from the speakers, the wind, the empty parking lot—these things combine to make me feel melancholy. But tomorrow is another day. As the wind blows itself out there seem to be fewer clouds in the sky. Tomorrow will probably dawn clear. I’ll pick someplace to ride and get on with my 4-corners tour.


JenyJo said...

Tom!! Good job, my man, and fabulous post. I hope you enjoy your time away from the bliss of Salida for a little. Good LUCK in 24HoM..........

Love Tom Waits!!! Can't imagine his music as recovery music tho....



Matt said...

Congrats Tom! Sounds like you got it all dialed in and yes, you are expert, no doubt.

Have fun at Phil's - I haven't been there since the 12hrs of Mesa Verde. Need to get back before the year is over!