But you people want more, so I'll try to tell you about the day. With photos.
First, I rolled up with Jon "Gears Are For Wussies" Seibold and Ryan, the mechanic whose primary responsibility in life is fixing the bikes I break. Weighty duties indeed. On the way up, we joked about how being a 'cross racer is like being the World's Greatest Slayer Fan.
Y'know, you see somebody a friend walking down the street in a 'cross T-Shirt, you know... you literally know... you just know... CROOOOOOOOOSSSSSSS!!!!!
SlayerFan doesn't just turn up there. He was at the Rosenberg family Bar Mitzvah last week too, rocking out. He's a living metaphor for putting everything you have into wringing all the joy out of your life.
Kind of like 'cross. You just know... It's like a lot of really great things in life. The people who don't know can't possibly understand; the people who know can't possibly explain it.
The first cross race of the year is always special, particularly when you can make it to a real happening like Charm City. The race there is as much about the scene, about having the First Annual Reunion of the Graduating Class of Last Year's Cyclocross Racing, as it is about the excellent racing itself.
The racing was indeed excellent. With the race winning UCI status for the upper classes, Charm City done gone to Paree, and went bigtime on us. The supporting classes didn't feature the same elite riders as the two upper card matches, but they were stacked with the same rockstars from Gotham and Kissena Velo and the NYC hammerheads and the DCCOD studs who make solid MABRA "B" racers downgrade and race the "C" (4) at Granogue or Beacon. A result of any sort in those fields is something to be really proud of, and my Coppi brothers and sisters' results yesterday were stunning, something to be proud of.
As for me individually...Alas, though cheerful, I was not excellent. Maybe some of you have followed my sad tales relating to foot surgery, the slow road back to mediocrity, and all that crap. Yes, it's tough when a brother gets knocked off his solid perch square in the middle of the pack. I guess it's not an excuse if it's the simple truth but I am not in racing shape and even were I blessed with Lars Boom's legs and Greg LeMond's nutty tenacity, I couldn't have achieved racing shape in the time alotted this summer. I'm working pretty hard on it and have made some strides since getting back on the bike in mid/late June, but it takes a while and Gros has me on a trajectory to achieve Racing Mediocrity once again, by mid-November. So in the wake of 12 hours of fairly hard riding this week, including a long ride with some efforts on Saturday and 3 days of anaerobic intervals and a good hard crash at practice, I didn't know what to expect when I lined up for the race, except an ass whooping.
And it's nice when reality meets all our expectations, isn't it? I had no legs at all and tried to focus on just riding hard tempo, and not crashing, the latter task being made difficult by an unfortunate choice of front tire pressure which caused front wheel sliding in many of the turns, an unsettling tendency on a bicycle. I did have a nice start - street drags are something I can do - right up until this kid who was killing himself to sprint to the front stacked it in the first grass turn, forcing half the field to pretty much stop. It's okay though, the front-ish position I'd established, maybe 25th? 30th? wasn't sustainable for me anyhow so I settled in and tried to ride a hard and steady effort, within the limited means my legs were willing to provide. Many, many people passed me, and I settled into a couple small groups, all of which exploded. I had a lot of fun dicing for three laps with Bega - you probably know him from City Bikes or from Hub Racing. Weirdest trash talker ever, but man, it was fun passing him and getting passed back. "Hey, nice pass big man." "Not so fast Jim." "Hey, way to not crash in that turn." And so on. It's hard to race strong against a gasping guy who makes you laugh your ass off. I'd kind of known Bega before from the shop or around the races. But his race chatter was something I didn't expect... hilarious.
Then I came off the bike all weird going into the sand pit, kept running, left the bike tumbling behind me, drilled my right ankle with the bike leaving a big bruise, and just generally went butt over teakettle. My pity party over the ankle pain distracted me for a half minute and I took too long to get over it, giving Bega an insurmountable gap. I came in with an 80 something finish, I don't even know exactly; I think Dan Gilman told me but I don't remember, possibly out of convenience or shame, possibly because of the post-race headache. I was glad to finish, but was mainly grateful to be able to race at all. That was in some doubt a couple months ago, so the internal monologue was a weird one yesterday, not "go harder, go harder" but more like "be happy! be grateful!"
And I was happy, and I was grateful.
The rest of my day was filled up with bringing up a huge crescent wrench to fix the CO2 cannisters at the beer tent thus saving the day for hundreds of people (you probably think this is an exaggeration but it is not, amazingly, and was by far the best performance I turned in all day) and cheering for my teammates, who raced amazingly. The only bummer of the day was that Wife of Rouleur was sick with pinkeye and Son of- was down with some allergies, missing Charm City for the second year in a row. Kid loves the L'il Belgian races; we'll have to hit some of the later races.
One question for you guys though: how can I possibly give a shoutout to all my renewed friendships, and new acquaintances who gave my Tough Day On A Bike a very positive vibe? I can't, but some people need a special shoutout for sure. Beth Mason told me how to square away my dinged up shoulder. Then she went and raced strong as all hell. She probably went and did some more on-the-spot physiotherapy and knocked out a few bike fits in between to kill a little down time - she's an industrious kind of gal along with being all knowledgeable. Fat Marc gave me a hug. I needed it just then, being between beers and all. It's a great race he and the S3 crew stage... well, it's a great race. You just know... Kim Perna Dubeck gave me the smile of the day, or at least of the Day Up Until Then, maybe it wasn't so great but compared to riding up with John and Ryan, it was significant. That was cool. I've been following her blog with some degree of poignant sympathy, as she's bounced through a series of life and medical challenges this spring and summer. I can relate to that, y'know? So seeing her there, and happy, was awesome. And Steve D, who gave me more inspiration for future blog posts than a quart of brown liquor and a box set of Jackass. And my teammates... man, I think the world of them.
So where does that leave us? Hell if I know. We're back in the grind of cross season.
Near as I can tell, there's a few workouts on the calendar, then Ed Sander Cross up at Lilly Pons on Sunday. Then some more workouts, and some more Cross. It's great to be back at the grind, and the cool thing is, it doesn't seem like the vibe is being wrecked by bigger numbers. Maybe the dick quotient has gone up - but the cool folk quotient seems to be going up at the same time too. Getting big, without success going to its head, I hope. And this cross thing is so good, it deserves to get big. There isn't enough fun in this world, people; we should share what we have, or if you prefer a capitalist model, make more of it so everybody can get some.
Fact of the matter is, if you don't race cross, I think you should just go to hell.
Pure Sweet Hell, that is. And see what it's all about.
Failing that drag out an old mountain bike or throw some knobbies on an old ten speed, and give it a shot. You can't go wrong.