Monday, November 17, 2014

Making Up

When you care so deeply about a certain thing, your perception as well as your perspective can get clouded. Love is like that, as it involves deep emotion. It may seem odd for someone to be writing about this, not in terms of a relationship or family or a vocation but instead, in terms of a cycling sub-discipline but the honest truth is, I love single-speed cyclocross (SSCX) racing. I can't say exactly why I am so passionate about it, but I just am. For me, I love the surface level simplicity that actually lightly obscures a deeper level of intense complexity in making such a straight-forward and simplistic system work as reliably as one would just assume that it should.

You really need to keep things in perspective.
Over the years I've managed to put together a system of small tweaks and integrations that although not perfect by any stretch, seem to work very reliably for Cathy and I as well as the few other folks for whom I've set this same system up for. Other folks have developed setups that are equally as effective, but this setup is mine. I developed it, and that is something in which I take pride. I've also put together numerous other setups for people using a host of different platforms and tensioning systems. These range for simple setups that use leftover parts that most everyone has in their spare parts bin to more elaborate systems with custom components. I like them all equally and relish the challenge of making something that works and works reliably and safely.

I recently learned, the hard way, that not everyone is interested in, cares to or has the resources to do this kind of work. There are a large number of folks, dare I say the majority, for whom the the enjoyment is not in the process but in the execution, the race/ride itself. I can understand that. These are the folks that eat their meat first and only go back to the vegetables after the fact. I've always saved the meat for last and took great enjoyment from the vegetables themselves, for what they had to offer. Maybe it was because when/where I grew up, we didn't have much and, not to get all Tiny Tim on this, there wasn't much meat on the plate so what little we got, we tried to make the most of.

These life lessons from an extremely modest rural upbringing obviously shaped me on many facets. My love of building bikes comes from the fact that as I child, there was no such thing as a new, store bought bicycle for us. Bikes, for which I was obsessed for many years, were salvage, scrap or trade items that would then be laboriously cobbled and pieced together. Don't get me wrong, I loved working on bikes and I loved the process of sourcing pieces and parts. Again, we had no little or no money so it was generally a matter of bartering for the parts required with the local wholesalers, aka a couple of kids that had huge supplies of old rusted and broken bikes and parts. There was no bike shop where I grew up and there was no mail order that we knew of, or could have afforded. Still, we got by and we always had something to ride.

This passion has carried through to adulthood, where I've built hundreds of bikes up for myself as well as for friends. I ran and outfitted an entire junior development team on mostly cobbled together bikes that I built from donated and salvaged parts. Again, I took great pride in this and enjoyed every moment of it. I love being an enabler in getting folks involved and interested in cycling. It means so much to me that I just can't help myself but want to share it with others. Just ask my wife Cathy, who was not a cyclist when I met her.

Is it wrong to have two identical dedicated SSCX bikes?
Getting back to SSCX, if there has come to be a particular discipline of cycling that has come to be an embodiment of my passion for the sport, it is likely SSCX racing. I adore it and I adore the people. With that, it isn't hard to see how the events of the past couple of weeks (the Zip-Tie-Gate Conspiracy) unfolded from seemingly trivial origins into an all out feud. The bottom line, as with most spats, is that the details are not that important and that it doesn't really matter. What truly matters is what is underneath it all, the love and passion that brought you together in the first place. With that, we made up last week. I recognized a number of things that had deep meaning to me, did not have that same meaning for others. I also recognized, admitted and apologized for being a douche. The last thing that I want to do is discourage folks from cycling. I never meant to do that.

So last Saturday it was back to the races once again. Cathy and I headed to Cheshire Cross in CT, a stellar CX venue with one of my favorite courses. Very woodsy and very mountain bike with a crazy hill climb of despair that is gut wrenching and leg busting on the single-speed. We had a good size field stacked with stout competition. I'd gone back to some pretty solid training this week and was feeling pretty strong and confident that I was going to give it my all. I knew the hole shot was critical so at the whistle I pushed hard securing third spot around the first tight corner at the backstop and then pinned it coming back the long stretch to go under the lap/finish line. I kept on the gas and was first into the woods, slamming the sidewall of the tire against a rock right in the tight corner at the entry. I feared the worst but it seemed to hold.

Going up the run-up a gap opened and I went really hard down the first windy descent making really good time. I could see that I had some distance but as I got into the really bumpy up/down twisty section I felt the rear rim contacting the ground. I had a flat. Within a few seconds I was caught by the chase group as progress was hampered significantly, not wanting to destroy the rear wheel. Still I was able to move reasonably well and made it back to the pit still probably in the top 10 or so.

The sidewall on the PDX couldn't handle the pressure
Unfortunately, I'd decided to leave the spiffy new dedicated SSCX pit bike I'd built up that week at home. Worse, the spare wheelset that Cathy and I always drag with us to the races, dump in the pits and never use, was still in the van and not actually in the pit that day. Ah, Karma has a really cutting sense of humor. So I made it to the pit where Matt asked me if I needed anything. I exclaimed something like "a brain". I dropped my bike and ran out of the pit, across the parking lot and over to the upper part of the field where we had parked. I pulled the wheelset from the back of the van, which was a different set that had never been mounted on the bike before, and ran back to the pit. This got some colorful commentary from Cory who was on the microphone announcing for the event. I mounted the wheel and thank goodness, the rotor lined up relatively well. Back on the bike now well, well off the back of the race and try to move forward. According to my Garmin I later learned, I was stopped for 2:28 in the pit. Actually, not that bad all things considered.

I was disappointed as I'd felt good and was looking at this race as a test of my fitness, the fitness and motivation that had escaped me of recent but honestly, it wasn't that big a disappointment. It took the pressure off and so now it was just a matter of seeing how far back I could get. Getting through traffic on that course harkened to countless MTB races I've done where you just can't always pass when you want to. You have to wait until it is safe and reasonable for all involved. Though it can be frustrating it is part of racing, so don't be a d!ck about it. I had a great time cheering for folks and racing with them as I made progress steadily forward. I was never able to get any where near the front and missed catching Mo by a ton. She absolute ripped it as did everyone. In a desperate final push I tried to get cycling legend Funky on the line from behind but missed them in a congested finish zone. Just a little too late. The men's race came down to a wild sprint where Matt narrowly missed pipping race winner Don in a come from behind sprint finish. I was coming around the pit at that point so watched it happen. Cathy held on for third in the women's races, salvaging the team's results for the day.

All in all, a good day with some great people and lessons know, clearly re-iterated.


Cheshire cats said...

Thank for your continued support of the race ! You no doubt would have been close to the win without the incident. We hate those rocks too! They just keep popping up!

velocb said...

Great post. And it was awesome when you came by. I thought you were lapping me! Hearing you and your encouraging words helped me get through heckle hill for sure.