Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fort Custer: Not Another Missed Opportunity

Fort Custer is a wonderful place to ride. My last visit there was phenomenal-- it is just a great trail, period. I missed the chance to race there last year. Last week I bailed on the Pontiac Lake Time Trial Race due to MMBA matters, soccer conflicts and (the final nail in the coffin) rain. So I was determined to make it to Fort Custer for the race.

The Fort Custer Stampede is a benefit race for the Southwestern Chapter of the Michigan Mountain Biking Association-- a chapter that I have been working with a great deal over the last year due to the equestrian conflict issues at Fort Custer. It was great to see so many Southwestern Chapter Members and their beautiful tool trailer—a proud display of the importance of supporting the MMBA.

But, then there was rain on Saturday and more rain forecast for Saturday night and Sunday morning. Getting up early to drive 2 and 1/2 hours to slop around a water-logged course was not very attractive.

Dave Smith and I talked that night and I pushed for us to go anyway. Dave's a gamer so he did not take much convincing. Morning came and the weather still looked very iffy. Dave was in my driveway and he said he spoke with a friend that lives near Battle Creek who indicated that they received an inch and a half of rain out there. That gave us pause.

Well, we loaded up and went anyway. We stopped and saw Deal on the way to pick up our new kit. Things were looking up. Then, we stopped in Ann Arbor and sold one of Allie’s old bikes: Princess.

We got to Fort Custer and the sun was shining. You gotta love Michigan!! We talked to Ray Fulkerson who indicated that the experts had dried up the course significantly, as had the sun. Nice. God and cyclists make the world a better place.

Off to the start line and away we go. Well, we were kinda late to the start line so there was no more room in the front line. Dave was able to squeeze in at the end and I told him cool I would just latch on to his wheel and we would be fine. The gun goes off and Dave immediately misses his right pedal and gets dropped. I am pretty sure that this is part of his race tactics, but I bridge to the group and yell to him to grab my wheel instead. (Dave and I are bears of very little brain and only 2 gears between us so this kind of nonsense goes on all the time-- it really is shocking we have not hurt each other more often!!! More on that later).

So we did not quite miss the bus, but we were barely holding on and we were getting dragged by the bumper.

Then I broke loose in some of the tight twistys. They were a little slick and the Racing Ralph on the front started to drift, then it caught a root or something and checked up violently-- as in rubber separating from rim, John looks tired let's lay down in the mud and send the handlebars every which way but loose.

At this point, Dave is still on my wheel and he musta checked up on his brakes nicely cuz he navigated on by without running me over. All sarcasm aside: thanks, Dave!! Dave asked if I was ok and I was and told him to keep on going.

I called for the team car but no one showed up-- slackers!!!!! I gotta get better people. Quick check: don't flip the bike over to work on the tire until you pull the Garmin off the stem-- right, Pauly? So I assess the damage. Tire off rim, Stan's fluid everywhere, cats sleeping with dogs and my hair was mussed!! It was anarchy.

I took a second to enjoy the nice mud sandwich formed between my tire and rim. I panicked and hit it with he inflator. Doh!!! Too much mud. The tire won't seal. And there goes one inflator cartridge. So now I am cleaning out the mud. Fun stuff. Hit it with the inflator again and it starts to seal. I am a god. I am gonna be rolling…but what is that hissing sound? Now we are doing the Stan's dance to get the fluid in the right places. Air leaking and I know I have one inflator cartridge left. After a recent episode like this I learned that my only chance to get this tire sealed is to get it back up to pressure asap. So I fumble around for my last cartridge and bam!!! We are in business.

I am back in the saddle and trying to make up ground. But things are moving slowly and my rear brake housing decided to go out for a walk or something-- the damn thing is hanging way off the bike and my leg is rubbing on it. And the front brake is dragging…and some of the adrenaline from the crash is wearing off and I can start to feel the injuries from the crash.

Well, I gotta figure out the brakes first. Brake housing is hanging 10 cuz I broke the housing stay. Nice. Nothing to do there unless my team car catches up with a welding torch. Not likely to happen.

I already lost 4 minutes so I need to get moving and I need to figure out why my front brake is dragging. Ha-ha!! The cable and ferrule got pulled out of the lever housing. Easy fix. Pull and plug it back in.

Now I am really rolling and I am catching people.

This is my first race up in Single Speed Expert. I just gave up 4 minutes so I figure I am going to finish last, but I also knew that I was not going to take a DNF. So I kept turning the cranks and enjoyed a pretty good race.

I finished strong and thanks to the help of Tom Payne and Bryan Deal (they recommended some electrolyte supplements) I was able to finish hard without even a slight hint of cramping. That was enough of a victory in light of the crash and past cramping problems.

I was resigned to calling Leslie after the race to tell her that I must have finished last. But I checked the race results on my phone on the way home and was happy to find out that I had actually finished 12 out of 14. Race results are here:

When I got home and told Leslie, Gabe and Allie that I had not finished last Gabe asked if I was 1st. I said no and Gabe put on his best Southern accent and said: "If you ain't first, you're last." A victory for child-rearing—a son of mine that can quote Will Ferrell movies with aplomb!! (Leslie, if you’re reading this, it was not me that let Gabe watch Talladega Nights—it was Uncle Don.)

All photos have been suppressed to protect the innocent and to spare my QBall the embarrassment of exposing the damage to the frame.

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