Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Calling Bulls**t

Photo courtesy of
So, it's been two weeks since I put up a post and I have probably lost whatever little audience I had, but I hope you've stayed with me.  Life is busy and it's been amazing weather to ride a bike. 

With that out of the way, let's begin with the bullshit-calling.

You may remember that I previously explained that I am not a bike racer.  I'm still not.  But that hasn't stopped me from racing.

"Why?" You may ask.  Well, the truth is, I'm highly suggestible.  So, when someone tells me "try it, you'll have fun," that's generally all the encouragement I need.

As a side note, this may explain the 90's.  My dad is somewhere nodding his head right now.

Anyway, two of my friends, James and Paul, independently suggested that I try racing.  (Side note, I owe thanks to James, because I stole many of the photos in this post from his blog 

Here Paul (L) tags James (R) in for a 12-hour team race at Versailles, Indiana.  Photo from
I protested that I'm old, fat and slow to race.  The response from both of them, independent of each other was: "Don't worry about that.  The important part is that you just have fun." 

"Just have fun."  Yeah, right.  I'm calling bullshit.  If you knew James and Paul, you would understand. 

Of course, it's not James and Paul, it's me.  When someone says "just have fun," my skin starts to crawl.  It throws me back to my childhood.  See, I was on the cusp of the "everybody gets an award generation."  If you're reading this, my guess is, you experienced this too.

At some point, and for some reason, schools, parks, sports leagues - everybody involved with kids in my generation - thought competition was bad.  Like, if someone played, and lost, they wouldn't be able to go on with life.  Just do your best, or try, or just show up, or hell, don't show up - you're all winners!

So, everybody got an award for everything.  Shit, by third grade, I had amassed such a giant pile of "certificates of participation," that they were absolutely meaningless to me.  I can remember the day, at age 11, when I asked myself, "Why am I holding on tho these?" and threw them in the trash.  Worse, when I actually did WIN something (a rare event, to be sure), these "everybody wins" awards cheapened my win.  Why put in any effort if everyone's gonna win anyway?

The same thing is still playing out with the current generation of kids.  I have coached youth sports in leagues where "everybody wins" and no one keeps score.   But the kids know better.  They can count goals by themselves.  And the ones who care, they take losing personally - and they should!  That fire is what drives them to not lose again.  Yet I have seen the same kids throw their after-season trophy in the trash before heading home.  Why?  Because it's meaningless to them.  They didn't win it, it was given to them and everyone else. 

"Just have fun."  My ass. 

But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized this was my hangup.  It's not what James or Paul meant by "just have fun."  

See, James and Paul are competitors.  They both have the fire in them - they want to win, but, more importantly, they are both going to throw everything they've got at a race.  So, for them, "fun" does not mean just participating.  No, they're tapping into something deeper, but it is "fun."  Let me explain.

When I was a kid, I was drawn to other kids who liked to do things that would give our parents grey hairs.  For instance, if someone had a bunch of clover in their backyard, then it was time to go "barefoot bee stomping."  Or, if you had some firewood stacked behind your house, we'd go practice throwing knives and hatchets.  Have a low roof?  We'd jump off - with or without homemade "parachutes." 

My nephew understood this at an early age.  Why just watch TV on the couch, when you can watch TV on a folding chair on the couch?

Needless to say, it wasn't enough just to do these things, but you had to be the best - who could stomp the most bees or jump from the highest tree?  Everything was a competition.

The bike that started it all
And racing - forget about it!  Everything was a race!  As soon as you found out that you could roll in a trashcan down a hill, then you got two trashcans to see who could get to the bottom faster.  Ramps were loosely constructed, obstacle courses created, and teams chosen.

Here's the thing - there was no "reason" for these races.  There was no medal, no certificate.  But you fought like hell to win.  You would push yourself past your limits, hurt yourself, and the winner would ultimately collapse at the finish, gasping for air.  And grinning.  Then, you'd slap backs and, depending on the hour, do it again or go home.

That's what Paul and James have tapped into.  And that's how I understood it when they said "the important thing is that you have fun."  Fun indeed.

So, I have taken Paul and James up on their suggestion.  I have been entering races.

I tagged along with team COMBO for 24 Hours of DINO at Versailles State Park in Indiana.

Versailles is a great trail, with somewhere between 12 and 13 miles of flowy awesomeness.  We did the race in teams, with each team member doing a "lap" and then tagging in the next guy.  The singletrack was great, but almost as fun was just hanging out with the racers and their families between laps.

Photo from
So, how did I do?  Well, I was the slowest guy in the group.  But my second lap was faster than the first.  And, I was poised to go even faster on my third lap, but I got a tire flat and couldn't get it fixed fast enough.  This cost my team - we were poised to take second (not on my account), but this threw us into third place.  I said a couple bad words.  Still, the teams from COMBO Race Team took all the podium spots in this category.

Last weekend, I raced at the OMBC race at Chestnut Ridge. 

Start of the kids' race
I know this trail inside and out and I love it.  So, I registered in the "Sport" category, one class higher than my previous "Novice" category.  My son Calvin raced too.

How'd I do?  Well, my first lap was pretty low on the Sport category.  But toward the end of my first lap, and in the beginning of my second lap, I gained a little ground, pulling back a couple riders.  Accordingly, I promptly flatted.  Starting to see a pattern?

I might have said a bad word and my bike may or may not have been tossed into the woods.

I tried to fix my flat, but the CO2 pump wasn't working quite right and I only got the tire half inflated.  Then, the CO2 can shot off the nozzle, rocketing like a bullet and following the line of the trail.  "Oh god, I thought, now I've killed somebody."  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and I managed to limp my bike, mushy back tire and all, over to the next group of bike patrollers, who had a hand pump.  An expert with tools, I promptly broke the nozzle on my tube with the hand pump.  Shit some more.  I tried to press on, and I made it to Bryan and Gary, who laughed at me and then insisted that they change my tire again.  I finished DFL (that's Dead F'ing Last). 

Gary changed my tire, and Bryan laughed at me some more.
Moral of the story: fat guys can't run their tires at 28psi.  I know, I know, I should run tubeless.  But that's a whole process.  Ugh.

Calvin?  He took third in his age group and got to pick a prize from the prize table.  Waaaaaayyyyyy better than a participation certificate.  He earned it.

So, you may ask, am I having "fun" racing mountain bikes?  Ask me next season when I get on the podium.  Meantime, go be brave.

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