2011 Race 3: God's Country

Like last year, the weather flipped from April cold to hot and humid on race day. The river trails at Lawrence were lightly tacky and fast under newly green trees.

I got there early. To soak in the great race vibe? To pre-ride? No. I got there early because the night before the race I had screwed up my beautiful new bike trying to adjust the front derailleur.

I thought I’d cock-eyed the derailleur in my muddy fall at Lawrence a few days earlier. I thought I could fix it. Hey, I worked on this bike, I see how the parts work, I won’t do anything drastic.

After my “minor adjustment,” the front derailleur wouldn’t shift. Great. Game plan: I’d know mechanics at the race; my multitool could handle the parts in question; if it was unfixable, I’d race on the heavy GT Saddleback. I loaded both bikes.

Tige, who wasn’t racing, fixed the derailleur; JP, who was, rode the Dragonfly and felt my crank was loose. Yow! When Zoolander and I had built the bike, the crank had come without its spacer. Oops. JP, with his usual even humor and efficiency, tightened things down.

I owe a lot of people beers.

The race: a 2-mile run, 11-mile bike on trail, grass, and gravel, and then a finishing sprint. My legs felt elastic but I choked on the humidity and slowed to a walk, as did others. The Major MudBunny offered to run it in with me as I picked back up, but for toads’ sake, it’s a race – go on and get your PR, MMB.

The bike! This bike wants to fly fast! Passing a few people, getting that excited feeling when I near the log pile. Rider behind me. Up the logs, over! And WH—oh no—UH-OH—the bike flies forward and up! I am Evel Knievel! I’m in the air! I’m coming down on my side! I bounce under the bike, entangled in bike!

Whee. Blood on the chainring! The other rider stops. I tell him I’m OK. Then I fumble to put my chain back on. I ride. The chain falls off. I fix it. Minutes click by.

For the first time, I rode the more technical section clean and crisp. I passed three more men and a woman on the back side of the loop.

Last sprint, 100 yards, most people ran it in their shoes. Blaze of glory: I stripped my bike shoes and socks. Worth the delay, barefoot and wild, fast as I could, high kick and all! It felt amazing!

I threw myself down in the grass panting beside a couple of guys. I didn’t even recognize my bike rescuer, Tige. He laughed at me when I introduced myself again.

Zoolander and the Major, having stellar 2011 race years, podiumed. ZL pointed out the blood on my face. The cuts and technicolor bruises have since healed; the deep knots in my left calf finally surfaced and healed as well.

I figured out later that I’d fallen not because of poor weight distribution and unaccustomed speed, but because I’d clipped the back side of the log pile with my pedal.

What I remember about God’s Country 2011 is how fantastic my bike felt on that trail. Like nothing had ever felt.

Even if you told me I had to repeat the crash, I’d do this race again tomorrow. Or today. Right now.