June 17, 2009

Pickett’s blunder

Some folks have (rudely) asked me why I DNF’d Pickett’s Charge (a race in Bend that I did on vacation). In my opinion, asking pointed questions about DNFs is on par with asking your niece if she’s gained weight, but there’s a pretty decent story here.

For those who don’t want to read farther, I played the role of the Confederates in this particular charge. Which is to say, I was sent home with my tail between my legs.

To set the scene, prior to the start of the race, we had:
-Flown into town the evening before.
-Promptly consumed copious amounts of wine.
-Attended my first-ever (yes, it’s true, I dropped out, myself) high school graduation.
-Drank more.
-Assembled bikes, while buzzed, at 1am.
-Woken up, confirmed that bikes sort-of worked (though my XT hub had blow up en route and the rear wheel could now be move half an inch side to side when installed on the bike), and located an overpriced and terrible eatery for breakfast (note to self, just scramble some eggs at home next time).
-Gotten delayed and blocked by a comical lack of knowledge of local topography, a stop for sunscreen (good call) and a MASSIVE walk/run against breast cancer called “Heaven Can Wait” running perpendicular to our route.
-Finally registered a mere 5 minutes before the start.

So long story short, we made it. And just in time. So I rolled up to my start wave and looked around in total bafflement at the massive crowd of (50? 60?) people. Turns out the race is low-key enough that the pros don’t get a separate start wave. Well, I thought, no problem, I can just pass all these guys during the race. It’s 34 miles, after all.

The start consists of about 2 miles of flat/false flat fire road. And the pace was INSANE. I wondered if I was A) really hungover, B) had 2 flat tires, or C) was being totally murdered by the experts. Turns out everyone was sprinting like maniacs for a good reason – when we hit the singletrack, it turned out to be about 1 foot wide, twisty as all get-out, and IMPOSSIBLE to pass on. And since I was solidly mid-pack in the mixed-up field, I was treated to the sight of some of the worst attempts at bike handling I’ve ever seen. On the rare times when I managed to get around someone and had some open space in front of me, I’d open it up and get some good speed up, but inevitably I’d run into another fellow picking his way along and be unable to get around except by utilizing one of two techniques:

1) Be a douchebag (note that I have no evidence that Gen. Pickett was a douchebag, he’s just here for historical perspective) by cutting the trail and hope not to hit a tree/hidden snag/boulder/bottomless pit. I attempted this option only once, partly out of respect for the trail, but mostly because I went OTB over a log when I tried it.

2) Be an even bigger douchebag and yell/scream/throw elbows at the local folks who had legitimately outsprinted me for their positions. I elected to exercise restraint here. Some level of jerkery is normal in racing, but I figured it was my own damn fault at this point, so I really had no leg to stand on screaming at the folks in my way.

So about 3/4 of a lap went by, which really felt more like an extended fast recreational ride to me, and just as I passed a couple of people who had crashed, I managed to miss a turn (yes, again, and this time it was really pretty clearly marked) and ended up riding *the wrong way* through the finish line.

So anyway, DQ for me. They offered to help me re-find the course and get started again, but I just didn’t have all that much interest anymore. So I waited around for Sarah to come by so I could ride with her…

What happened then will have to be written up tomorrow, because my fingers hurt and it’s almost my bedtime. Suffice to say there are bodily fluids involved, as well as prize money.