This race is located on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River valley just north of Council Bluffs. Being located on a bluff, it is hilly, damn hilly. I kinda forgot how hilly it really was. I only remembered the last hill, and blocked out the rest.
Christy and I got there pretty early, having driven over the night before. Bruce Neil, Chris Hansen, and Sean Myers were already there (Chris was surviving on the sleep he got on the drive over). Parked right next to us was Mr. Open Container. I had not had the pleasure of meeting CVO prior to this. It would be an understatement to say that he seems like a fun guy.
I got suited up and rode around some. I didn’t want to pre-ride the course, as I figured that two laps were all I had in me. I warmed up by riding the paved hill coming up the park a few times. That seemed to work for me, as I felt good when the race started.
The race starts on the previously mentioned paved hill leading into the park. When my class started I felt pretty good, and could see the leaders as we turned into the park and towards the single track. I was working hard, but was a few positions ahead of where I would normally sit. Cool. As I got to the bottom of the bluff on the single track, I came across Bruce Reese, who was on the side of the trail with a mechanical. Bad for him, but good for me. If was working really hard by now. Too hard. It started to show. Shortly after that new teammate Bruce Brown (welcome to Team 14, Bruce) went by me, with Bruce Reese on his wheel. Damn. I was feeling a little cooked by now, by kept working.
Shortly after that, I crashed. I was a very mild crash by my standards. My front wheel slipped off the trail, and I followed. It was a Boone-like side hill trail, but the dirt was very soft from the previous rains. Even though it was a gentle crash, the bike and I still went ass over elbows down the hill. I picked myself up and tried to get back on the trail. As I did, a woman stopped to ask if I was OK, and proceeded to Ralph on the side of the trail. I think I was her excuse to stop for a while. I laughed, asked if she was OK, and moved on.
Even after the crash I was feeling pretty good and took off. But, after the crash my rear derailleur skip had magically reappeared. I worked with it, and finished the lap, which included riding all of the way up the infamous Mount Never-Rest. Damn, that hill is steep. Haven’t you people ever heard of switchbacks? Heart rate was 184 at the top. That is the highest I’ve seen in recent memory.
I stopped at the top in the feed zone and told Christy I was having bike trouble. I got off the bike thinking DNF. We were within the view of the announcer, and he said “Here comes Paul Varnum of Team 14. It looks like he’s having some mechanical issues. Paul, no need for a DNF. Bring your bike up here and we’ll take a look at it.” It was like he could read my mind!
The Bikeway mechanic (Thanks!) told me that I had a bent derailleur hanger. He could adjust it some, but it would really only work well on the small rings of the cassette. Good, ‘cause it’s really pretty flat out here! At that point I shifted in the little ring in front, and went into survival mode. Finishing was my goal, as I’ve never DNFed.
That went pretty well for a while. I wasn’t fast, but as long as I didn’t shift too much, I didn’t skip.
Then came the big log crossing (4’ high by 8’ long). It kinda snuck up on me, and I was going way too slow on the approach. I thought, “I’ll just crank a little at the top”. Oops! I stalled just after the top, went over the bars, and landed on my head at the bottom. At least my head broke my fall. I got up a little woozy, and with a broken helmet. There was a course worker watching the log ride for just such an emergency. He made sure I was OK. Note to race organizers – If you are going to put people at dangerous parts of the course, put a camera in their hands. It will pay for itself, as I would’ve paid for pictures of my crash!
I told the course worker I was done for the day (I was bound and determined to DNF), and asked him for was the quickest way out. He told me to just follow the trail. Damn, if I’m gonna do that I might at well finish.
So I did. I gotta admit that on that lap I walked the last half of Mount Never-Rest, and Hansen has the pictures to prove it. Oh, well.
The Bikeway/Psycowpath people put on a great race, and they do everything that can to keep a guy from DNFing, not matter how much he wants to. Good race, guys!
After the race, we hung around until the rains came, and then several of the Mercy and Team 14 guys huddled under the Pedro’s umbrella (Taylor, Bruce, Chris, Andy, Christy, and Me).
Chris Hansen can't keep his hands off me!