Weaknesses are revealed in unexpected moments. Stark and bare they stand naked in a crowd, uncovered and ashamed. The onlookers can only gape and gawk and shake their heads in self-important condescension. And while one may be able to hide those weaknesses for a time, ushering them into the closet when visitors knock at the door, invariably and inevtibaly there will come a day when they show themselves, for all to see and to exploit.
That day for me was Saturday, April 3rd.*
At first glance one might dismiss the race course in Hurricane, UT as flat, fast, “easy”. Even on further inspection that impression might hold up, albeit only somewhat. The brutal indifference and high paced intensity of racing is needed to bring out its ferocious tendencies and unforgiving nature. Scattered throughout the course, around every corner and at the bottom of every rocky, dusty descent were riders fixing flat tires, or picking themselves out of the dirt and the blackbrush and off of the ledgy, apathetic sandstone. The high-speed, white knuckle descents became a veritable grave yard for suicidal water bottles, seemingly eager to leap from their aluminum cages to an unceremonious and cursed demise.
*Yet another, in a long and growing list.
Despite the surprisingly technical course, the pace was callous and merciless. Which, I think, must have added to the littered mechanical problems and the myriad of crashes, misses, dabs and curse words. The only way to hang on to the locomotive of wheels and legs was quite simply, to hang on. Letting go, or being tossed off the back like a discarded banana peel, meant an eternity alone, unsheltered in the bleak desert, blown about by the gusting winds and suffering in solitude until another set of wheels came huffing and puffing around the corner.
I had held the idea in the back of my clouded, and still snow covered mind that I’d be able to “make-due” in the tight, technical areas of the course, while making up time along the gradual, open climbing near the end of the loop. After several miles of high focus riding, the final stretch of double track was a welcome respite – a place to eat, drink, and in my imaginatory scheming, a place to attack. And attack, I did. So much as whatever it was I actually did can be considered an “attack”. But nonetheless, I pushed the pace and tried to gap those around me during that brainless section of dirt road and doubletrack. And it worked. Until it didn’t.
In the end, my particular and current weaknesses were laid bare for all interested parties to observe. I was outsmarted, out-pedaled, and out-ridden. Not exactly encouraging. But not exactly not, either. That is, there were positive discoveries and confirmations about just exactly where I stand in the grand scheme** of things. And frankly, little has changed since that first race in the desert a month ago. I still need more time on the bike – especially the mountain bike – in order to bring the legs around to something resembling race-ready. My handling skills are lacking*** and my ongoing nutritional shortcomings continue to poke and jab and irritate. It can’t help that the sudden spring snow storms (50 inches since 3/31!) are keeping that snowy blanket draped over my head and legs, certainly delaying the arrival of race-ready anything.
**Insofar as anything about local, amateur racing can be considered “grand”.
***As is usually the case. In other words, “nothing to see here folks, move along, move along.”
When I soft pedaled across the finish line I was seeing stars and swirling tweety-birds flittering about my head, as if I were a cartoon character just smashed with an anvil. Certainly it felt that way. But the bike held together**** and had the race been a few miles shorter, my body would have as well. Alas, that is akin to claiming that had the 12 racers that finished in front of me not made the trip to the outskirts of the small, quirky town of Hurricane, that I would have finished atop the podium. Wishful, yes. But not exactly useful.
****I suppose there is some advantage to running 700g UST tires. Nonetheless, their days are numbered.
Right now I am left with one lingering, optimistic thought: I know precisely the process and the path to eliminating my weaknesses.
My opponents, on the other hand, will have to learn the hard way, just exactly when I’ve gotten around to doing so.*****
*****Which is certainly a thought that is, no doubt, keeping them all awake at night.