In the Heat of the Moment

So, Friday night last weekend, we were at the Velodrome with John and Renee, when Renee says “Hey Don, I’m racing at Michaux this Sunday. Want to race the 10 mile course with John?” After a bit of waffling I said yes I’d join them, so last Sunday we rode out to Big Flat and did the Curse of Dark Hollow. (Later I found that Jon had no intentions of going, it wasn’t even on his radar until I said I’d go.)

It turned out to be the hottest day in a multi-day heat wave, temperatures in the high nineties. Standing around in direct sunlight was unbearable, but things were OK in the shade of the trees with a slight breeze blowing, while we waited for the start, and the race itself was fine.

Renee did the 20-mile course, and took off about a half hour before us, then John and I lined up at around 10:00. John rode hard from the start, but I really didn’t feel much killer instinct, even when I ended up towards the back of the “rumba line” of cyclists struggling through the first rocky singletrack. It was just good to be back on that Michaux stone, especially once the field spread out a bit and I could ride without interference. (I even saw a few Allegheny mound-builder hills.) Team Terrapin’s “start slow, then ease up” was my mantra, though I started pushing a bit later…

The last time I raced at Michaux (eight years ago?), I lined up next to a guy in my age group, who looked a bit like John Bolton and who seemed (at first) to just be an officious blowhard: he basically commandeered the race director’s speech, with “let’s thank the race promoters!” and “let’s hear it for the Vet racers!” and we all clapped dutifully, but then he started with some serious TMI about aging and his privates — “amirite fellas? Give a shout out!” — completely oblivious while the applause died away to an uncomfortable silence. He took off like a rocket when the race started, and that was the last I ever saw of him.

Until Sunday, and there he was! I recognized him first during registration, then he was lined up with us for our race. He started with the blowhard stuff again during the pre-race meeting, but the director shut him down (politely, but firmly). I could hear him shouting somewhere ahead of me in the first singletrack, likely berating riders that were in his way, and I caught up with him at the water station.

I had plenty of my own water so I didn’t spend much time at the stop, and I got out of there before he did. The next section was a 3-mile long climb on a Forest Service road, and while I don’t have the fitness I once did, I took this smooth hill as an advantage I could press against “TMI guy,” as I started calling him. Up the hill and back into the woods, where I was now dying and getting passed by people I dropped a while before, and then I got to the finish line. John beat me, but hey I beat TMI guy!

The promoters provided bag lunches, water and a keg of beer, and John and I hung out in the shade with other riders eating our lunches; Renee finished and joined us (she looked like death, which is probably how we looked a half hour earlier) and we stuck around for the awards ceremony — Renee took first place among the 20-mile women.

Anne and I went to Valley Vivaldi that night, and it was all I could do to stay awake…