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Published: January 30th 2006
Up Mount Trashmore
Cyclocross races require an on-foot section...hence our climb up the stairs of Mount Trashmore
My goal was to not finish last. And yet when I was waiting in line at the registration table, a fellow cyclist called out to me, “Hey Wes, are you gonna be riding in the Clydesdale category?”
“If they had one!” I jokingly replied, a smile on my face to cover the engrained awkwardness of perpetually being the biggest guy in the room.
Look, I’m not fat. Yes, there have been times when I’ve been chunky, such as after spending 6 months on crutches while recuperating from a broken hip. I’m just big. I blame it on a confluence of nature and nurture: good genetics and good nutrition. I come from a long line of big-boned, Nordic and Celtic people. My mother was, and still is, a health food freak. (She would sneak bean sprouts into our whole-wheat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) So I’m fairly confident that at six foot five inches I have reached my maximum genetic potential.
So there I stood, brushing the tent awning with my forehead, filling out the race entry form, acutely aware that everyone else in the tent was easily 25% lighter than my 240 pounds. Like most Americans, I could
Me On My Singlespeed
I only make it look easy.
spare ten or fifteen pounds. Even at my slimmest after bicycling from London to Rome as a teenager I still tipped the scales at over 200 pounds. In cycling, given the same level of fitness, the smaller guys make it up the hills faster than the bigger guys. It’s just a fact of life. Or rather, a fact of physics.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a Clydesdale category, (200+ pounds), so I was signed up for the slowest race, Men’s Class C. With twenty riders at the starting line, it was also the largest race of the day. Plunk in the middle of suburbia, our course would take us over Mount Trashmore, a massive pile of garbage covered with turf and dubbed a park, sitting smack dab next to I-264, the true heart of Virginia Beach. Actually, each lap would take us over Mount Trashmore twice, and once over Mini Mount Trashmore.
Mind you, this wasn’t your normal on-street bike race, nor was it a typical off-road mountain bike race. This instead was a fringe-element race known as “cyclocross,” a sport that can be traced back to bored professional Flemish bicycle racers drunk enough to think that running through the
Liz at Play
Liz makes it look really easy.
mud, rain and cold with a perfectly good bike over your shoulders is a fun and healthy way to spend the off-season. Like tattoos and other sadomasochistic pastimes, it’s been going strong ever since.
From the word “Go!” I was cursing myself for not warming up better. My lungs rebelled against the aerobic demands I placed upon them, “Screw you!” they said, “We ain’t doin’ nothin’ for your pansy ass!” Each breath was a labor: my lungs were loathe to exchange any intake for a fresh breath. I pushed each breath out before acceding to the raging demand in my body for more oxygen.
Struggling as I was, I was unsurprised to see one, then two riders slip past me. Normally I’d attack and try to at least maintain the same pace, but I was having enough problems just reaching for the status quo. The course had the consistency of cheesecake, sucking at my tires, my tires spraying mud and grass clippings everywhere.
“Thirty minutes,” I kept thinking to myself, “I only have to survive this for thirty minutes.”
One lap. Two. Three. Surely the agony will end! I couldn’t see another rider for a couple
Can't ride around 'em...gotta run over 'em.
hundred yards, I felt alone as the sun was obscured by a grey haze of clouds. But finally my lungs opened up, and the fight or flight urgency of oxygen left my body as I found a groove, a rhythm.
“Last lap!” The judges called as I sluggishly sprinted past the picnic pavilion, “Last lap!”
I heaved my bike onto my shoulder for another slog up Mount Trashmore, and over heard some skinny punk pitifully remark to his wife as he watched me trudge up the concrete stairs, “I feel sorry for that guy. Look at that bike!”
Hey it ain’t the best bike in the world, but my singlespeed has a certain flare and class to it. Although being a steel mountain bike, it ain’t the lightest ride in the world. The offhand comment burned in my ears, and looking back over my shoulder, the course seemed empty. I was confident that I had been beaten by everyone else. As I pedaled down the paved homestretch to the finish line, I consoled myself with The Loser's Mantra:
"It doesn't matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game."
Dejected, I went
back to the car to change hats, so to speak quite literally. I tossed my mud-encrusted helmet in the trunk and pulled on my Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero, a Gore-Tex, waterproof gift from God. Slipping into a toasty pair of jeans, I took my camera in hand and headed for the top of Mount Trashmore to take pictures, morosely confident that I must have finished last. It wasn’t for another 36 hours that I would find out from my friend Liz that I hadn’t finished last.
I had finished eighteenth out of twenty.
Tot: 0.801s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 11; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0169s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb