Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Game of Seconds (and thirds)

Coming through scoring at the end of the second lap in second place, my brain is already entertaining thoughts of what would be an amazing finish.  Then reality sets in.  This is only the second half.  Two six mile laps left and the course is becoming more treacherous as tree roots are exposed by trench-digging 450s ridden by roost happy yahoos.

The motocross track is proving to be my nemesis, I haven't gotten a single jump right, coming up short on all of them, resulting in some bone-jarring landings.  My rolling diagnosis tells me the frame is broken is at least four places, both tires are flat and wheels collapsed, with broken spokes spearing spectators, the motor is seizing, at least one fork spring has collapsed and someone welded struts in place of my rear shock making it a hardtail, and that's just the bike.  My body has experienced what feel to be three ruptured discs, four heart attacks, a mild stroke, apparent early onset dementia, crippling arm pump, crushed larynx from a nasty hanging vine, groin pull in each leg, detached retinas and dry mouth.  And I have to take a piss.

Vision is beginning to narrow and it's impossible to tell if I'm "in the zone" or about to pass out.  My focus now is only on the trail and keeping the bike between the arrows and off the trees.  I'm sitting down much more than usual, can't pick out the easy lines from the hard ones and feel like a pinball bouncing around off of every tree, rock and root.  I'm going to fall, and I know it.

Sure enough I lose it on a downhill right hander, running up over the berm and into a small tree that is bent over nearly 90 degrees.  This wouldn't be so bad, except the tree is now wedged between the front fender and the forks and the only way to free the bike is to pull it backwards, up the damn hill.  Wondering where the strength will come for this task has me wanting to cry.  I just want my mommy to take me to McDonald's for a shake and a happy meal, and for a moment my deluded brain believes she has arrived.  When the illusion fades I realize what it was, seeing again that ass emblazoned with "Jaramillo".  Juan has found me.  Son of a bitch.

Screaming, I yank the bike off the tree, remount, restart and head off in the direction of that goddamn KTM.  He's about 10 seconds in front, but I can see him.  Hitting the whoop section, I remember my ace in the hole.  Juan and two other riders head for the whoops.  I aim for the water.  2nd gear, get it into a wheelie and pin it, water cascading all over my gloves, goggles.  The bottom proves just as hard as it seemed and my ploy works, making it past two riders to find myself directly behind Juan.  Here we go.

I get slowed down at a really nasty creek bank trying to take an alternate line, Juan gains a few seconds on me.  He loses time on a slippery uphill and I've caught him again.  We get to a slippery, steep descent with several riders already on the ground.  I lose focus and crash in the middle of the hill.  Adrenaline has taken over and the only thought is that he is getting away.  Back up in a heartbeat.  No time for kickstarting, jump aboard and drop the clutch, knowing the bike will bumpstart.  It does and there is just enough time to prepare for another nasty creek crossing to an off camber uphill with tons of roots.  Juan is slipping and sliding all over the place, but hanging on.  My legs are flailing, riding skill reduced to that of a jellyfish.

The final lap is ending, I am all over him.  The "No Passing" zone before scoring comes into sight.  I make a last ditch effort and pull wheel to wheel with him, but have to give it up or be disqualified.  I finish 3rd, my official finishing time 1:47:25.  Juan's: 1:47:24.  Nearly two hours came down to one second for second, and 26 seconds behind the leader.

Then it hits me, I just finished 3rd place in an AMA sanctioned event with a 27 year old play-bike that my competitors were sniggering at on the finish line.  The same competitors that are now listed farther down on the results sheet than me.  The uninitiated call it a hobby, they call us 'weekend warriors', they ask "aren't you too old to be doing that?", only those who have heard the call, lined up on the grid and seen that green flag fly, truly understand.

It's not pretty what 2 hours does to a bike.... 
Or a man.

What it's all for.

No comments:

Post a Comment