Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. That’s a truism I’ve believed at times in my life, but after the past 4 days, I’m not really sure what those other plans might have been. What I assumed would be the center point of the weekend was a 12hour race in the desert. 12hr of Temecula to be precise. It’s a fantastic endurance series race here in Southern California that happens three times a year. I’ve raced it before, but this would be my first time racing it under the banner and watchful care of Siren Bikes.
Personally, I may be a bit of an endurance junkie. I love the long miles and the long hours in the saddle. Siren being run by Brendan and Mary Collier, it’s a perfect match. Those two define endurance racing. The short of it was that we came, we represented hard and went home with some medals. In between all of that, Brendan grilled up some kickass carne asada and I seem to recall both of the Brian’s that were in attendance had the foresight to keep enough beer cold and flowing. Races are in fact, cool. If you’re racing on a team, and you’ve got good teammates (as was the case with our Siren 4 person team) you’ll get to put in fast hours and have time to hang out in the pits and soak in the race scene vibe. Hundreds of like-minded people on bicycles. Awesomeness. If you’re a solo rider, like myself, you live for seeing the photographs from after the race. It’s sort of hard to experience anything beyond the suffering and mental anguish of riding your bike in hot, dusty circles for HOURS. The first hour is avoiding the adrenaline surge either by getting out ahead of the pack or hanging back, letting them all burn out fast and then picking them off one by one. By hour two or three, you’ve settled into a groove that will most likely determine your placing at the end of the race. Assuming that you can hang on. Hours four and five you’re able to pick up the pace a little bit, but still in a groove. You know your lines, you know where you like to throw in, where you get to have some speed fun. You also know where to throttle so that you don’t blow up early on the climbs. Because by hour 12, those climbs won’t have gotten any smaller. By hour six to seven, you start wondering why in the world you’re spending your entire Saturday going in circles in a hot, dusty, desert environment? Did I mention hot and dusty? At some point in the heat, food starts to become completely unappealing, which as you can probably figure out, when racing…is bad. I’m pretty sure that I struggled to stay fueled all day on very little besides oranges, bananas and avocados. Yup, whole avocados. And that’s about it. As your brain boils on each and every climb, you keep reminding yourself how thankful you are for avocados and their fatty deliciousness. Hours eight and nine roll around bringing some much appreciated relief from the heat. There is even a sense of relief that it’s almost over, maybe now is a good time to start turning the gas back on. Remember, it’s a bike race? Somewhere between hours ten and twelve that back pain rears it’s head again reminding you that you aren’t quite home free.
But who cares? You’ve been pedaling solidly and turning laps since breakfast. What’s a little body pain at this point? You’re handling the bike and probably kicking a lot of ass. Hour twelve is the best. You know it’s the end, somewhere you found a reserve to sprint to the finish. And if you’re lucky enough to have a pit like the one I was racing with….There is someone there to hand you a beer.
Sunday was slow recovery and a drive back home to Idyllwild. I’m pretty sure I spent the day eating ice cream. Monday was also slatted to be a day of recovery, so I took a short spin into town to see Brendan and spin my legs out. While I was hanging in the bike shop, I met a couple of riders who had come up from San Diego. Rebecca Tomaszewski and her friend Bill Fehr. Bill, as it turns out, is from North Carolina. And Rebecca has spent time in the beautiful mountains of NC as well…Oh I’m liking this already…there was going to be much talk about Chicken Biscuits and Fried Okra….As I was in “recovery mode”, but not liking to miss out on a ride with new friends, I grabbed a couple of water bottles and took them out to the Hub Trails. In a word, the Hub Trails are AWESOME. Miles and miles and miles of flowy singletrack, which goes in and out of a light canopy. We hadn’t been on the trail for a single one of those miles yet, when we came flying around the corner into what would be my closest encounter ever with a rattlesnake, and this is where real life started happening. As I was rounding the corner, I saw what must have been at least 5 feet long and 6 inches around crossing the trail less than three feet in front of me. The snake must have noticed me just as I noticed him. It stopped it’s forward progression, pulled back, turned it’s head toward me and let loose the loudest rattle I have ever heard. In that micro-second, I put everything I had into both brakes, thinking I would just lay the bike down so that the bike was between me and the snake and I would make a hasty retreat in the direction I just came. As all good plans go, that wasn’t exactly how it went down. I had two handfuls of brake which somehow sent me into a full on endo TOWARDS the snake. I was closing the gap between me and the snake at what seemed like a much faster rate than if I was still pedaling the bike. The bike was going vertical, with the front wheel down and the rear wheel going skyward, and as it was heading skyward, the rear wheel passed it’s apex and as it was becoming horizontal again, I realized the gap between me and the snake was halved again. So now the bike is tumbling over itself, handlebars spun around backwards, rear wheel getting closer to the snake sooner than the front wheel, and I am somehow still holding onto the bike. In the next micro second, I got my right foot unclipped, over the top tube and started running BACKWARDS towards Rebecca and Bill. The bike was still hurling forwards towards the snake and I was somehow propelling myself in the other direction, all the while, neither of my feet had actually touched the ground yet.
Boy, that snake was pissed. I could almost feel the rattle inside my head. And it was getting louder.
The bike was now on the ground, completely twisted into a position that was unridable, and I was well on my way away from it. Rebecca and Bill were grinning that goofy grin you get the first time you ride new single track. And unbeknownst to them just 10 minutes earlier, they were going to be treated to a floor show by the crazy local.
“Man that was an awesome nose wheelie you just pulled! You ride BMX?” – Bill
“………………”, That was the most I could get out of my mouth.