Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Red Ass Ramble

Red Ass? My ass. That's way too tame a description for this event. Attempted murder sounds a bit closer to the truth, except for the fact that we all participated willingly and coughed up $50 for the opportunity. And yet while it may have felt like the grim reaper was lurking just around the corner at times, it was somehow beautiful and rather exhilarating in the end.

After too much stressing and second guessing in the process of trying to Red Assify my bike and body, it came as a relief to finally hit the road at 6am. As expected, the eager gearies took off leaving the armada of singlespeeders to form and figure out the right pace for the ride ahead. Hal, Dave, Jonny B, Graham, North Dakota Nathan, Karate Monkey Mike and myself, along with the John, the token multispeeder. Before too long Mike and John dropped off, but the six of us rolled into the first checkpoint at Tinker Creek together at 1pm, warmly greeted by Tinker James and Jonnys G, S, and F. Seeing Dallas and Dave Simmons head out as were pulling in gave us some much needed encouragement, as did the arrival of Tomek just as we were about to leave. Graham pulled the plug at this point, and Nathan decided that he was better of taking his fixed gear (!) rig at a somewhat gentler pace.

The next 100 km was easily the most enjoyable portion of the route, with 4 crossings of the Pembina Valley en route to La Rivierre. The gravel descents were particularly fast. White knuckling it down at 60-70 kmh and barely staying up around the corners at the bottom was a bit frightening, but fun. We were all feeling pretty good and Jonny B put on a show of climbing prowess, easily taking home the King of the Mountains title. Climbing out of the Pembina Crossings valley we caught up with Cory and Ben, who had dropped off the front group. More encouragement, and Tomek immediately picked up the pace. By the time we hit La Rivierre at around 6pm, we could see Dallas and Dave in the distance and ended up pulling into the halfway point just behind them.

Realizing there were only 5 riders ahead of us, Tomek could barely contain himself waiting for the rest of us to get geared up for the second half. We left at 7pm, still feeling strong and more or less happy about our pace. Jonny B stayed back to rest a bit longer, and before too long Hal and Dave dropped off the pace as well. And then it began to rain. And the temperature dropped. And we started to lament the gear choices made at La Rivierre. Morale got a boost when we noticed two more riders ahead, but promptly plummeted when we realized it was Dave and Hal. I'll leave it to them to explain what happened. Of course, competitive jerks that we are, our joint instinct was to turn it up and drop them again. 2 miles of mud just before Altamont really sucked, but at least the rain had stopped and everything was going fine once we got back onto gravel. Until we couldn't find the "blue silo" signalling the road to Roseisle. A friendly farmer got us pointed in the right direction, and even offered us a ride, which was tempting but politely declined. It was after this that the series of wildlife incidents began. First, a deer darted out of the trees just in front of us, leaving us both a little stunned. And then a pheasant or some other large bird decided to lauch itself out of the ditch as I was rounding a corner, narrowly missing my head. After Roseisle, the roads got decidedly less interesting, but since it was dark by then, the straight, flat stretch into Portage was a nice change. In St. Claude we were taunted by some hot shots high school kids in a Camaro who didn't seem to like the idea of two lycra clad cyclists resting by the local pop machine on their strip late at night. Between St Claude and Portage, Tom's stomach finally had enough of the energy bars and started talking back. But he gutted it out, except for when he fell of his bike, and we made it to Portage at 1am. A little later than we'd hoped, but still on pace for a decent time.

Under the cheerful and attentive care of shop guys Luc and John, we had a pleasant rest for an hour, with coffee, cookies, samosas, and other eagerly anticipated real food. Brian Sklarchuk's wretched moaning on a cot behind the forklifts was a little eerie and disconcerting, but it also meant there were only 4 riders out front. So we set off at 2am, still feeling good, just as Hal, Dave, Jonny B, and Cory rolled in. With a change of clothes, we were now warm and dry again. But that didn't last very long, as the slippery algae covered spillway at Delta Marsh took us down. We didn't fall entirely into the lake, but it was close and we ended up wet enough and left with a healthy dose of bitterness. Tom cursed Lindsay almost as much as he did the elusive Finklestein Rd earlier in the day. Riding back to the main road, we startled a skunk who was hanging out in the tire track I was riding in. He turned around, lifted his tail, and cocked himself in my direction. I was sure I was toast, but either he missed or held off. Sheesh. Leaving Delta Marsh, we met up with Hal again, this time accompanied by Cory, on their way in. They looked really strong and focussed.

After feeling surprisingly good for the first 400 km, the last 90 were nothing short of miserable. Both of us literally nodded of while riding our bikes a couple of times. With 50 km left to go, struggling to go 20 kmh, we finally decided to stop and rest. Lying down on the side of a gravel road for a nap seemed like the wrong thing to do for so many reasons, not least of which was the fact that we figured Hal was about an hour behind us. But we woke up in 5-10 minutes and were able to pick up the pace for the next hour. We needed another nap at 30 km to go to muster up enough energy to finish it off. In the end, we rolled in at 9:30 am, finishing in 27.5 hours, well back of the 4 leaders, but still within the 24-30 hour window I was hoping for.

No room in my pack for a camera, so no pictures. But Hal took a bunch and he has a brand new site from which to share them, so surf on over there.

Next year? Way too early to say at this point. We'll see. But I have a feeling it'll be hard not to give it another go if it all goes again, especially if a few more FGBCers sign on. Good company, nice comraderie, and, in the end, lots of fun, despite being gruelling and excruciatingly arduous at times. Thanks to everyone behind the scenes who made it all happen.

OTT: The Bottle Rockets, Suffering Servant


that dave said...

great write up. thanks for bringing back memories of white knuckle descents and jonny's kom performance. but the best line of ALL commentaries....

"....but it also meant that there were only four out front."


nah, never.

halloewen said...

seems like dave and i are somewhat challenged in the navigation department. the way we read the sheet we thought we had to make a turn north, which bypassed a part of the course - oops. it was somewhat humorous seeing the expressions on your faces - and understanding at the same time why you might be pissed

Simmons said...

Nice race report! You single speeders were unbelievable! Hope to see you there next year.