…some cat’s old lady just had a baby…Wow, it really is a city here. – John Sebastian at Woodstock
Okay, so no babies were born at the Riverside Classic but it certainly had the sense of community. It all started the night before the race. We had been invited to attend the gallery opening of an artist friend who also happens to be a runner and cyclist, John Wooldridge. He is in the middle of documenting all 75 counties in Arkansas in impressionist style paintings. It was a festive evening with many cyclist friends showing up to support John and enjoy a casual evening out before the race. The next morning’s race would be John’s first mountain bike race.
While we were there, Lisa got a message from another cycling friend Brian Buerger. Brian is a strong CAT 1 mountain biker and also works as the local Shimano rep. He was working on a surprise for his girlfriend. His plan was to have her at the race for support (and a bottle hand up). At the end of his first lap he was going to stop at the hand up, fein a mechanical issue, drop to one knee and propose. Right in the middle of the race. He was hoping we could be in the area to take pictures. Of course we would.
Arriving at the race, I saw CAT 1 cyclist, Phillip Prater, his face was covered with black soot. Phillip is a Little Rock firefighter and had just come from putting out a house fire, straight to the race. Upon arriving he found that a fellow racer had gone down while warming up and was pressed back into duty to help her and talk her into taking the ride to the emergency room.
Once the CAT1 race started, Lisa and I set up near the feed zone under the guise of capturing the racers as they came through. When Brian came in we turned our cameras on Alicia. Brain did such a good job of pretending to have a mechanical, someone tried to hand him a pump. After a bit of fumbling and one drop he got the ring on her finger, a quick drink and kiss and he was back in the race. Well done Brian.
After shooting most of the CAT 1 and 2 racers, it was my turn to get in the race. By 10 am when the CAT 3 racers lined up, it was getting pretty warm. I figured pretty quick that it wasn’t going to be one of my better races. I got a good start but by the time we hit the singletrack I was breathing heavy and I let a couple of Community Bicyclist guys move ahead (well…maybe “let” isn’t the right word. Good move Sam and Keith), I was instantly in 5th, a position I held for most of the race but wouldn’t get to finish with.
In all that heat, a rider can think they are starting to hallucinate. It’s happened to me before. Last year on the Slobberknocker, during a long climb by myself, I could have sworn I heard cowbells in the woods. Of course no one was there. This time, on the green trail, just past the boy scout camp area, I thought I saw a full moon in the woods. It even called to me. Worried that I might be crazy, I remembered that I had been wearing a video camera on my helmet. Upon review I saw this:
So you see, I’m not crazy but some of my friends are. I was feeling a little better on the second lap but still wasn’t pushing myself too hard. I’d gotten passed by someone who may or may not have been in my age group but once we hit the tough rock gardens I was able to take him. Riding these trails several times a month, I know the best lines through the rocks. I was also able to pass a few of the kids who started before me which always feels good. Suddenly I got passed by someone in my group and he was moving. I’m not sure where he had been the whole race but he had my number now. I began enjoying the ride again soon enough and was able to climb the hill near the golf course (the hottest part of the race since it had been receiving direct sun for the past 4 hours). As I reach the top of the final short climb with only a sweet downhill section left until the finish, I noticed someone had stopped. Looking to the side in the woods I noticed a rider on the ground with another one over him trying to talk to him. I stopped. From what I’ve been able to put together the heat had gotten to one of the Phat Tire Bike Shop riders. He was laying in the shade of a tree but although he was breathing, he was totally none responsive. One of his friends was trying to wake him up but was having no luck. I threw him what was left of my water and figured the best thing I could do was get down the hill to alert the EMT’s. I know he was later taken down on a stretcher and spent the night under observation at a local hospital. On Sunday I was told that he was okay and on his way home. Maybe I’ll start watching my fluid intake a little better at these races.
I should mention here that John Wooldridge made the podium in his first mountain bike race ever. Awesome job John.
The lines between our work, home, family and riding lives are pretty blurred. Even the lines between our different hobbies and recreational pursuits become fuzzy. It’s what makes us a community. I would see some of these friends at a duathlon the next day and will probably see some at a 5K later this week. That night we went out to Vino’s Brew Pub to celebrate another cyclist friends birthday party. What a great community.
Next race in the AMBCS series is the Fat Tire Festival in Eureka Springs. I understand the course has been changed from previous years. You can also follow the AMBCS on their Facebook Page.