“Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
I was reminded of the above quote the night before the 2012 Slaughter Pen Jam Cross Country Race. It was the best the satellite television in my hotel room could give me. It would do.
I was a little nervous before the race, riding around the area talking it up with some of the other racers. This was the first course of the year that I hadn’t pre-ridden. I usually ride better when I know what’s behind each turn, where the top of the hill is and when I’m close enough to being done that I can just let it rip to the finish. Although I had ridden here a couple of years ago it was still going to be pretty much guess work.
The Race Starts
My race (Cat 3, 50+ men – or as I call it, the old and slow guys) was scheduled for a noon start. I was very thankful for the cooler temperatures. We lined up with a grassy hill in front of us. This should separate us a bit before we hit the singletrack. I was geared right and ready to go with about 7 other guys. I was in the second row and as we started I found myself laying back some. Nerves maybe, I don’t know but I topped the first little hill dead last. We soon turned down some trail that went across a field. I used the open space to get past one guy before we entered the woods and what I knew was going to be a climb to the top of the course.
I came up with race strategy as I went and decided that the two guys in front of me were just a bit slow so I took advantage of a turn that they pretty much missed to slip in on the inside and get past them. I was now squarely in the middle of the pack, hello old friend. Of course for the next few minutes it felt like at least one of the guys I had just passed was on my wheel so I pushed hard the rest of the way up, cleared a tough rock garden and was just about ready for a couple of miles of sweet flowy downhill when the back end of my bike suddenly fishtailed. I felt a couple of hard hits on some rocks and realized I had a flat. grrrrrrr…
I jumped off knowing that at best I’d soon be in the back of the pack again, I worked quickly. Old tube out, new tube in, load a cartridge of air. Looks good, flip the bike back over and….wait, what the heck…flat again. By now all of my class was by me plus a couple of guys from the Clydesdale class and the women were coming now. grrrrrr…
I could have done several things here including pulling the wheel off again and rechecking the tire for thorns or something but knowing that I was on my last tube anyway I decided to unload another cartridge into it and hope I’d just screwed it up the first time. FULL TIRE….and just as quickly…flat tire. Done. 1.35 miles into the race and I was done. All Cat 3 riders were past me. I was about as far away from my truck as I could be with no direct route there. There would be no help, no running back to grab a quick tube and hand pump (which I had taken out of my pack right before the race). Just the long walk of shame. Eaten by the bear.
An autopsy of the second tube showed a faulty valve stem was what called the bear out of his cave. Hopefully the bear goes back to sleep for Devil’s Den this weekend.
I spent the rest of the day in the woods taking photos of the Cat 1 and 2 racers. I got this little video while I was sitting next to the trail. It calms me for some reason. Enjoy.