Sunday, August 31, 2008

Three Cups of Tea aint gonna cut it!!!!!

Nearly 24 hours of driving, getting “roughed-up” down in the bluff country near La Crosse, and then driving some more…

WEMS LaCrosse Recap Car-to-Car (August 15th from 1:05 am to 12:30 am August 16th): A continuous block of free flowing, uninhibited, grammatically incorrect, sentimental, and reflective prose related in a most indirect and convoluted manner to a recent experience regarding a WEMS 12 hour race down in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in mid-August, 2008—Through most of the 1980s (initially as a confused graduate student and then as a confused professional piano mover); when I was pursuing all aspects of climbing with an unhealthy passion that is similar to how I now practice cycling; the best of the climbers living within the Boulder, Colorado area (of which I was a minor player as Boulder at the time was a Mecca for Climbers in the United States) began to speak into terms of “car-to-car” ascents. In other words, a trend began whereby hard core guys would, for example, get out of work or class on a Friday afternoon, head to the bar, have a few beers, and then around midnight drive the 90 minutes out to the Long’s Peak trailhead. They would then don their alpine packs, Petzl headlights, and power-hike up the long approach to the formidable and breath-taking Diamond Face. Then in a single push, maybe even utilizing “running belays,” they would blast up the vertical 1000 foot face, knock off the tricky descent, race down the approach, and be back in Boulder for Happy Hour the next day eager to share their adventure with impressible guyz like me. It was both “RAD” and inspiring to bear witness to their boldness, and so it was not long before every wannabe in the local climbing community started trying to pull off crazier and crazier “car-to-car” ascents (“Dude, lets like try and climb it, car-to-car!”). The very best even started doing bike–to-bike ascents, for example, I remember one of the top climbers from Boulder jumping on his road bike and riding the eighty miles to the Long’s Peak trailhead, climbing a 5.11 face route up the Diamond rope-solo, and then riding his bike back to Boulder all in less that 30 hours! Of course, just like in cycling, I was never close to being in the top echelon of the Boulder Climbing Community, but even fringe players like my buddies and me would revel in the planning and pulling off of relatively “sick “ itineraries from which to measure our propensity for pure unadulterated suffering and boldness. I remember one eventful weekend where a friend and I partied like, well like the University of Colorado Rugby Team players that we were on a Friday night, staying up all that night and then beating Colorado State in Rugby on that Saturday around noon, then rehydrating with a full complement of fermenting barley products, then jumping in my buddy's old VW Van and heading out to Hallet’s Peak (near Estes Park), pulling off the hard approach, then attempting to climb a moderately hard mixed alpine route just as the sun was setting, quickly getting in over our heads, pulling out the head-lights, getting the ropes stuck on the epic bail, cutting the ropes, miraculously getting enough rope freed up to make a series of desperate rappels, stumbling down the approach trail, and yet being back in Boulder around 1:50 a.m. for last call on Saturday night, loving every minute of it! By the mid 90s I had embarked on perhaps a hundred or more twisted misadventures that put pain and suffering above all else; always with an eye on how much fun it was going to be to rehash the whole sorted affair after we were once again safe on terra firma. Even though I am a lot older now, I am not any smarter, and I still love getting myself into a “tight place” now and then (Note: once I get my daughter out the door, I plan to head back to the mountains and really get myself into a fix or two, and I won’t be bringing any cell-phone). Accordingly such was my thinking on that Friday at the Brewhouse around 9:00 p.m. on the night before the 8:00 a.m. start of the 12Hours at Lacrosse (some five hours down the road). The fact of the matter was that I had not really considered going to LaCrosse because I was still hurting from both the 24 Hours Race @ 9 Mile that I had completed less than two weeks before and a chronically injured heal (that continues to plague me even now as I type this up)…

In any event, I was sitting at the Brewhouse with my small nuclear family and it suddenly dawned on me that I should buck-up, be a MAN, and go do that race in LaCrosse. So I went home after a great meal and several top-notch pints of their Oatmeal Stout, got the kid and wife to bed, watched some Olympics on NBC until 1:00 am (mostly spring board diving, beach volley-ball, McDonalds’ propaganda and BIG OIL ads touting some yuppy doctor or engineer here in the US working for the nice people @Exxon to save all the poor Africans from malaria—made me proud of both Exxon and the good ole RED, White, and Blue!). Then at 1:05 am sharp, after packing up a few racing essentials, I took off for LaCrosse, Wisconsin. My wife had checked out the audio version of “Three Cups of Tea” from the library which is about a former climber turned do-gooder that goes around Pakistan and builds schools for the local kids that live near K-2. Loaded and ready for a long day, I fired in Disk #1, headed the old Chevy Prism south on Wisconsin 53, and kicked back and tried to get my head right for the long haul. I don’t remember that many specifics about the first five hours of the book as I was totally strung out on pure black Holiday coffee but as best as I can recollect, in my world, the first five hours of the book read like some kind of hero worship causing me great discomfort. I was disappointed, then upset, then out-raged, that the actual dude that was building the schools did not write the book. The book was written by another guy (some wannabe journalist) that was super impressed by the actual guy that was actually doing the school building, or at least trying to get a school built. Maybe it was my state of mind, but I could not get past the fact that the guy that wrote the book was not the same guy that was building or at least trying to get the schools built. So as the miles flew by, I developed this sort of contrived bitterness (and then anger) inexplicably directed towards the guy that was reading the book out loud, until I had a revelation that the guy that was reading the book was most probably not the same guy that wrote the book and almost for sure was not the guy that was trying to get the school built for the poor kids in Pakistan near K-2. It really started to bother me about all this and I thus became really bogged down mentally as I argued within my inner-cognitive forces about the implications of the school building guy allowing someone else to write the book, why didn't he write his own book? It made no sense to me although I ultimately conceded that while it was a bad thing for the guy to write the book given that he did not help to build the schools, I did grant the need for some room for (or aspect of)journalistic information gathering,like in a magazine piece (but this book was misleading because it implied that the school builder was the author). Yet, in conclusion to allow yet another one to read it was essentially unforgivable. So... just as I had resigned myself to shutting the whole “Three Cups of Tea” thing down and to instead listen to the BBC, I looked up and saw the Mississippi River and a crack in the darkness—dawn was breaking and I was near La Crosse. It was a little past 6:00 and I was the first one to the race site, so I turned my car around and headed back into town in search of some real coffee, but to no avail. I did find some gas-station coffee, a few bananas, and a reload of ice for my trusty cooler. I was back at the race course around 7:00 where I checked in and grabbed a nice pit area for me and my buddy Tim Ek (who I correctly figured had come down the day before with his lovely wife, Amy). The gun went off at 8:00 and I limped over the thankfully short run-out and jumped on my trusty fully rigid steel-is-real Gunnar (created by the nice folks over in Waterford, WI, just a couple hours south of the race course!). The course was amazing, but way hard with lots of log hops, rock gardens, and steep descents. In fact the course was much harder than I had anticipated, and so my heal took a terrible pounding. I crashed hard on what I think was the four lap driving my heal into a rock and causing me to question my entire existence here on earth. It hurt so bad that I had to just sit there for awhile and then once back on my bike I was fairly certain that I was going to have to do something to ease my suffering. As I rode back to the start/finish, I resigned to sit out a lap and to ice it and to fashion some kind padding to help alleviate the potential for any further injury. The “lap sit-out strategy” put me way behind the leaders, but worked wonders on my heal and so when the guyz came back around, I jumped in and rode well for the rest of the event, staying abreast the usual suspects, but of course a lap down. Although my heal hurt the whole time and on one of the last laps a hornet “with extreme prejudice” stung me on the buttocks, I had a great time racing with my buddies Tim Ek and Terry Brannick. It was one of Brannick’s first 12 hour races and he looked totally strong. I remember thinking as I rode while continually feeling a jarring pain shooting up my heal, how the OLD MAN had fought the great marlin even though his hands were in tatters and how he remained strong-willed and committed by gaining resolve from the example set by the great Joe DiMaggio, who ironically was suffering from a heal spur…so it goes…Anyway, I finished it out and hung out with the boyz for awhile and then headed back north on 53. I was tired and so the resolve to banish “Three Cups of Tea” had weakened as had the irrational acrimony. So I set back and let the one guy read the other guy’s story about the old climber turned do-gooder who finally got a few schools built and even got himself a wife…just as all was ending up on a high note the red lights of the towers came into view and I knew I was almost back in Old Duluth, I looked at my watch and it was 12: 20, I figured that if I pushed it a little I’d be back at home in a total time of just a little shy of a full day!

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