Sunday, July 5, 2009

WEMS Metro-Challenge Race Recount...

A WEMS Metro Challenge race recap…[check out the initial introductory run-on sentence…in dedication to dear Mrs. Fortner, a master English teacher, now retired…but still a force to be reckoned with!]

Due to life’s time constraints exacerbated by da wife’s educational pursuits, geographical and/or transportational factors associated with living @ 46°47′13″N; 92°05′54″W, coupled with the realization and acknowledgement that I am but a cog in a fairly progressive and thus relatively healthy family ecosystem, it is often the case that in order to experience the joys of bicycle racing, without significantly disrupting the family dynamic, compromise is usually warranted. Therefore, the only solution is to commit to a kind of surgical/commando-style approach that manifests, in practice, as a car-to-race-to-car tactic. For example, the normal obligatory routine in order to participate in a WEMS event like the 12 Hours Metro Challenge (which is located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin; or nearly seven hours from my home in the northern latitudes) would involve the author leaving Duluth on a Friday night around 11 pm driving all night, racing, then driving back to Duluth and being home around 4:00 am on a Sunday. I figure that I’ll get plenty of sleep after I’m dead and hanging out with Mallory, Tilman, and the rest of the DBD guyz. So it goes…

However, this time was different, because my good friend and DBD training partner, Tim Ek, generously agreed to drive the both of us down in his fancy-pants Toyota Prius. To a simple man used to driving a 1998 Chevy Prism with no options and a sickly constitution, the thought of riding in such luxurious comfort was captivating. Note: Eki usually travels to these events with his lovely wife, Amy, as they routinely camp out and enjoy the whole weekend together; she rides and runs while he races, etc… As alluded to above, this solo sortie for him was unusual too, as he is blessed with a wife that enjoys and supports his cycling obsession and so they usually travel together, but this time she had to be “on-call” for work.

In any event, her misfortune was my gain as I was invited to go along with him. Initially we had planned to camp, but we could find nothing remotely near to the suburban venue. Reluctantly, we began to query the possibly of staying in a motel. During this process it began clear that due to all kinds of summer musical-festivals and other big crowd activities in the Milwaukee/Madison area; we were going to have to pay big money to stay in a motel, if lucky enough to find one with a vacancy. Yet, I still wanted to go because I was so fired up to travel with Eki and also I love the whole grass-roots, low-key, “shut-up and race” mantra of the WEMS. Finally, we found a place close to the race venue for the astronomically-high price of $139 for a basic room. For the author, a monetary amount that represents the highest ever paid for lodging…No doubt, it was a tough call, but alas the obsessive need to “feed the rat” trumped my frugality.

We left around 4:00 pm on Friday and arrived just a tad before 11:00 pm. The drive down was greatly entertaining and thus time and mileage flew by while we engaged in delightfully stimulating conversation. Although on a slightly sinister note, I must say that while initially captivated, as we continued onward I was somewhat taken aback by the rather condescending “tone” of the “computer lady” that apparently resides within Eki’s super techyglobal positioning device,” a modern 21st century navigational gizmo that, among the yuppie hybrid crowd, has all but replaced maps and the like, but more on this later…as my worst fears are realized on our trek homeward.

Arriving to our nondescript motel situated in a nondescript suburbia; complete with nondescript townhomes and nondescript strip-malls we halted the car. But before disembarking from the vehicle, we were subjected to a brief, albeit terse, auditory self-congratulatory pronouncement and concluding instructions via the computer woman that seemingly lays locked inside of Eki’s Super Techy “global positioning device/system” (GPS). At the desk, we were immediately informed by our slightly disheveled concierge, a young woman of immense, almost mythological proportions, that due to some kind of overbooking miscalculation, we were being “up graded” to the Board-Room Suite. Our heart soared with visions of a spacious multi-roomed “Executive” abode, complete with fully stocked bar, sauna, hot-tub, young female Swedish masseurs, and all the other trimmings that are doled out to the rich and famous. Unfortunately, the Board Room was nothing more that a two roomed affair fit for perhaps a meeting place for a local covey of house-to-house vacuum cleaner salesmen. The board room per se was a room that contained a large oblong table with six or eight chairs, although on one side it did contain a smallish kitchen-type set-up. The other room contained a large double bed and the standard boob-tube. We wiled away a couple hours, in good cheer, downing a few ales and watching rerun episodes of the always funny and clever South Park. All was good and apart from the respite from the long haul, I, for one, was also glad to be away from the constant and overbearing watchful eye of the dictatorial GPS spokesperson. I made a subtle attempt to communicate my concerns to Eki regarding the GPS spokeswoman, mindful that he was seemingly quite attached to it, but he immediately cut me off, calling me a Luddite and telling me to go to sleep, of which I obliged. I dreamt of playing with Michael Jackson in his amusement park...the Elephant man was there too!

Saturday dawned with nary a cloud in the sky. Although coffee was in short supply and the promise of a free continental was forsaken, we felt the undeniable excitement of the approaching race…We loaded up the Prius, Eki fired up the car, then religiously turned on the domineering GPS and then reacted with strict adherence to itz feminist commands; which, I must concede, did deliver us directly to the race venue. I remember quietly seething at the obvious contempt in her voice as she proclaimed, “You have arrived at your destination.” As I left the car to begin the final preparations for the long day of riding, I silently resolved to usurp this loathsome GPS device upon the homeward voyage.

Upon arrival to the scene, as is the usual case, many other riders had erected sophisticated canopy-styled pit areas including several race bikes each, some even brought obsequious man-servants to attend to their needs during the long day of racing. But Eki and I came armed only with two bikes and two coolers respectively. While Eki sported a sleek Gary Fisher FS 29er, the author (a simple man) opted to go with only his Trusty Gunnar of which was converted to a single speed.

The course was nondescript, but given the location and the topography from which to work, the race organizers must be commended for a job well done! The course involved a zigzagged descent down a blue diamond ski hill, into lots of rolling turns, a moderate climb, a gravel road, more single track, and a section of field, capped off with a short gravel incline. Each lap took about half an hour, give or take a few minutes.

Off the front, Eki rode with two other talented riders for a few laps during the morning, but from the onset he was clearly the best on that beautifully sunny and breezy day. Like any and all long events, there were of course flats, minor crashes, bouts of melancholia, etc., but thatz the name of the game and therefore such occurrences should not be used as excuses for less than stellar performances. In fact, Eki took a nasty fall from slipping off his handlebar grips and the author had to deal with an early front flat and a big crash on the one significant downhill section. The author was encouraged after the halfway point to learn that he was in 2nd place overall, but alas on the final lap, a fast charging Chris Schotz caught him, and so he had to settle for third overall. The fourth place rider from, I believe, near the Chicago area, was also able to turn 22 laps. Note: the distance covered was over 120 miles for the top four guyz...

The end-of-the-race festivities were delightful. We won beer!!! It was nice to see and converse with Justin Lund and Mark Burkholtz, but of whom share admirable athletic prowess and amicable character traits as well. However, with a long drive awaiting us, we did not dally. We jumped in the Prius, filled with high spirits and a resolve to get home in one piece.

All went well, until Eki turned the piloting over to me so as to grab a brief respite from the toil of the road. Uncanny in itz ability to ruffle my feathers, as soon as Eki began to snore and I began to look for a spot to refuel, the GPS computer lady began to get on me about where to go. To make a long story short: late night, lost near Eau Claire, Wisconsin and very low on gas, in a moment profound indecision, Eki chose the computer bitch over his friend…Of course, Orwell would not have been shocked…”The horror, the horror.” The author, relegated to mere spectator status, while the GPS intermingled between mocking and chastising me and propping up Eki with ingenious compliments…so it goes…

Levis-Trow is just six dayz hence…………….

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  1. The stars or a map? Must be a hard decision at times. At least one doesn't have to rely on batteries to get lost!

  2. for reals good stuff. love the ramblings.

    and for the record, I think your first sentance might be legit in the English world.

  3. What happens when the lady stops talking??