Wednesday, September 9, 2009

24 Hours @ Seven Oaks: Part I of a Race Report

EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA: The young man that so generously helped me out during the 24 Hours @ Seven Oaks was Kyle Robinson of Kyle's Bikes of Ankeny, Iowa. I've never been there, but I'd wager a month's salary that you'd get great service at his bike store. I plan to visit it next time I'm in the Iowa. Maybe next spring on my way down to the Trans-Iowa...Thanks again Kyle :)
Part I “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the Good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"” Martin Luther King Jr.

Where to start? What happened over in Boone, Iowa that really impressed me? What have a learned from this experience that I can take with me?

Letz begin with a brief narrative on the wonderful nature of Good Samaritans and how having them around makes the world a better place. Thankfully, I had two of them hovering around me during the 24 Hours @ Seven Oaks last weekend in the form of Dave Schuneman from Duluth and an Iowan guy that was one of the race directors of this fine event (I am embarrassed to admit that I have forgotten his name as my brain was cooked after about the first six hours in the saddle and remained that way until about six hours ago some dayz afterward). The incredible guy from Iowa (whose name I will obtain sooner or later so as to provide him with the public “thank you” he so deserves) initially came to my aid very early into the race, when I made a stupid overcorrection coming off of a corner leading into the final speedy descent heading into the start/finish area. The characteristically klutzy move sent me careening into a patch of high grass and weeds; all of which became implausibly entangled in my rear wheel so tightly and massively that the effect was to bend my rear brake rotor to the extent that the wheel was locked up. This was early in the race and so I was still very excitable, so of course, the first thing I did was grab the rotor and then immediately thereafter, as my hand began to smoke and burn, I screamed out that universal single syllable utterance reserved for those engaged in self-destructive, stupid behaviors. My hand cooled as I began the echoing phase of the uttering (with feeling) over and over again of that universal single syllable reserved for those engaged in really stupid behaviors, but alas I was at a complete loss of what to do other than to continue to repeat the “word”. Finally, I resolved to pull the rear wheel off and then beat the wheel (with anger) on the ground while continuing to repeat the “word.” As I engaged in this behavior others were flying by me heading into the pit area, which intensified the situation. As I rotated between beating the wheel, trying to pull out all the wiry vegetation, and swearing with dramatic conviction—out of nowhere arrived my Good Samaritan from Iowa.

Having walked all the way up from his scoring station at the port of entry and departure, he offered his assistance, “Hey can I help you out?” His affect was immediately calming and thus with his assistance, mostly moral support, I was able to loosen up the brake caliper enough to allow for the big warp in the rotor, and get the wheel back on well enough to ride back to my car. At my car I took a big crescent wrench and bent the rotor back into “good enough” shape. I am making light of this incident now in my write up, but when I look back on the race this charitable gesture on his part is affixed in my memory. It was pretty darn nice of him and he was not the only one. The guyz that run this race are what my dad likes to call, “good people.”

My second encounter with Good Samaritans occurred early morning on about my thirteenth or maybe fourteenth lap. Near the beginning of the course, about ten minutes into it, there is a tight fun little roller-coaster section featuring a narrow ascending bridge that is designed so as to allow for fast riding. I was starting to get a kind of “second wind” after really struggling on laps eleven and twelve, so I was “givin’ her” through this terrain when suddenly and without any warning my seat-post snapped off right below the area where the saddle rails are attached. It was that fast, no crash, no major hit, just a loud “SNAP!” Initially, I was dumbstruck, dismayed, confused, I could not understand, for it seemingly broke off without any hit, or any trauma, and it happened so unexpectedly that I could not even articulate “the word” that is a universal single syllable utterance reserved for those engaged in self-destructive stupid behaviors. For what must have been a couple minutes I just stood there with my narrow beam of light going up and down the seat-post trying to comprehend what had happened. For those of you that have engaged in these long long events you know how ones brain becomes incredibly simplistic or reduced craving and attending only to the most elemental needs and concepts, this is especially true with the onset of darkness. So after some period of time this solo guy rides up who is also at my diminish level intellectually, given the context in which we are trying to cope. The bright lights that festoon our bikes and helmets blind us, so we shield our eyes and speak only to the ground or into the glare. I say to him, “Seat post broken?” He sez, “Yes, broken.” I say “_____” (hint: that word) and he repeats the word and adds, “Yeah, you’re _____ed.” So I say, “I borrow a multi-tool?” He sez, “Don’t have one.” Then the conversation got really weird, when I asked him, “You think I can ride it the way it is?” He sez, “You could hurt yourself something bad if that sharp post gets you in your privates, but I am not going to pass judgment on you.” I said, “Thanks man, it nice not to be judged.” I remember laughing/crying as he rode away. He was not out-of-sight, before I started riding it. I recall being completely and utterly focused on standing, never ever sitting, and on not falling. Upon reflection, I think that I have not been able to achieve that kind of intense concentration of singular purpose since I was heavily into climbing. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I lapsed into the basic mantra of “stand pedal stand pedal stand pedal.” The course is such that it is easy to see people zig-zagging up the backside of this long heavily wooded hilly expanse. Whenever I would see a light, I would yell for a multi-tool, but to no avail. Eventually, riding across the wide expanse on a higher zig near the top, on the zag immediately below me I saw two lights approaching. When they were directly below me, I stopped and frantically yelled to see if they had a multi-tool. They both stopped and the one guy immediately called back in the affirmative. I left my bike and jumped down to there level and realized to my astonishment that the duo consisted of Dave Schuneman and the same Iowan guy that helped me out much earlier in the race (one of the race directors, no less). Even now, writing about this miraculous encounter brings me to smile, “Yes Charlie, there is indeed a Santa Claus.” With the tool I was able to pull out the seat-post turned implement-of-torture and ride the bike without fear of spontaneous bloody castration. The effect was two-fold, initially my heart soared as I sensed salvation and yet with the lost of the threat of horrible harm to my manhood, I began to experience extreme fatigue in my legs from having to stand and at the same time ride fast enough to try and stay with my two saviors as those rode the course. I was lucid enough to realize that if I was going to be able to stay in the race I was going to have to rely heavily on these guyz. As we rode along, they both assured me that they were going to find away to help me out. I could not believe my good fortune…

A man needs a plan and so as we rode together I began to formulate one. When we neared the pit area, I was keen on a scenario that involved shamelessly begging for a bike to borrow and I had a few guyz in mind that I figured would try to help me out. Additionally, the humanitarian from Iowa, who had rode out ahead of me with the goal of trying to secure a bike for me to use, was to meet me at the scoring table with any potential donors. Yet, unexpectedly, Dave as we approached his pit insisted that I take his seat-post. We both ride steel frames and so the seat post was of the right fit. I put up a weak protest, but to be honest I was so pumped as I knew I had a chance at a podium finish!!! Heroically, he had tried to race the course on a rigid single-speed and he was pretty toasted or at least that is what I told myself as I hurriedly and selfishly retro-fitted his post onto the Trusty Gunnar and took off…The fact-of-the-matter is that he was riding really well, which makes his gift to me even more thoughtful…I hope that I can repay him and that Iowan back someday, or at least offer up such a selfless act to some guy in need someday. THANK A LOT GUYZto be continued

Part II: “When in doubt, nap.” Or, How I lucked into a load of cash for riding my bike for 22 hours. In a few dayz


  1. Charlie- I'm guessing Ron DeGeest is the Iowa trail angel/promoter you happened upon.

  2. The Guy from Iowa was me Kyle Robinson of Kyle's Bikes, Ankeny.
    What a great job of blogging you do. I feel honored to have ridden with you. And look forward to another event we get to ride our bikes at.

  3. Good job Charlie. Mallory and I are so proud of you. It's events like this that cause Mallory to forget the usual shenanagons you're pulling.

    Way to KILL it!

  4. another great story charlie...looking forward to the rest. just found out a couple buddies from decorah are headed up for heck of the north. wish i could make it but life/work has other ideas. best of luck with that one!

  5. There truly is a bunch of good people out there. Great race story and when you have time tells us more about the seatpost. Something to look out for? Age,scored,corrosion??

  6. Impressive! Shall we start calling you Sir?