Friday, February 8, 2013

Help me........

Self-loathing intensifies as a Mountain of Fear approaches…A retrospective piece on the precipitous decline of a once proud man…and the epic Iditarod trail that impassively lays in wait for his arrival…Pray for this man’s wretched soul.

Part I: My Year of Discontent…a contextual addendum to get the reader up to speed on my lack of progress

2012 was not a good year for me in terms of athletic performances.  I love a good old fashioned physical challenge, so like all of my many years, the cycling season began with great expectations, high hopes for deeds of valor and honor.  I day dreamed, as I often do, of remarkable feats of athleticism, kisses from beautiful podium girls, and huge hits off of huge bottles of champagne that awaited me… I drank a toast to the New Year whilst comfortably ensconced next to a roaring fire in a small cabin in the Northwoods near Ironwood, Michigan. The future looked good.  I reasoned that 2012 would be my break out year, the year the pundits would come to regret their years of silence and neglect when it came to the telling (and retelling) of my ascension into cycling lore…My application to that rarefied membership within the pantheon of the cycling legends would now finally earn the scrutiny it so deserved…
January ushered in the classic Arrowhead 135, but instead of turning in a respectable effort, I went out way too fast, (thinking I could ride with the likes of Jay Petervary and the Alaskans) and subsequently lost a brief, weak-willed battle with a troupe of motivated sleep demons not far out from leaving the half-way point.  Soon the proverbial white flag went up and I went down into the warm embrace of my sleeping bag.  Swaddled in luxurious goose-down, I was out for the count, I awoke some eight hours later, packed up, and then sheepishly rode the rest of the way to the finish.  My pathetic effort allowed me to finish way way way back.  Strike One.

My next big effort at securing honor came with the classic Tran-Iowa that commences in late April.  Having already survived a couple of these manly tests and thus fully aware of the pain and suffering involved with finishing, even when the conditions are good, I was completely overwhelmed by the terrible rains and incessant winds leading up to start.  Ardent in my quest to not suffer from the spears and arrows of the tempestuous weather, I packed heavy and thus paid a heavy price for my unwieldy load. As usual, caught up in the moment, I started off too fast and then soon began to falter.  Small groups of functionally integrated riders came and went, but I was never able to find my rhythm.  Not long after a group of four or five had finally dropped me, in late afternoon, some ten hours into it, I made a fatal mistake in route finding and become hopelessly lost.  It was dark by the time I made the last Check Point, within mere minutes of the cut-off time.  I forged onward, but I knew it was folly.  I was going through the motions, I had to walk every hill, I had nothing in the tank, nothing...  A couple hours later, in a merciful act, a friend of mine and under the direction of the fabled race-director (G-Ted) picked me up and drove me back to Grinnell. When I got back to my car I was too depleted to drink a Kalamazoo Stout; thatz how wasted I was!  Strike Two. 

During the late Spring and Summer seasons I raced a respectable number of long distance events and did Okay, but noting to warrant Honor or adoration.  For example, I rode my Pugsley (as a single-speed) down at the 24 Hours @ Red Wing and finished in the top ten but in terms of laps completed I was way way way back when compared to Charles Parsons and a couple of the other top performers.

By early fall, my ego was clearly shaken as a man without honor or glory is a forsaken man with no real friends or direction. In desperation, I launched a plan that would involve racing a series of trail running events that are conducted each autumn on several of the picturesque trails in and around Duluth. I am not much of a runner, I find the endeavor somewhat cowardly (a man should not run away, he should “stand his ground”), but my kid likes to run, so I figured that in order for the plan to work, I’d have to feign a desire to compete as a foot-runner. 

The scheme ultimately involved a bet with my twelve year daughter.  Details included that the both of us had to compete in five of the Wednesday night races.  If I won the majority of the races, my daughter would act as my loyal servant for the whole month of November as well as conceding to contently sit and watch my favorite PBS shows without complaint or negative commentary.  Duties would involve her having to respond immediately to my every whim or wish at night from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. For instance, if I wanted a beer from the fridge or a bowl of ice cream whilst viewing my favorite show (Antiques Road-Show) all I would have to do would be to make my commands know to her and she would have to fulfill my directive. If she won the majority of the races I would have to pay her $100. 

The first race was a 10K held on the Lester River ski trails (with a small portion of the GOGGS single-track added in).  It was a warm day so my comprehensive plan involved a three pronged strategy: 1.) I would discourage off-spring from drinking any fluids before and during the race by feigning to forget to bring adequate hydration; 2.) en-route to the race I would begin a series of verbal assaults, albeit subtly delivered in a manner that would give the impression that I was concerned for her well-being. The oration would be designed to weaken her resolve and to get her thinking that the distance was simply too far for a “pre-teen” girl to achieve.  One line went like this, “Dear child of mine, this is the longest and most difficult race in the series and it is also very hot out.  Combined with the fact that I forgot to bring us any fluids, please do not feel bad if you feel the need to quit the race, for no matter what the outcome we shall always love you:” 3.) I would tactically start behind her and closely track her efforts, towards the end of the race, (which for us would take nearly an hour) I would blow past her on a hill and then turn and give her “The Look.”  She would be psychologically crushed and I would fly to an easy victory. 

In hindsight, I felt overly optimistic waiting for the gun to go off.   The only glitch was that the race organizers had brought water and even though I conveyed to her the age-old wisdom of my high school football coaches that one should never swallow water before the big game, instead only “swirl the water around and then spit out lest one want severe leg cramps,” she eagerly drank down the forbidden fluid.  The gun went off and the hundred or so runners took off.  She fell in with a good group of older women runners which allowed me to follow at the tail in and yet keep an eye on the progress.  The pace was hard for me as I am not a runner, my only experience with running is from the cops, I feel running is un-American.  Soon I was getting gapped, the distance between me and my daughter’s group was expanding before my very eyes.  You know the feeling—you’re working as hard as you can just to hold on to the peloton. All the other pack-riders are laughing and telling jokes, but you are gasping for air…I make a concerted effort at a surge forward to catch back up…

Suddenly some kind of mischievous wood gnome stabbed a dagger deep into my left calf muscle.  The pain was unbelievable. I attempted to soldier onward, but I could only muster a kind of tottering motion…Old old women and men caught up and passed me.  Toward the very end of the throng of runners, one dear old lady that was “power-walking” stopped and offered to call the race official (she was married to him) so that he could come retrieve me on his four-wheeler.  I humbly declined and yet as if to rub salt into my wounds, she called out,” I tell them that you dropped out.  Don’t feel bad you will get better. I didn’t start working out ‘til I was sixty” 

I dragged my useless leg back to the start/finish line to find my daughter in very high spirits.  Strike three.

Postscript: I was out for the whole series with a torn calf muscle.  As if to further hurt me, My kid used her $100 to buy two pairs of those super tight jeans that all the girls are now wearing….

To be continued………


  1. "torn calf muscle" eh??? .... that's the story you are going with?!?

    She was a tough competitor out there! I was privileged to watch her NMTC debut.

    Have fun at Iditarod!

  2. Farrow,

    Good to hear of you. Do your loyal readers know that you were once the fearless leader (coach) of the John Marshall cross country team? You are just returning to your roots.

    Remember you used to make fun of the kids who went to the homecoming dance? "Hardmen don't dance", was the line used. Riding in your car that the fumes were so bad you had to keep the window open?

    Good luck in AK. I will drink to your success.

  3. Shoot...I'm just happy to see another blog post from you. I thought the aliens might have abducted you before The Really Big Dance.

  4. Charlie, always great to hear from you. I hope you never become a triathlete and snub me!

  5. I'm echoing Kid; I'm just happy to hear that you are alive and well. We'd been hearing rumors of you being chained to a pipe in a dark basement somewhere. JP

  6. Charlie
    Warning, never underestimate the powers of a pre teen girl. I know from experience


  7. Obviously this entire story is a farce. Everyone knows you cannot buy 2 pairs of the currently fashionable and tight jeans for $100.