Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Chili feed 200K and What's really Important

As I sat on a grassy parking strip, back against a white picket fence trying to will the tire off the rim using only my superior powers of psychic energy, I tottered on the brink of indecision about whether to throw in the towel or to press on against all odds. It was just at that moment that the crow in the tree branches above me (that had so recently been loudly scolding me) let go with deadly accuracy, covering me in bird shit.  I tumbled over that cliff, landing firmly on the side of ‘to hell with this!’ I laughed a bit and then, went back to the challenge of getting an incredibly tight tire off a bicycle rim without the benefit of tire irons.

It could be a fascinating cautionary “for want of a nail” story that I am absolutely certain would hold the bike geeks in the audience spell bound for pages and chapters. The rest (all three of you) I am sure would be paging on to something more exciting, the tax code say, within the first paragraph.

A few salient points: I had my first flat less than ½ mile from the start. A brief panic, there were over 100 friends motoring down the road ahead of me. One does not often get the chance to benefit from such a rando contact high. Flat number two came a couple miles later and my optimism turned to a black cloud. Off with that damned tire and on with my trusty Continental 4 Seasons Gator Skin, and no more worry of flats … right? Now the chase is on, only to encounter ... a train! Is there some cosmic law that says the longer the train, the slower it must go as it makes its passing? Though adversity is a great motivator, patience in the face of adversity is not my strong suit!

Once through the pain of Redondo Beach, and sweating buckets, flat number three reared it’s ugly head. Here is where the soup thickens: in an effort to lighten my load for these shorter brevets Serge, my personal soignier had pared the kit to the bare minimum. No need for the crank puller and spare bottom bracket on these shorter distances right? Well the oaf decided that two simple plastic tire irons weighing probably less than 3 grams need not be placed in the life boat.

Now getting a Gator Skin on without tire irons is an admirable feat. Getting the Gator out of his skin using only bare hands and all the caluses the thumbs have to sacrifice is another matter entirely.

By the time I arrived at the Dash Point control l felt like I had the upper arms of Gumby. My wrists were at their limit, my thumbs felt like I had just finished the Crackberry marathon. I was, shall we say very near the limit for time (let’s not say which side of said limit) and had already made the decision to call it a day. Who was there waiting for the inveterate Lanterne Rouge but the ever sunny Vincent M. All who have met Vincent know that this man is the human equivalent of summer sun. There is no one I know with a more positive disposition and winning smile. “Oh no Paul, you must go on, you’ve ridden the hardest hills, the climb to Greenwater it is nothing, you will make the time back I am certain, get going!” I thought for just a moment of all the challenges this man must have come through in his life to get to this point, and instantly agreed; certainly, I should move out smartly and I would claw my way back into this thing. Three flats in, having trashed one tire and one of my two spare tubes, my tire saga was surely behind me and I could now just put my head down and find my rhythm, right? 7 miles later, and I am leaning against a picket fence while a devil crow zeros his sights. I feel I let you down Vinny, so sorry.

For the record, I did get that flat fixed, (and destroyed my last spare tube) got patched (using my last patch too) and remounted, and having decided to call it a day I was getting to know more about the wonders of GPS when against any odds imaginable I flatted for the 5th (!) time. On ‘Enchanted Parkway' no less.  Enchanted indeed!

I could describe a black cloud, a dour frame of mind, the notion that this is some sort of omen, a bad start to a critical season (did I mention that the truck battery was dead when I went out at 4:30 to begin the trip to the start?) and all the doubt that is now painted across the inside of my skull, curdling my fragile psyche.  But truth be told, I was riding with a smile in my heart.  This ‘grave situation’ was really nothing more than a sub par day on the bike. My mind was ‘distracted’ by the fantastic news I had received the day before as I was readying for the ride:   My youngest son, Ole called to say that without any remarkable complications his new daughter, Pandi James Johnson had been born into the world in the early hours of Friday March 12th.

Mother and daughter were resting peacefully in the Hospital in Ellensburg.

The happy family, ready to go home

Wait, one more whiff of that new baby goodness!
Oh, by the way; I stopped by the LBS on my way home from the ride to pick up some new tubes.  "Hey, those new tires you ordered are in!"  The Jack Browns, and the new tubes are now mounted and ready to slay the country side!


  1. Geeez. Sorry to hear about your crappy tire luck. I got a flat less than 2 miles from the finish at Greg's house, when I could literally smell the chili. What luck, right?

    I ride Gatorskins on my commuter, and I agree, they're really flipping hard to get on and off.

  2. Paul - that is one unfortunate series of events and bad luck. It sounds like many folks had flats that day, but you definitely get the gold medal :)

  3. I don't understand the condolences. A new grandbaby vs 5 flats and difficulty repairing them ... comes out on the postive side, I think.

    Congratulations are in order!

  4. Did you just feel it necessary to break my 3-flats-in-10-miles record?

    Sorry to hear about the DNF. Congrats on the grandkid.

  5. Wait, what is this? You just have to one up me? I had two flats on the Santa Rosa 200km before the first control at the 10 mile mark, and you just have to go one (three?) better? Well, harumpf.

    I did manage to catch the middle of the pack before the turnaround, but then paid for that effort on the return. But! But! I easily caught up to everyone who was on their second pint at the Bear Republic Brewery shortly after I arrived.

  6. I did not vomit upon reading this story. Congratulations on the new addition.

  7. Wow! Who knew there was so much ownership in the world of flat tally? Or hurling for that matter.

    Dr C

  8. A babe in the hand is worth 2000 sh--ing birds in the bush! Congrats to you and yours. We kept wondering what had happened to you. And think of it this way: better to DNF in grand style, especially if you're a blogger! Crow poop is good fertilizer for a growing Blog.

  9. It's stories like this that give me alittle more strenght to accept the next unknown challenge that could be the breaking point I face.
    Congratulation on your bundle of Pandi!