I Can’t Drive 55- Test Of Endurance 7/6/13

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SWEEP – A rider that follows the back of a field of racers on the race course and helps any stranded riders to make sure all riders are accounted for (we also picked up spent gel packets found on the trail).

The Broom Wagon-Mielle & Remy

The Broom Wagon-Mielle & Remy

Sweeping a race sounds easy enough until you realize your slowest day is still faster than the slowest beginner.  But, it’s not all about ME.  I know, what racer ever says that at a race?  Keeping that thought in mind makes the task at hand much more enjoyable, reminding me and my teammate Remy, that we are here so other people can have a fun and safe day on the mountain bike. 

“Keep an eye on that Japanese guy”, says race organizer Mike Ripley. As Remy and I wait for the last straggling racers to start, we only know that ‘the Japanese guy’ rented a bike and rode from Corvallis to Philomath (19 miles) this morning. He doesn’t speak English very well and he was wearing tennis shoes and a fanny pack. Check in asked him which race he wanted to sign up for (25 mi, 50 mi, 62 mi ) and his answer in broken English was “which one is harder?” That answer earned him the 100k (62 mile) race. You never know, he could crush it.

Summertime and the weather is fine

Summertime and the weather is fine

Sun shining and temps in the 70’s, Remy and I chatted, doing our best to ride as slowly as possible on the climbs. Soon enough we found ourselves right behind a woman in pink.  Not wanting to ruin her experience, our pace slowed but short of stopping for 10 minutes at a time, we just kept catching her. So it went. Finally I struck up a conversation and said, “I hope we are not too distracting back here.” Luckily, she found our conversation entertaining.

With 4400 feet of climbing ahead of us, I had to know why our newbie (Jeannie)  decided to race today, posing the question as multiple choice.

“You decided to race today because A. Your husband thought you would enjoy it, B. You wanted a new challenge or C. You thought it would be fun.”  Jeannie answered with , “Or D. I had too much wine 2 months ago when he brought it up and I said yes.”  Her husband was racing the long course so she made the best of her drunken decision, vowing to never again agree to do such things when imbibing.

Jeannie making it happen

Jeannie making it happen

Other than playing tag with Jeannie, our day on the trail was pretty quiet with only a few of the longer route riders coming by after a couple hours.  Trail conditions were the best I’ve seen them in a couple of years so we took advantage of the fun downhill single-track and waited a good long while before descending behind our riders. The leisurely pace allowed for MANY pit stops and time for photos (Bulldog TANK greeted us at Aid Station 1).

TANK keeping watch on the Aid Station

TANK keeping watch on the Aid Station

At 7 miles to go, Remy found Sho (pronounced SHEW) sitting on the side of the trail but he refused any water or food she offered.  She returned to where I was taking a ‘natural break’ around the corner to tell me that he didn’t look too good and he didn’t have a water bottle. When we returned he was gone. My thoughts were, ‘Ripley is going to have to carry this guy out of here at some pointAt 5 miles to go, part way through the beginning of Collar Bone Alley trail, Sho is back on the side of the trail, rear wheel off like he had a flat.

“No pedal. Broke”, he says to me. I asked if he had a flat but handing me his wheel, it is not flat. “Did you crash?” I ask.  “No crash. No pedal, broke.” Hmmm. Looking over the bike, I moved the deraillieur hanger and noticed the chain had fallen to the inside. Yeah, no pedal if you dropped your chain.  We put his wheel back on and handed the bike back. Sho still refused to take food/water from us, but was in good spirits and smiling, even if his shin was bleeding and he looked exhausted. Remounting, he dangled one foot off a pedal and COASTED slowly downhill, too tired to do any pedaling.  I looked at Remy and we both had the same look- ‘This last 5 miles is going to take all day’.

The 50 milers and the 63 milers are coming by us now and we are going as slow as Sho. “GOOD JOB!” they yell as they fly by, not knowing we are sweeping. Eventually, the trail spit us out to the last check point sign, manned by a local firefighter.  “The aid station closed down an hour ago”, she says, ‘but I kept a bottle of water aside for this guy.”  Another rider had come through saying they gave this Japanese guy their water earlier. Glancing at my Cateye computer, it is 4:00 pm. We have been riding since 11 am and still have a couple miles to go.  Our firefighter is gently scolding  Sho, explaining that he needs to research an event like this before signing up. Not sure how much of what she said sunk in, but smiling, he responded with, “Uh, This…not for me”. We all had a chuckle about that.  I asked again if he had eaten. Pointing to his black leather fanny pack, he said, “Yes, chocolate”.  Makes perfect sense now.

½ mile to go and Sho had dismounted, walking his rented bike.  Remy asked if he was tired and he said his legs hurt. Yeah buddy, I bet they do.  I tried to explain that we are helpers. His response was priceless. “ Oh, so I am….last?” Yes. Yes you are. “So sorry, so sorry” he exclaims. We reassured him that LAST was OK but he felt so bad about it that he remounted, laying his arms across the bars as he pedaled and groaned up the last incline to the finish (5 ½ hours to complete 25 miles).

Almost to the Finish

Almost to the Finish

We learned after the race that Sho had only been in the United States for 3 days and was looking for something fun to do on-line. He saw the post for Test of Endurance , rented a bike and found his way out to the race  from Corvallis. Local Team Dirt  racers made sure Sho got a ride home though. In an ironic turn, both Jeannie and Sho WON their Cat 3 races, their first race ever. Promoter Mike Ripley made a big deal about Sho’s podium, telling his story to the trail-worn racers. Standing on the top step, our champion was beaming, bowing to the cheering crowd.  If that isn’t what Test of Endurance is all about, I don’t know what is. 

"VERY TIRED" but very happy says SHO

“VERY TIRED” but very happy says SHO

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