Monday, September 12, 2005

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

LOTOJA Classic - 208 Miles - Road Race
To quote Demi Moore form "GI Jane": "Do you know what day it is?"
"Yeah, it's I'm-Fucking-Cold-Day."

The day started off innocuous enough. Clear skies, temp around 55°. As I stood in the start group I decided my light arm warmers would be warm enough; and for a while, they were. The rain started about 10 minutes later and the temperature began to drop. being in the Cat 5 group I never felt safe enough to take my hands off the bars and after about 20 miles decided to just ride off the fron with a few other guys. In Cat 5, there is certainly NOT safety in numbers. At the first feed zone I got my thick arm warmers from my crew, as well as a vest. They offered more clothes, I didn't think it was that bad, so I didn't take them.

The rain got harder, the temperature got lower. I was told 40°. At the foot of the first big climb, a small group attacked and I went with them more out of a desire to stay warm than anything. By this time I was soaked to the bone. I reached back to put on my thick arm warmers only to discover that I'd lost one somewhere long the way. One arm bare, I continued along and was surprised to find myself dropping everyone but 2 others by 5K from the summit. The three of us continued through the weather. Rain turned to sleet which then turned to snow. Big heavy flakes began to accumulate and not melt off my arms and legs. I couldn't move my hands. Couldn't shift. Couldn't brake, couldn't hold a water bottle. Peeing on the bike felt warm and comforting. At the summit I was alone and thought, "I'm going to win my group!" Ten minutes later, I was wondering if I'd be taken to the hospital.

I went over the summit alone and started to notice people walking there bike down the descent. I wondered why, and then realized I couldn't really squeeze the brake levers. One guy from my group caught me and we coasted downhill together, unable to talk to each other. A little further and the descent eased off and we were able to slow down. We then saw the ambulances and police cars. race officials were pulling people out of the race that they didn't think were safe. They pulled us, and soon pulled some of the other guys in our group as they came by. At first we protested, "We're in the lead!" After 30 seconds of sitting in the police car, we were quite grateful.

I couldn't get off the bike by myself. I couldn't take my wet clothes off by myself. I was shivering and convulsing uncontrollably. the paramedics came around and were checking everyone's pupils and some peoples temperature. Ten minutes later, the 2 guys were taken away in ambulances. After half an hour, they let me continue on. At the next Feed Zone, it was total carnage. People in space blankets, people in sleeping bags, people in firemen's coats laying on cots, ambulances everywhere. I got some dryer clothes, drank some hot chocolate, sat on the ground and had my crew rub my body until the medics let me continue on.

The snow abated, but the rain did not. It continued the entire race. It just rained harder. I continued on, lamenting all the cars I recognized as my friends' pass me, offering encouragement and continue on...with their bikes on top. I had a crash at some point, but didn't really feel it. I had a flat about 5K from a Feed Zone, but rode it in and had to wait until my hands worked to be able to change it. I got hot soup 60 miles from the was heaven and truly welcome. I finished at dusk. many, many people finished after dark, and well after dark.

When all was said and done, 645 of the 1000 racers did not finish. I still have no feeling in two fingers on my left hand.
It wasn't a bike race. It was simply a matter of survival and finishing.