How To Come In Last, Dead Last

Frank and I rode cyclocross this morning.  As I’ve mentioned before I am horrible at cyclocross.  When I do cyclocross, I come in last, dead last.  And yet, I love cyclocross.  It is so much fun.  No, really, it is.  So, I thought I’d take a moment to impart to you the tricks of coming in dead as a doornail last.

1.  Wear lots of layers to stay warm.  On the top layer, make sure you wear a jersey that instantly lowers expectations of your cycling skills or lack thereof.  I like to wear my Fat Cyclist jerseys because people think, “Oh, she’s a fat cyclist.  She’s not going to be very fast or very good.”  Under no circumstances should you wear a jersey emblazoned with words like speedy, racing, or any other macho phrases.  It’s better to give people a realistic picture right from the get go.

2.  When encountering sections that are too technical, too scary, or otherwise icky get off your bike and walk.  I walked a muddy the first time and rode through it the second.  The second time was way more fun.  By avoiding technical, scary, or icky sections you’ll also avoid doing an endo over the handlebars.  My friend, Nick, did not adhere to this tip and ended up landing on his noggin and cracking his helmet.  (His crash did make a really super photo.)  Instead of crashing on the dangerous sections, save your falls for perfectly flat, slightly muddy surfaces.  You’ll look like an idiot when you lay your bike down, but other than a few bruises and a scratched up ego, you’ll survive unscathed.  Honestly, I think this was just Frank’s way of showing me who the boss is.

3.  Ride the track by braille.  Go slow enough that your glasses will be perpetually fogged.  This will make the track impossible to see.  Instead you’ll know you’ve veered off the track when you start running over large bushes.  When you hit a bush, turn your wheel the other way until you hit another bush.  Or a tree.  Or the caution tape marking the course.  Riding by braille is way more exciting than actually seeing where you’re going.

4.  Ride slow enough that you get lapped by the leaders.  Better yet, ride slow enough that you get lapped by everyone.  Including the kids.  If possible, ride slow enough that the leaders lap you twice.  That way when time is up, you will have only completed two laps and everyone else will have completed three or four.  They will finish looking red-faced, muddy, sweaty, completely pooped, and ready to hurl.  You will finish red-faced, muddy, sweaty, but with plenty of energy to drink a slug of hot cocoa and scarf a banana or two.

5.  This tip comes from Mrs. Bike Mechanic, Amy.  She is way faster than I am, but I thought this was a good tip anyway.  In the morning when you’re carefully pulling on layer after layer of Spandex, do not put your toe warmers on.  That way when you’re standing around waiting for the race to start, your toes can freeze so completely that they will be void of all sensation.  When the race starts, you won’t be able to tell whether your feet have connected with your pedals or not.  This will allow you to pedal the air a few times without actually moving your bike forward.  Genius, Amy.

6.  Be a martyr.  At the end of the race, ask people how their race was.  Hopefully they’ll answer “Well, I didn’t come in last.”  Then you can swoop in and say “That’s because I came in last.  You’re welcome.”  It’s important to let others in the race know how much you’ve sacrificed on their behalf.  Only a benevolent martyr such as yourself would be willing to save everyone else from coming in last, dead last.

Dear Frank,

Dear Frank the Tank,

I know how excited you were to ride cyclocross on Sunday.  I was, too.  No, really, I was.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I was equal parts intimidated and excited, but my eagerness far outweighed my fear.  That’s why I pumped up your tires the night before and filled up a pair of water bottles.

You can hardly blame me for the fact that your back tire was flat AGAIN the next morning.  What were you doing that night anyway?  It is completely my fault that I didn’t have any spare tubes.  I looked on the cycling shelf AND in the cycling drawer.  Only tubes for The Rocket.  An egregious error on my part.

That’s why I called Sir Steve, Bike Mechanic Extraordinaire at an ungodly hour the morning of the race and asked him to send a spare tube with his wife, Amy.  C’mon, Frank, you’ve met Sir Steve many, many times.  He would never do you wrong.  No, I don’t think Sir Steve loves you more than I do.  Now you’re just being hurtful, Frank.

Once Amy arrived with the tube, I was excited to load you onto the car and get your tire changed at the track.  Yes, I know the drive was foggy and it was only thirty degrees out.  I should have covered your seat.  Again, another unforgivable error on my part.  No, I do not know what it’s like to have ice crystals freeze on my seat, thank you very much.

At the cyclocross track, you may remember that I lovingly took you off the roof rack and brushed the ice off of your handlebars, gears, and seat.  You might have noticed that Amy and I got straight to work changing your tire, a task both of us prefer to leave to Sir Steve.  Sadly, he was eating hot oatmeal far, far away at home with the kids.  Amy and I did our best.  In fact, Frank, you may recall us squealing with glee when we’d changed your tube and had you all put together again.  There may have even been a high five in there somewhere.  That’s how glad we were to have changed your tire all by ourselves.

Frank, I understand that you were bitter with cold, but your response was totally uncalled for.  As we grinned from ear to ear because of our triumphant tire change, you really didn’t have to hiss at us.  In fact, I’m not even sure it was a hiss.  You let out an exasperated “PSSSSSHHHHHH!” and your back tire began to shrivel.  What was that all about?  Seriously, we could have done without your attitude as we helplessly watched your back tire deflate itself.

So, I am very sorry that you had to watch from the roof rack as the other bikes zipped around the track without you.  Maybe next time you will hold your tongue and even a little air.  That is why I sent you on a short vacation to Sir Steve’s bike hospital.  He’s going to figure out what’s wrong and make you all better.

Christmas is almost here, Frank, and I know it’s your wish to get your wheels dirty at cyclocross.  I, too, hope that you’ll be up and running for the race later this month.  Maybe if you behave yourself Santa will even exchange your usual lump of coal for some shiny new tubes in your saddle pack.  Merry Christmas, Frank!



Frank’s Revenge

I think my mountain bike feels jilted.  As you know, I have a sleek road bike, The Rocket.  What I’ve failed to mention in previous seasons is that I have another bike.  Yes, the red-headed step-child of bikes.  Frank the Tank.  Frank is a hulking 40 something pound Giant mountain bike with a tricked out Judy fork.  That’s as much as I know about bike parts, so save us both from a very boring conversation and don’t ask about components or wheel size or any of that other stuff.

The past two years I’ve been smitten with the Rocket and our long, smooth, beautiful road rides.  Although I’m ashamed to admit this, whilst cycling on the Rocket, Frank sat unloved, unridden, and increasingly bitter in the garage.  If you’re not a cyclist, you’re probably a bit skeptical about the fact that bikes have feelings.  If you are a cyclist, then you are no doubt aware of the perils that a scorned bike can unleash.

On a Sunday in December I registered for my first cyclocross race.  Cyclocross is an unforgiving combination of mountain biking, hauling your bike over barriers, and then riding some more as fast as you can over a marked course.  Sometimes you even have to run and push your bike.  I don’t run.  Ever.  But there is a small group of unbalanced people who think this is fun.

So, Frank and I started the race full of excitement.  (Actually, Frank was full of vengeance, but I was not yet aware of his state of mind.) Let me just state for the record that riding Frank for the first time in 2 years in a cyclocross race was dumb.  Very dumb.  Frank is equipped with platform pedals, not the kind that attach to your shoes.  I’ve grown quite attached to The Rocket.  Literally.  With shoes that clip into the pedals, I pull up on my foot and the pedal comes with me.  When I push for extra power, the pedal obliges.

Not on Frank.  When I pulled up on my foot, the pedal spun around and impaled my calf.  Then I’d angrily slam my foot on the pedal causing the opposite pedal to spin forward and gnaw on my shin.  You’d think after one or two times, I’d learn and adjust.  You’d be wrong, my friend, so wrong.  Most of the time I was focusing all my energy on not crashing and so I’d forget that my shoes were not attached to the pedals and I’d try in vain to harness extra power by pulling up on the pedals.  Every single time those pedals would zip up and nail me in the exact same part of my legs.

Despite the increasing amounts of blood and pain in the general leg area, I was actually having fun.  After completing 2 laps I was scraped, bleeding and bruised, but proud to have tried something new.  (Ok, so I got lapped and most everyone did 3 laps, not a measly 2, but still.)  Strangely, when I stopped riding, I found myself eager to do it again.  In fact, I thought “I should go mountain biking today.”  So I did.

About an hour or so after cyclocross, I thought Frank and I had made amends.  We’d splashed through mud puddles, cruised over rocks, and turned my legs into hamburger.  So after the race, I agreed to go on a short, “flat” 9 mile mountain bike ride with my team captains, Nick and Abby.  “There’s only one hill and the rest of it’s really flat.”  Nick assured me.  It turns out that Nick blocks out the parts of rides he doesn’t care for.  Either that or he was in on Frank’s master plan of torture.

The first half of the trail was full of steep inclines followed by way too technical descents.  Basically I dragged all 40 something pounds of Frank up and down hills for four and a half punishing miles.  I knew this was penance for the years of neglect.  That didn’t stop me from making several demeaning remarks about Frank’s weight.  He had just cause to complain about my weight, too, but Frank is a gentleman and kept his comments to himself.

After all that cajoling, grunting, sweating, pushing, and pulling Frank, I was rewarded with four and a half miles of the most beautiful singletrack I’ve laid eyes on.  It was smooth with some interesting curves and just the right amount of mud puddles.  It was blissful.  I loved every second of it and I have a feeling that Frank and I are friends again.  I hope.