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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Skull Valley II ~ The Badger's Revenge

Race day - up early. The Badger is quiet. Not unpleasant, but very busy in his head. We have certain luxuries this time. I flirted outrageously with the 90-year-old motel clerk the day before and got us a late checkout. We can return to the room after the race and the Badger can take a real shower before our long drive home. The free continental breakfast was decent. We always carry our own good coffee. No rain to deal with. Let's go!

About half way to Skull Valley, he muttered, "I wish we'd left a little earlier." When we pulled into the road where all the cyclists park, it was clear that this year's event was much better attended than last. I finally parked illegally and let him out to get ready and to warm up. He rolled away and it was very close to his starting time. I didn't know if he'd get back to me with the answer to the $64 million question. He did! "Limes, no personal follow vehicles this year. Just ride on out to the turn-around and I'll see you there." I was disappointed about that, but remembered he told me last year, "Your maiden voyage is the best it will ever get. I've never even heard of personal follow vehicles in a road race."

My 27+ mile drive was fairly uneventful, but I was watching the course carefully. At the starting line, I noticed far more racers in his 50+/60+ group than had been registered earlier. The finish line and 1 Km marker were highly visible and there were flags and banners that hadn't appeared last year. The road had been cleared of much of the rocks and gravel left by the previous day's storms - a good thing. I drove slowly, I sang poorly but loudly and I watched racers. I watched the Prius getting 100 mpg for part of the drive and pondered that. Maybe because of the increased number of competitors, or maybe for no good reason, I saw a lot of flats happen - official neutral cars pulling over to assist the unfortunates. Way too close to the turn-around, on that sharp descent, there was a crash with several broken-up bikes in the road, cyclists down, and one young man banged up and bleeding pretty badly.

This time, the turn-around was well marked, manned by plenty of volunteers, showing multiple orange cones. Still so narrow the racers weren't going to get through by very many more than two-by-two. I had to roll quite a way in order to park the car and position myself for the water hand-up. Finally I spotted a large wash I could run in while handing up. I tucked the Prius away, got out, stretched, felt the sun . . . . there weren't too many people crowding me. I'd left the biggest group behind. Farther along in this wash was a really young woman with a lot of water bottles at her feet. She was a race volunteer and would hand up to anyone who needed water. It's been said that Limes could talk to a dead snake and the snake would talk back to her. It's also been said that Limes has never met a stranger. I moseyed on over . . she's a 22-year-old triathlete from Tucson and her boyfriend was riding in the race. I told her about the Badger, we spoke of cycling in general and I told her about my walking and why I do it. It would be fair to say we were simpatico!

She didn't have to watch for anyone. Her boyfriend wouldn't come by for a long time as his race was more than 80 miles. I needed to pay attention to time, because the Badger had reminded me how fast the first half of this course is. I watched her handing up water and she nailed it every time. The problem was her delivery method. "Ummm, excuse me, Grasshopper, but why don't you run when you hand up?" "Oh, I was taught to do it this way." Her form was to grasp the bottle with all 5 fingers across the top - leaving the cyclist more bottle surface to grab. She held her arm out straight, but loose. When the cyclist grabbed, her arm was pushed forward - she didn't resist the movement. And she was delivering 100% of the time. "Well!" thought I.

He announced his approach by bopping me with his empty from across the highway as he descended. It hit my knees and rolled away, but I can read "Pro-Cyclery" upside down and in motion. I quickly asked cutie Tri-Ath if she'd hold one out for him, too, since I didn't have a good track record with this. "Sure! Tell me what he's wearing." When the pack took the turn-around I spotted him from quite a distance. I had him picked out! I was going to do it cutie Tri-Ath's way and if I missed, she wouldn't. The only thing wrong with that plan was that nobody clued in the Badger on his bike. "Run, Limes, run!" he shouted. To my mortification, I couldn't run. The hill was right on me. The car blocked me. He was swooping down on me. I tried Tri-Ath's way and he missed it. I noticed her hand was empty but she wasn't happy - someone else got it.

Running for the car, I quickly came up on the pack and I saw him strong on the climb. I knew he was setting the pace - it was obvious. He was out of the saddle and unlike during some parts of last year's race, he was not hanging with road toads. He was leading this pack, on his feet in the pedals and he made me think of a mighty warrior. I got choked up watching him. In the year that had passed, he went from very little confidence to "come on, I'll lead this parade!" I could see it. I didn't have to hear him say a word.

I drove ahead and picked a good spot to park so he'd see the Prius first. I went far ahead of it on foot and picked a section of highway where I could run like the wind when I saw him. When they came into view I started to run slowly, arm extended. I could hear them approach and I ran faster. I heard a racer say, "Let the man through, he's being handed up water." I knew they were giving him his propers for pulling them up the hill! It's hard to run and hand up water when one's throat is constricting from emotion, but I did this. I could feel the rush of air from his bike and he masterfully grabbed that bottle. "Good one, Limes! Thanks!"

There wasn't much left for me to do now. I got in immediately behind the official follow vehicle for the 50+/60+ and stayed on its bumper for a lot of miles. I saw the team shenanigans the Badger blogged about and realized he wasn't going to be able to turn the race into the scorcher it could have been if there had not been so many resistors. OK, so be it. He remained strong, on the front, often setting the pace. He and another racer worked together and looked like skilled young men showing the others how to do it. It happens that there were continual flats and breakdowns. The official vehicle pulled off a lot. I'm rather big on community service, so when the vehicle pulled off, I stayed behind the pack with my flashers blinking. When the vehicle came back to the pack, I immediately let it in and returned to "regular citizen". The driver waved and nodded at me repeatedly. He didn't give the appreciation the sheriff's reserves showed last year, but I took it that he was pleased with the teamwork.

Until he wasn't any longer. The finish line was within view. I ducked my head a little to watch the Badger fly across, no errant red car threatening him this time. He easily had first in his category. I saw it for myself. When I straightened up, Mr. Official Follow Vehicle hung his head out of his window, looked back at me and bellowed,"This isn't a spectator sport - you're making it dangerous on the road for the cyclists!" Huh? I guess my little head dipping beneath the steering wheel freaked the man out, and I felt truly chastised. I maintained good balance - no smart-mouth - and drove to the meet-up area.

Quickly we zoomed into Prescott, the Badger showering while I decamped us. We stopped for a sandwich and headed back out toward Skull Valley. The hosting club was still packing it up, and the Badger was able to get his official placing and his trophy plaque. And that's when the driver of the official follow vehicle spotted me. He came over to give me the (gentle) business. I was respectful, but held my own. I wondered why he was apparently so happy out on the road to have my assistance, but now was spanking me in front of the other organizers. All of the organizers insisted I had been no one's personal follow vehicle in 2008, because that was never allowed. The Badger looked at the old gent who told him in '08 that he could have a personal follow vehicle, but said gent looked at the ground and remained silent. Brown eyes looked into blue eyes and said, "Let's get out of here and go to the place we live where everyone is full of b.s. and no one tries to deny it."

Driving home, I could see him start to sag. "Want me to drive, Badger?" "Oh, maybe after awhile." "Want to just go on home after you drop me, Badger, no dinner together?" "OK, maybe. You won't feel badly?" "No." "What about your birthday presents?" "You could come in for 5 minutes, never sit down, and watch me open them." "OK. I could use your bathroom, too." "OK, Badger. It was a great weekend!"

In my ears right now: "This isn't a spectator sport . . . . " Um, it is to me, home dude.

Something that charmed me:


  1. And a good time was had. Sorry about bopping you with the bottle, I was just trying to get it into your vicinity!

  2. No worries, Badge! I needed to be paying attention and that was a good calling card. At least I didn't catch it on my nose.