Monday, January 26, 2009

Frosty Bottom

It's really sort of funny how the events of the day unraveled on Saturday morning. Maybe I had my most recent post in my mind. Maybe my good, disciplined subconscious self willed this all to happen just to teach my stubborn, careless self a lesson. The race turned out to be exactly what I needed it to be. As annoying as it was at the time, it needed to happen.

I started off in the morning feeling unprepared, but hopeful. The tools I had packed were my standard set: my small pump (that I have heard many say is pretty useless and it would take forever to pump a tire on the side of the trail with), a chain tool, extra chain links, a tube, and a multi-tool. I realized at the start that I forgot my tire levers. I also had forgotten to check the my tire pressure before leaving, despite Brian's repeated reminders.

Despite the apprehension that the race directors created about the icy downhill section we would encounter as we left Kincaid Park, the start of the race was uneventful. My studded tires gripped the glare ice even on the curves heading down on the coastal trail. I even managed to stop in time when a guy who had just passed me wiped out on his Pugsley three feet in front of me, avoiding riding over his head by inches.

I felt really good in the 9 miles from Kincaid to Westchester Lagoon. The trail was made of hard bumpy ice, but my front suspension helped to minimize the beating on my upper body. This section of the trail was really tranquil. I was by myself most of the time, except for the runner who kept catching up on hills and reminding me of how slow I was riding. The inlet is always beautiful at this time of year, littered with ice boulders and Mt. Susitna in the background.

Approaching Westchester Lagoon, I noticed that my back tire had little air in it. Then I remembered the last time I rode my bike. It was before Christmas out in Houston, AK when I attempted to ride with Brian and the guys on the soft ATV trail near Hatcher's Pass. I had let air out of the tire in an attempt to float on top of the snow.

Maybe if I add a little air, I could go faster. I pulled over and reluctantly pulled out my shitty pump, knowing that this was not going to go well.

I could already feel the windchill coming across the lagoon and freezing my now exposed fingers. I unscrewed the cap and the valve and jammed the pump on, turning it to lock it. I could hear the air spilling out of my tires. shhhhhhhhhhhh Panicking I pulled the pump back off. I waited a bit and tried it again. Letting even more air out I got frustrated and plopped down on the ice pouting, but realizing this was my own fault, it was bound to happen, and it was time for me to learn my lesson.

At this time the runner who had been lurking behind me ran past me. And then the masses came. All of the fatbikes without studs that had been sliding around behind me passed. One girl stopped to help. I told her my pump wasn't working and she kindly handed me her pump. Frustrated but relieved, I pulled my pump off of the tube ripping out the entire Presta valve. "F!$%$%!$%K!" I blurted out.

Looking startled the girl said, "Just keep it. You can give it to me when you catch up." "Thank you." I said. And she continued on. I took off my wheel and opened my pack just as I remembered that I didn't have tire levers. At this time my fingers were starting to lose feeling, but I knew that people get tires off of the rims all the time without levers, so I tried. I failed.

All of my unpreparedness was coming back to haunt me in one gush and I felt overwhelmed. And stubborn. And stupid. I have always felt the need to rebel in my life and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm the youngest of three and was always being told what to do and how to do it. If someone says I am supposed to do something one way, I do the opposite. Yes, I know it is quite immature and shocking that as a 32 year old woman I still have retained this attitude, but it is the truth.

Now the runners were starting to pass me, elevating my feelings of defeat and guilt. And just as I was about to give up and walk home, two little angels road up on their bikes. Thank you Ted and Greg for kindly removing my tire, and helping me get the tube pumped and reattached. You saved my race.

Although now it was no longer a race and I was back to my usual routine of just trying to finish. With my new tire pumped to the brim with lovely air, I rolled over bump after bump of ice and snow the final 15 miles to the finish. Coming in as the last person on a bike, and 40 minutes after the first runner, I felt surprisingly good.

And so it's time brush my attitude aside and become self sufficient with my bike out on the trail. As much as I'd like the experience of riding to be pure and simple and to not have to fiddle with gear all the time, I know that it is necessary if I want to ride on my own. This race was my kickoff to Soggy Bottom training. I planned to start building my miles in February, and now I plan to learn more about how to fix my bike and generally take care of myself on the trail, because I know there won't always be a Ted or a Greg out on the trail to come to my rescue, and frankly I don't want to ever be "rescued" again.


Geoff said...

I can totally relate to your experience in the Frosty Bottom. I acknowledge the necessity of preparedness and dealing with gear, but I still carry the secret wish that I could just never do anything with my bike and still have it work (And I ALWAYS forget or lose something crucial that I end up needing.) So your post made me smile.

Geoff said...

Oh, that post was from Jill. Don't know why blogger signed me in as Geoff.

Tim said...

You're spoiled from being so light! I can't imagine starting a ride without thinking about tire pressure.

Still, it's always good to learn such lessons during in-town rides instead of out in the boonies, miles from help. One more step toward the Soggy.