Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Now Know What Noah Was Thinking When He Decided to Build the Ark.

And Noah said unto the Lord: "Seriously, Dude, there is no way I'm going to be able to make it around this track on a bicycle."

And the response rang out from the sky: "If that guy in the day glow jersey with his number pinned on the front is willing to go out there on his commuter bike, your yacht-driving, castelli-kit-wearing ass sure as shit better get out there and race."

First night of Monday night racing out at Portland International Raceway. The weather went to total and utter crap around 2 PM. Huge droplets of rain falling in sheets out of the sky. This kind of weather doesn't have a gentle name like "mist" or "sprinkle." Those words bring up images of little girls running around in Laura Ashley dresses, skipping and giggling and carrying bouquets of daisies in a light spring rain in an attempt to sell you toilet paper or yogurt.

This is a "deluge," bordering on a "monsoon." You'd be a fool to be outside dressed as anything other than the Morton's Fish Stick Fisherman and carrying a whaling spear. Cycling rain gear is not a functional alternative.

I met Burns under the Hawthorne Bridge around 5. "Are you fucking kidding me?" "Seriously."

But we were already wet, it wasn't THAT cold and both of us had recently ridden in more apocalyptic conditions (New Year's Day, the Palm Springs Ice Storm, the Independence Valley Road Race Blizzard, Banana Belt 2). And it was sort of a ridiculous pride thing.

Thirty minutes later we are at PIR. Burns has apparently forgot to share with the appropriate authorities her insistence that "it always clears up in time for PIR." It hasn't. Rather, it is raining harder. I make fists and streams of water seep from between my fingers.

There were about two dozen people crammed under the registration tent like a pack of cornered wet rats. It smells like wet wool, motor oil and insanity. We sit around for about 20 minutes while the officials make a decision about running combined fields and starting times. By the time the race starts, I'm shaking uncontrollably. Partially from cold and partially from the anger of being personally mocked by Mother Nature.

All of the non-novice riders go off together...approximately 30 men and 10 women. What follows is ten laps of surging, resting, eating spray, dodging the dude in the yellow rain jacket. I'm determined to stay with the main pack. With each surge, my legs ache as I try to not get spit off of the back, which gets harder and harder with each lap. But each time I think that I am going to pop and spend the rest of the race riding alone, someone at the front sits up. A few minutes of relief before the whole cycle starts up again.

On the seventh lap the rain begins falling so hard that I can't see more than thirty feet in front of me. I'm squinting and blinking and praying that we don't ride into the wall. And then, at the darkest and wettest hour, the strangest thing happens.

The pack starts cheering.

Two dozen people celebrating the fact that no matter what Mother Nature throws at the Pacific Northwest, someone somewhere has enough dedication to host a bike race. And several other someones are crazy enough to race it.

After the worst was over, the sky cleared and we raced the final ten minutes under a clear sky. I met my goal and stayed with the main pack until the bitter end, but couldn't be bothered to stand up and sprint in the final 50 meters. Finished around fifteenth overall and fourth woman.

All of my HV teammates that started the race (Anna, Sallyanne and Sam, our new little speed demon from New Zealand) finished the race. And several others (Alice, Mindy, Jon, Jeff) actually braved the elements to cheer into the wind every time we passed by. We may not be the fastest, and obviously not the brightest, but we are tough as nails.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for not blaming me for the great idea of racing on Monsoon Monday. I too had the same reaction when it really opened up--I whooped and hollered. Justin Serna looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Last night was a thing of beauty!

Anonymous said...

I was out there that night as well in the novice race in the perfect confluence of Portland life - cycling and rain. However, my failure to bring the glasses cost me. Spent most of the time working out the optimal distance from the wheel in front. I learned that a 2ft gap delivers rain horizontally into the eye at 30mph. I felt like a protester at the G8 meeting under fire from the water cannons.

Still, it was fun and the small turnout allowed me to finish higher than I would have in a larger field.

Andy said...

While I understand that dressing as a fisherman may impead your cycling, I really think the whaling spear could come in handy.