I mean, there's a certain amount of sadistic glee (what the Germans call schadenfreude) in watching people suffer up dirt walls and ram their shins into barriers and roll around in filth, all while essentially nekkid and wearing pads in their full body leotards that look like a stack of tortillas.
And there's also the joy of watching the dirty fools, in the midst of their misery, stealing a glance at your Belgian brew and bucket o' fries. Ah! The jealousy in their eyes as they see you, lovely ladies gathered 'round and laughing at your every joke and rubbing the paunch you've sprouted in your post-road-race lethargy.
You poor bastards. Ol' Warner the Wily. Ringer. Dave K of the November Cartel. Poor, desperate bastards.
Trying to hold Joe Dombrowski's wheel. Still. After all these months.
I then went and wrote a little smug reminiscence of the event. The whole point of it all was that I stood above it, disdainful, hipster-like.
Well, I don't know what happened after that.
Maybe I've got too much guilt. Maybe spectating was just too nice. Maybe missing the latter part of the season after a broken collarbone put me in a funk that set me itching to race, any kind of race!
For whatever reason, this year I've decided to join the nekkid barrier slamming, dirt wallowing, filth rolling racers and compete in my first cross race ever. I'm not sure how my intrusion into 'cross finally let loose (yes, a flatulence analogy is probably appropriate), except this is often how things occur with me: I hold feelings inside, not really understanding what's happening, and then things just surprise me and others, and when these ideas occur, they are usually quite oppressively smelly.
That's right, this is an highbrow blog, but not so highbrow that we ignore the richness of intestinal literary flourishes. Even Luther wrote a few fart jokes in his day.
Back to the issue at hand: my impending humiliation on dirt....
I come to this complex sport without, thankfully, the additional complexity of gears and the worry of shearing my derailleur off or otherwise destroying my drivetrain, which seems to happen about three times a race. That's because I'm going singlespeed--Chas, giver of all good things and enabler in chief, offered me his single-speed whip, along with mountain shoes.
Last night I took it out to become familiar with its only gear, its geometry, and to begin learning what cyclocross experts call "skills:" turning, getting on and off the bike, ramming one's head into trees and not even grunting, learning how to ride nekkid except for Vaseline, and running while carrying one's bike up stairs and drinking a quart of beer on the verge of shitting oneself.
The very first time I tried to practice getting on and off the bike ("dismounting" and "mounting") I snapped my ankle clean in two. I was on the edge of the C and O Canal path--riding at approximately 35 mph, bordered by a stream of sewage on both sides and on viciously razor-sharp rocks, and, in the same, spontaneous way I'd decided to do DCCX, with great foresight, I decided to dismount.
Never having actually seen the technique, I just assumed it was a matter of throwing the ol' legs over the side and letting the rest just happen. Lead with the head, right? Keeping the center of gravity low. Follow through. Exist in the flow.
The first part went well, unclipping the foot and swinging it behind the wheel while hurtling past a jogger and her dogs (it really was a poorly thought-out decision, in every way, on my part).
Down the free foot went onto the gravel, and before I could obey my mental command to "RUN", the pedal had ripped through my Achilles and come out the front of the shin. Jesus Lance Armstrong, that hurt. By some miracle I didn't face plant in the gravel or in the slimy canal.
After I had suffered through the pain and painstakingly re-applied my 1-inch thick slathering of Vaseline and my tortilla-chamois, it occurred to me what probably should have occurred to me while I still had two functioning feet: just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply mount and dismount a cyclocross bike.
First lesson learned.
I limped down to an isolated grassy park and, slowly, tentatively, and on my newly bloodied stump of a leg, practiced the skills I'll need on Sunday.
After slamming my nether regions a dozen times, barking my shins, leaping onto a tree branch instead of my bike once (that actually did happen, don't ask me how), and tripping over imaginary barriers several times, I believe I have the requisite skills for the job.
I have a binder full of requisite skills, and an independent study conducted by skills experts has concluded as such.
I hope to not be entirely humiliated in my virginal effort at 'cross. Please don't gawk when you see me pass by, and by all means, hide your wives, hide your frites, hide your beer. I may start the race, but nothing says I have to finish it--especially if I get hungry or thirsty.
I know I'm an idiot for doing this, OK? But what else is bike racing but idiocy?