My legs had very bad cramps. “Yeah, whatever,” you say. “HTFU.”
So I did. But the cramps had started at the first water crossing on Big Sycamore Canyon and got worse. “Yeah, whatever,” you say. “HTFU.”
So I did. And they spread to both legs. “Yeah, whatever,” you say. “We don’t care about your menstrual cramps.”
As John Middleton passed me in a cloud of dirt and filth and sweat and grunting, he said, “Come on, Seth.”
“Come where?” I asked. “How much longer is this fucking road?” I silently thanked dog that it was mostly flat, an anomaly for anything in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“Couple miles,” he said. The last words I heard before he vanished were, “But the most horrible climb out here is just up the road.”
“What climb?” I wondered. I came to a water faucet where a dazed looking person was melting in his own sweat and filling his bottle, his hand shaking, his eyes glazed. When my turn came I lay under the nozzle and poured water all over my head, back, stomach, and legs. The cramps stopped for a moment. I contemplated living there under the spigot permanently.
Seizing the no-cramp opportunity I hopped on the bike and started up Horrible Hill. There were tiny little dots strewn out along it like insects stuck in flypaper, barely moving their little limbs across the painted blue skyscape that draped across the canvas of brown hills dotted with the odd green thing trying hopelessly to survive. Like me.
It reminded me of the time I got stuck on a mountain side outside of Shimogo-mura in Fukushima Prefecture. It was freezing cold and I almost died but the reason I remember that day is that it was the only time I had ever gotten off my bike because I could no longer pedal uphill.
I passed an insect on a mountain bike, barely turning a rear cog that was bigger than a UFO. He was panting. I was panting. The cramps resumed with a vengeance.
For the second time in my life I got off my bike because I could no longer pedal uphill. The insect passed me. “Good job,” I said, not adding the all important “you sorry motherfucker.”
My day ended about an hour later in wave after wave of cramping that lasted for hours. I had been attacked, dropped repeatedly, beaten mercilessly in the paceline from hell, and had had my lunch money stolen by a gang of bullies led by a meanie named Aaron Boyleston and his henchmen Marco and KK.
I’ve never felt worse, gone slower, or had so many people take gratuitous shots at my skull. I’ve never ridden slower on a 300-lb. cyclocross bike with 34mm knobby tires. I’ve never had so much post-ride pain. I’ve never had worse cramps, cramps so bad that the next day they still hurt. It was 72 miles, four hours-ish, and seemed like quadruple the distance.
In short, it was one of the best rides ever.
The Rivet Raid, as it was called, boasted a murderer’s row of elite riders, from world champion Keith Ketterer, who at age 102 smashed everyone to bits, to Aaron, Marco, Jonathan Woodbury, Jason Lavender, John Slover, Bart Clifford, Michael Penta, Todd Turley, Seth Huggins, and a whole bunch of people whose names I don’t remember and whose faces I barely saw as they blazed by me.
This ride also punctuated, for me, an amazing commentary about amateur road racing in America, if not the world. Bjorn Snider, a viciously strong dude who doesn’t race, i.e. pay stupid amounts of money to be treated like shit in ugly, faraway places by people who don’t like you, put on the Rivet Raid. It cost forty bucks, and here’s what you got (list sponsored by Pooh Bear-a-TX and Waldo):
Incredible all-you-can-drink coffee, nitro/cold brew and spanking hot, from Gear Grinderz Coffee.
Fresh pastries, energy bars, fruit, liquid hydration.
Total tech support with VeloFix; their mobile van posted up at various points throughout the ride.
Shortcuts that let you abandon when your legs fell off, and still got you back to the park in time to eat, hang out, swap lies.
BEER. (Or, sigh, craft water.)