Monday, April 03, 2017

Renegade Gents Race 7.0: Triumph Through Adversity

My ride started a little earlier and a little further away. AM sunrise over the High Trestle Trail
Every year I've done the Renegade Gents Race it has been awesome for one reason or another. The fact that the same team has been together since the first one, seven Gents rides ago, is maybe the reason why this means so much to me and why the ride has so many great memories for me. This year, despite the fact that we had to replace D-Corn, who couldn't make it due to a work obligation, was no exception.

I spoke with Mrs. Guitar Ted earlier in March and we decided together that going down to stay overnight near to the event would be fun. It would also make a super early, in the dark, two hour drive on the day of the race unnecessary for me. Winning.

We arrived Friday night, had a great family meal together, and I worked out with Mrs. Guitar Ted and then watched my kids play in the pool area before knocking off for the evening. Sleep was so-so, but when I awoke, I had breakfast with my wife and kitted up for a 14+ mile ride to the event's start. I took the High Trestle Trail out of Ankeny, Iowa which cuts across country diagonally, saving me some distance over going up on gravel roads. It was brisk, about 34°, but the winds were light and the day looked to be a really good one in terms of the weather.

Out in the open country on the High Trestle Trail headed to the start of the Gents Race
My greatest fear was that I would flat and miss our 9:04 am start time, but those fears were unfounded. The trail was clean and the only scare I had was when I found myself riding in amongst hundreds of migrating Robins. They were flying up along the trail corridor where it was wooded on each side of the trail. As they were flying back and forth across my path, I feared I might be struck by an unpleasant bomb, but I emerged at the race start at the Nite Hawk Bar and grill unscathed.

L-R: Event organizer, Rob Versteegh, Teammate Steve and his wife, "K-Corn" who replaced D-Corn
As I said, we were down one teammate for the event since D-Corn wasn't going to be there. Part of the schtick for the members of our team is that we all have facial hair, with the exception of D-Corn, whose job won't allow such a thing. Well, when I found out that D-Corn wasn't going to be there, I requested that his replacement have facial hair. Captain Steve told me he had it all under control. I trusted him, but I had no idea he was going to have his wife Kathy wear a fake beard and stoke their tandem! It was fun though, and we welcomed our new teammate, "K-Corn", with open arms. Bob and Sam were also there, so we were racked up and ready to roll for our seventh Renegade Gents Race.

We rode the same course as last year minus the excessive, mighty wind, and the roads were smooth and fast. Teams could be spotted up the road in clusters, unlike last year when the wind shredded teams and there were bikes and bodies all over the road less than a mile into the course. We were not having any of that this time with winds being a non-factor, really. It stayed that way all day as well.

It seems that every year we have a teammate that has difficulty. We also seem to have a team that leaves no one behind as well. If one is slow, we adjust our speeds accordingly, and if we all feel good, we speed along at a good clip. All the above happened Saturday, but it didn't look good after about ten miles into it.

Bob leading us out. The roads are sandy, not unlike the Gravel Worlds course, in this part of the state of Iowa.
 We were maybe ten miles in and I looked back to see Sam falling off the back. I drifted back to help him catch my wheel and see if he might get himself back on, but he kept drifting back. I went back to him to chat and see what might be the matter.

It is no secret that Sam has recently been struggling with his health. He wasn't always in such a pickle though. Back when he was piling on hundreds and thousands of miles on his bicycle I couldn't keep up with him. His "motor" was tuned and he could ride away from anyone on the team the first year we did the Gents Race. However; Sam's profession of being a restaurant owner and chef makes it difficult for him not to overindulge. You can read his own words on the subject here. Warning- It is a highly personal read and the language reflects this. He has recently turned the corner on his health, but it took him longer than 30 days to get where he was and it will take longer than that by far to get back to where he used to be. It happens and his struggles are not unfamiliar to many of us.

Sam up ahead trying not to get mowed down by a huge farm implement of doom.
So, when I looked at Sam when I drifted back to him I could see that he was in difficulty. He was already drenched in sweat. His cycling cap was dripping wet. He just didn't seem to be able to control his breathing and heart rate. He told me he was done.

I gave him a hug as we rode and encouraged him in the best way I knew how. Sam kept riding....

We were a ways behind the remainder of the team. I figured Sam would want to say something to them and would hang on until either they stopped to wait up or, in what seemed like an unlikely event, we caught back up. Meanwhile Sam kept riding........

Besides the food business Sam is a musician. He has a "band" and writes music, records, and performs. So, he and I have the guitar thing in common. I started talking about guitars and asked Sam about his stuff. He got pretty animated, was talking with no difficulty, and he kept riding........

Now, I am not taking credit for anything, but by this time I realized that there was a greater than 50% chance Sam would actually make the checkpoint, at the minimum. Then I also noted that Bob and the tandem team of Steve and K-Corn were dialing it back a bit, or so it seemed. Maybe we were actually catching them up? Whatever the way it really was, all I knew was that we were all back together again as a team. And Sam kept riding.........

Barns for Jason- Renegade Gents version
We were rolling the long stretch of the course which went due North. Last year this was where we were riding into the teeth of a mighty gale and suffering badly. Doing ten miles an hour at maximum effort, and then falling back to a more sustainable 7 miles per hour, while trying to hold a tight echelon, was trying our spirits to the breaking point. Our spirits broke at the checkpoint last year. This time that section was enjoyable, and we rolled along doing pretty well. Suddenly Sam declared, "I suck at quitting."

Indeed he did. I took it as a good sign that he would be going the distance, but I was ready to allow him to quit as well. That said, he looked a lot better, the sweating receded, or seemed to, and Sam was able to put in short bursts of acceleration which was encouraging. And we kept riding......

Mandatory "Safety Stop" after the checkpoint stop. Yes- K-Corn wore the beard the entire ride!
We made the checkpoint, and I wasn't sure Sam would continue, but I was hopeful of that. He got a message he needed to respond to and so I didn't get a read on his mindset as he was busy on the phone for much of the time we were at the checkpoint.

Bob always brings beer so we had some cans of Budweiser and PBR along with some things we had to eat. I had two of my pemmican bars and a bit of almond butter along with a pork chop that Bob brought. Just the meat, no sandwich here! After we passed around a flask of whiskey it was back on the bikes. Sam was coming along too!

I think the team had some inkling by this point that we were not going to be breaking any records for speed on this ride and Bob was saying we should stop twice more in the next 30 miles to break it up. Ten miles, then ten more miles, then finish it up. We all agreed to this and we headed down the road. Sam was doing great, and we formed up a nice pace line in which we were carrying a pretty decent speed. The tandem team of Steve and K-Corn did the leading. We were having fun and riding. What a big surprise to me that was. Especially after what I feared would be another sad day, especially for Sam. I was so glad it was working out after all.

In the "choo-choo train" before the carnage happened.
We made our first "Safety Stop" and we were back rolling along again when Sam turned to me and asked how his rear tire looked. I said that it looked the same as it had all day. A few hundred feet later Sam said "Flat! I have a flat tire, damnit!"

The team immediately stopped and we all lent a hand where we could. I played the part of "bike shop stand" holding Sam's Warbird up so the others could do the work. Sam dug out another tube, Steve got a pump that was better than Sam's while Bob helped pull the old tube out. There seemed to be no concern for what caused the flat, and that concerned me. Steve and Bob swept the tire and didn't find anything, so they proceeded to get it all back together and we were back riding again.

So, that went well, I guess, and now we were gaining on some straggler teams and passing people. It was fun, and all the while, Sam was doing fantastic. Then the miles were winding down, I could see the finishing town of Slater come into view. We crossed the pavement which led into town and across my path I took into town earlier that morning. The last turn North now. We were three miles from getting it done as a team. I thought earlier it would never happen. Then......


Ya see that yellowish cord on the tire? Yeah........that's not a good thing!
 A week or so ago, Sam misjudged a curb on this bike and slammed the rear wheel into it, causing a flat tire. I am betting that this bruised the bead, damaging it. That flat tire we had earlier? I bet this bead was coming apart then, but we didn't catch it. Well, it caused us to DNF, which was a bummer, but in the end, I think we won.

Right across this field from where Sam's tire failed was where the finish was.
More importantly, I think Sam "won". He finished a ride off that he thought he wasn't going to finish off. Yes, his tire blew out, and we missed the last 3 or less miles, but whatever. When he was in such a situation with only about ten miles under his tires, and he kept going, and going, my opinion he won. He overcame something out there Saturday and he can now use that to build off of, instead of seeing it as a failure on his part. It was a thing, a tire, that stopped us, and that can happen to anyone. The bottom line is that it wasn't a decision Sam made that stopped us. No, he drove right through that adversity and triumphed.

It was a great day to be out on the bike. I stayed at the finish line area and chatted with many folks. I sat with Steve and Kathy, (K-Corn, y'all!), and had a beer with them until Mrs. Guitar Ted fetched me and we left for home. More great Gents race memories, and I hope there will be more to come.

Thank You: My teammates, Bob, Steve, "K-Corn" (you were awesome and I enjoyed riding with you!), and of course, Sam. Awesome job Sam! Thank you to the organizers of the Gents Race, the Nite Hawk, and anyone else involved in putting on the Renegade Gents Race 7.0. Thank you to my wife and family for joining me on this trip.


metal sam said...

thank you for being there and supporting me through that tough first leg of quitting, and being all around rad. I really wanted to die that first few miles, but passing up riding with you all just didn't seem like the thing to do. My tire, on the other hand, had other ideas about the day. Much love!

I wouldn't have gone the distance without you, and these were the most enjoyable miles of my year so far. It would have been a shame to miss it. Thank you.

Guitar Ted said...

@metal sam- You are very welcome. Much love to you as well, Sir!

john said...

Mark - As good as you have ever written. Thanks for sharing the event and the other folks.