9/18/04 Socorro Fat Tire Fiesta, Soccoro, NM


Blood, guts and cash money in the high desert

Woke up at 3:30 AM for the three hours drive south to Socorro, NM for the Fat tire fiesta. I had been looking forward to this 100km race for a few weeks, I was only slightly dissapointed that it had been downgraded to 55km and I actually managed to get everything ready the night before and in bed by 10 pm so I could make it to the race. I set up my single speed with a 32 18 gear (slightly higher than the 32-20 I run in climb happy los alamos) and slimed tubes to fight the pernicious goat head thorns that palgue NM south of Santa Fe. The course was formerly a "dirty roady" smooth dirt road race, but this year, due to conflicts with a motorcross race, they changed it to a shorter more technical more MTBy race.

The race was a small part of a bigger weekend of fun rides and other bike events, next year I think I will camp out and hit some of the other events.

Got down to the race in plenty of time to spare, eating a pretty good breakfast in the car on the way down. The race start was in Box canyon, a really beautiful area reknown for its climbing. The area was typical high desert, chaparral and small cactus and lots of small hills, canyons and mesas leading up to a ring of mountains surrounding the plain.

After registering I rode back to the car and was suprised to see a rider in a kelly jersey. A local college student and part time shop rat named Nathan, proud owner of a new Roshambo. We chatted for a bit and then his buddy craig(?) came by, same deal college student, shop rat and had a roshambo on order. Nice guys. Met the owner of the local shop, Greg(?), former bay area resident, Bridgestone team rider, good talker, and single speeder. His shop is right on the old plaza in socorro, tucked between a coffee shop and brew pub, the Spoke n Word and is the only game in town.

Anyhoo, got suited up, went to the riders meeting and got the scoop on the 34 mile course, starts with a climb up and over some of the surrounding hills with a long hike a bike, then across the plains then through a narrow sandy canyon where we could take any line we wanted and then over some rolling dirt roads back to the start. The "take any line you wanted" part kind of struck me as odd, but it not nearly as ominous as it should have.

The race started at 8:15 am with about 20 of us in the pro/expert field, one other singlespeeder a skinny local kid with a pretty big gear. The race started with a few miles of gradual climbing and we get strung out pretty quick. Then comes some short hard climbs up to the peaks of the surrounding hills and some steep descents on loose babyheads. It is pretty sketchy and I am alll over the place. About 10 minutes into I flat at the base of one of the decent. I look at my tire, filled with goathead thorns. I try to reinflate and spinn the tire around spreading the slime about, to no avail. So I have to fix the front flat. Slime is everywhere, and no fewer than 5 goatheads are through the tire casing. I may have also pinch flatted, but no way to tell. I quickly mount a new tube and am about to get on my way as a wave of sport riders come down the sketchy descent.

As I watch them come down, one of the riders crashes hard, kind of like Beloki did in the tour two years ago. His rear wheel locked, fishtailed and he sort of high sides really hard on his hip. He kind of just sits there with his bike on top of him in the middle of the trail and is clearly bleeding quite a bit. Does not move, no sounds, just siting there bleeding away.

Crap, I think, he broke his leg. I run on over and see this 14 year old kid, very pale, no gloves kind of plopped down bleeding profusely from his arm. A few other riders stop. I ask the kid if he is OK, he kind of says he is OK. I borrow a bandana from another rider, see that his hands are rock filled hamburger, but the blood is coming from his elbow. I find a quarter size deep gouge on his arm and patch it up. I determine nothing else critical is wrong with him and get him off the course. Since my race is about 10 minutes up the road already, I volunteer to walk the kid back to the last course marshall, up at the top of the last hill. The kid is strangely mute, but does not seem to be in shock. I think he was just a shy kid that was a little out of his element. I talk to him as we walk back up the hill and he does not say too much. After a fairly slow long hike up hill, I finally get him to a car and he is whisked back to the start and off to the hospital for some stitches and other painfull cleaning.

Is the race report over for our hero? Hell no. I look at my watch and see that it is about 50 minutes since I first flatted. The Experts are long gone and the sports are mostly long gone, but I think I might be able to ride my way back into the sport field and have some fun, so off I go. Down the sketchy descent again, up the hills, up the 1/4 mile hike a bike and down the back side of the hills to the flats. I am mildly concerned as I see no other riders save a few 10 year old kids in the junior race, but the course is well marked so I continue.

The flats are really a long smooth very slightly down hill 5 miles followed by the same up hill. I am, no joke, spinning at 120-160rpm (16-21 mph) for about 10 miles and catching no one. Full aero tuck between spinning. Next year, bigger gear...

After the flats, I start climbing abit over the edge of the foothills, still on dead smooth dirt roads and start catching the tail end of the sport field. Aha! now it is on. I basically get a rider in my view catch em, see another, catch em, I look at my HR monitor. I am pegged at 185 on a realitively smooth dirt road and having a blast. The course whoops up and down a bit over some rollers and then we descend in to the canyon...

THE CANYON OF DOOOOOOOOM!!!! bwa ha ha ha ha ha.

Ok, so not quite doom, but pretty freaking demoralizing. It starts out as a narrow sandy road in a narrow canyon. A little tricky some power required to get thorough some sandy biuts, but not too big a deal. I start passing riders by the twos and threes as I power through the sand. Then the sand gets more pervasive and deeper. And deeper. Soon we are truly picking our own lines and riding over boulders and baby heads and along the edge of the canyon to avoid the deep deep sand. It is slow and hard and I have to get off and run a fair bit when i get bogged down. The fastest line is by no means the shortest so we are taking crazy s curves over tumbleweeds and big rocks to avoid the sand pit of a road running through the canyon. After 3 miles of this I am wiped and demoralized. I have passed a ton of riders, but the high spin transitioning to low cadence power is doing me no good. As the end of the canyon is nearing, I get off one more time to get out of a sand pit and blammo, my hamstring cramps about as bad as it ever has. I think I stand there for about a minute or two trying to work it out. It really does not go. So I limp over to the road, mercifully climbing out of the canyon at long last, and just start riding. After a few pedal strokes I am loosened up a bit and I think i will be fine as long as I don't have to get on or off the bike anymore.

Thankfully I did not. The course basically went over rolling dirt roads through some ghost towns and around abandoned mines and ranches and cattle. Very southwest. I rolled along, catching riders on the uphills, getting smoked on the smooth down hills for the last 14 miles or so of the course. I am pretty dehydrated and the gatorade in the camelback is making me queasy. But I press on and finish in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. I clean up and start feeding on a hot dog, bannanas, fruits and some water.

I find I would have been reasonably competitive in my age group minus the flat and helping the kid, but no where near the winner or the singlespeeder who finished second overall, I think. i got a nice suprise at the awards ceremony where I got a $75 dollar sportsmanship award for helping the kid off the course. Which was almost 2 times any previous cash prize I have ever gotten. Pretty cool. I see the kid after the race and he seems ok, stiches and lots of bandages, he does not say anything to me, somewhat odd, neither does his brother or dad.

I stick around for a while chatting with the Spoke n word guys who have ambitious plans for the race next year, two loops, no canyon, more singletrack, night time dirt crit in the plaza, maybe a beer a lap 12" bike race, so it appears to be worth returning. Then I win a crank bros multitool in the raffle. I am feeling pretty good.

Is this epic tale over? Hell no.

I decide to go off to the nearby Very Large Array radiotelescope facility for some site seeing for a while and then get a beer and calzone, check out the shop, get some coffee and head on home.

THe VLA is a 27 mile array of giant radiotelescopes (big ass dishes, see the pictures) that were featured in the movie Contact. As I am a big geek, I was really excited to see it. So I drive about 50 miles out there in the steadily cooling rainy day. I get there and check it out, walk around for a bit and then I bonk walking around the telescope facility. It was really cool, but it is getting really cold as a thunderstorm moves in. I run back to the car and warm up and head back to town.

During the long drive back, I start feeling really weird. I have eaten a few bannanas and a sandwich to stave off the bonk, but they don't sit so well and I am really really tired. I actually consider pulling over and taking a nap. I keep driving though, wondering if the 3:30 am wake up plus the long race meant I should stay the night in socorro. But then, nature compells me to pull over and, to make things somewhat shorter, I puke up just about everything I have eaten and drank after the race over the course of 15 minutes sitting on the side of the road.

Somewhat relieved I drive back into town and barely making it to a motel 6 before losing everything else I had after and probably during the race in the parking lot. THen I spend the next 6 hours in agony as my body makes sure that there is absolutely nothing left in my stomach. Woo hoo.

Got up the next morning ate a light breakfast made it home and felt very queasy for the next week and missed 3 days of work. Between the hotel and running out of sick days, I have more than wiped out the nice 75 dollar paycheck. A full week off my bike and here I am ready to ride again. I think I had a nasty stomach flu that coincided with the end of the race. I do weigh about 5-10 pounds less than last week, but not in the good way.

Anyhow, there it is, as promised, blood guts and money. Next race should be the Road Apple Rally, a 20 plus year old MTB race in Farmington NM, near the Colorado Border. I expect to get my ass handed to me by hordes of singlespeeders from Durango and retired pros like Ned overend and mark gullickson. Hopefully there will be no puking in the next race report and It will be about 1/4 of the length.