Friday, May 04, 2007

Story - Cramping Arm Race

I've been promoting the Bethel Spring Series for a while now. It's matured into a pretty smooth operation. Years of experience and some money has eased the actual workload placed on such people as myself. For example, when we sweep the course nowadays, we use leafblowers. We used to do it by hand - physically sweeping the course using a broom. This story has to do with one of those earlier years.

One year, when I was fit (so at least 10 years ago), I felt particularly motivated to sweep the course the day of the race. I'd been feeling really good on the bike and wanted to make sure that I'd be able to use virtually any part of the course I'd like in the final sprint. Since I used (and still use) relatively expensive tubulars, I felt it best to sweep "the line" and any other potential "lines" so that I'd reduce the chance of a flat, or worse, a crash. It takes a while so this particular day I rushed and swept a path around most of the course about ten feet wide. I did this by sweeping a five foot deep path then came around and did another five foot path.

Mind you, this is on a 0.8 mile course.

I cleaned up the various sections I like using for my jump and my sprint. I swept just about till I had to race, about four hours of sweeping. My right arm was exhausted (my "push" arm), I felt a bit wiped out, but I had a clean sprint line.

And, most importantly, my legs were fresh.

I lined up with the field, a lot of teammates around me. A good friend of mine (actually my housemate at some point), a friendly rival on the road, had a bunch of his teammates around him, including a "just-back-on-the-bike" ringer. Another team had a bunch of guys - ironically they ended up joining my team the next year or two. But for now we were friendly but fierce rivals. It was a battle royale. And when it came down to the bell, the field was all together.

Great for me, sucked for them.

Some really tall skinny guy took off around the first bend so I followed him. This guy was absolutely determined to go as hard as possible and I was working just to sit on this wheel. We (well he) gapped the field and it was looking pretty good. I was on the drops, hammering around turn two, drafting this guy, hoping he wouldn't blow, when suddenly, my right hand took on life of its own.

My forearm cramped, curling my hand down around my wrist. The cramps were so bad my arm curled up into my chest. I screamed in pain, not an "Ow!" but a prolonged shriek of agony.

"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!"

My bell lap attacker thought I was yelling at him to go (and how!) so he jumped like the proverbial scalded cat. I, on the other hand, couldn't so a thing. Miraculously I had control over the bike as my left hand was fine. I simply could not believe I was in so much pain. And though I was still in the race, it seemed like a lost cause. Even a Cipollini would have had a hard time winning a sprint with one arm taped to his chest.

I looked around as my buddy flew by at the tail end of a four man leadout. They were going so hard they had gapped the field. The front guy was a former US Pro Champion (1982, if you want to look him up) who literally just started riding again and he was putting some serious hurt down. Those pro guys, they know how to ride even if they haven't ridden in 10 years.

The front end of the field started to pass me. I figured my race was over.

Then, as suddenly as the cramps showed up, they were gone.

My arm no longer a foreign creature, I grabbed the bars and in a panic, punched it. I went flying by what bits of the field passed me. About a hundred meters later I bridged up to the leadout train just as the ex-pro pulled off. A moment of disarray with the leadout slowed them down and my momentum carried me right past them. I launched into a long sprint, no one from the splintered field got my wheel, and I won by a zillion feet.

I found the guy who essentially led me out and apologized for screaming at him - that's when I learned he simply thought I was telling him to go. Without his move I'd have been cramping in the field - and probably would not have had the time to get back to the front before the finish. So thanks Tall Skinny Guy.

Fortunately the cramping arm scenario never repeated itself. However, if you get to the race early, you'll still find me methodically sweeping and checking the various sprint lines. Regardless of my condition (or lack thereof) it's a hard habit to break.

But now I use a leafblower.

1 comment:

suitcaseofcourage said...

What a great story!! And how painful! A buddy's legs cramped up on Saturday - first time I've seen that happen (fortunately, hasn't happened to me yet). Very scary.

Glad you got a leaf blower! (that's a LOT of sweeping!) Always like to read the war stories - thanks for posting this one!