Operación Muerto Jersey

You know you want one. Resistance is futile. Order it here by Saturday, January 19.

If you’re interested in the story, read on.

Every so often, a project comes your way that you cannot refuse. When my friend Hal originally approached me to design the jersey for Operación Muerto (Manitoba Ultra Endurance Racing and Talking Organization), I was reluctant. With my intense thirty hour-per-week training regimen, plus wind tunnel sessions, and lunches with Dr. Ferrari, my free time is pretty limited. What started out as a clever dig at Operación Puerto (the 2006 Spanish doping inquisition) by our very own Dark Lord, has become a bona-fide enterprise for those crazy ultra kids that make the rest of us look kind of normal. As I thought about the design I wondered to myself “if crazy was a colour, what colour would it be?”

Hal carefully described his idea for the jersey. It was very, very cool. Almost too cool. He sweetened the pot with the promise of his carbo-licious Velo Artisan Bread, as well as a generous contribution to my Carbon Fibre Cyclocross Bike Fund. Hal can be very persuasive.The jersey would incorporate imagery from the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), when our southernmost hermanos y hermanas remember their dearly departed. He wanted it to feature a pattern of calaveras (sugar skulls), customized with bike parts. He certainly had my atención.

So we started with this.

And I turned it into this.

The skull would form a pattern that would cover the jersey, along with stars, suns, moons – a nod to the various conditions ultra-athletes face as they continue long after sane people would have pulled the plug and crawled, weeping, into the comfort of their beds. And yet I felt the jersey needed something else – a tagline, motto or rally cry. Something I could imagine Lindsay Gauld screaming bare chested into the dark Arctic sky somewhere around hour 50 of the Iditarod Trail Invitational.Something like…

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

It just felt right. But to work on the jersey it needed to be in Spanish. I did some asking around for a (non-Google) Spanish translation and got a good one from my racing buddy Nathan: “Dormire Cuando Muera”. He’s not Spanish, but when his roommate isn’t busy hacking Nathan’s Facebook account to tell everyone he’s gay (he’s not), he occupies his time being Mexican. Hopefully the translation doesn’t really say “I’ll kill you in your sleep”.

Hal also thought it would be cool to incorporate thorny roses – another common symbol in Mexican folk art, also symbolizing the pleasure and pain of ultra racing. So we decided to add the saying onto the sleeve, like a tattoo. I was inspired by the classic style of American tattoo artist Ed Hardy, who’s use of roses and skulls together seemed a perfect compliment to what we already had going on in the design.

At this point Hal made a suggestion for the side panel: “Maybe the side panel should just be thorns and roses, wind a bike chain through it for an interesting detail, hide one skull in there somewhere, some snow on one rose? I think people like finding little odd details in patterns. What ever you think.”

What I thought was “Are you nuts!?” A complex image like that would take forever. But I tried it, and now I think it’s my favourite part of the jersey.Operación Muerto is an homage to those fearless individuals who like to go long. They are driven, tough, and yes, a very special shade of crazy. Having said that, I used to think that riding a bike any distance longer than 100 kilometres was ridiculous. Then that number doubled. Then it tripled. Now I try not to set such limits on my stupidity, which apparently knows no bounds. I’m really proud to know that this jersey might offer some warmth, comfort, and style to some pretty amazing individuals as they push themselves to the limits of crazy and beyond.