Saint Malo and the Stairway to Heaven

I tried unsuccessfully to find out the story of the real Saint Malo, and although I didn’t find anything useful, I suspect he met some grisly end like many of his Saintly cohorts. Thankfully, the St. Malo CX race this weekend produced no such fatalities, but it certainly had its grisly moments. But that is the beauty of cyclocross.

I almost didn’t do the race at all. Last week I started a new exercise program that left my legs in ruins for 3 full days. On Wednesday, I could neither climb nor descend stairs of any kind. On Thursday I was hobbling around like a 90 year-old woman with a pole up her arse. On Friday, I was so stiff I could barely clear a curb. On my legs. So of course when I woke up Saturday morning in only moderately better shape, there was no question in my mind I would race.

It was necessary to auto portage the bike to the race.

The pre-race activity is fun, everyone is friendly and talkative. I was determined to get in a good warm up this time, especially given the wood-like state of my legs. I pedalled around a bit, but kept getting distracted by all the hustle and bustle and people around the registration area. Like the “Taints of Steel” guys. Their jerseys caught my eye because it is only recently I discovered what a “taint” is. I had heard the word used in The Almighty BSNYC blog, which certainly gave me an inkling as to its meaning, but I decided to verify with The Almighty Urban Dictionary. You’ll have to look this definition up for yourself, ‘cuz I ‘taint writing it in this otherwise morally pristine blog (which is regularly read by my Mother, who has a low tolerance for such graphic vulgarities).

Great name. Great jersey.
I also enjoyed standing next to a group of guys who were discussing a bike that to me looked like it had been stolen, rebuilt with the parts of several other stolen bikes, then stolen again, then hit by a car. However, the guys (who know way more about these things that I do) gathered around it like it was a prize racehorse, marvelling at it’s general awesomeness as well as specific features like the seat, which had been “customized” using a power grinder. Shows what I know.
The Sexy Beast
Apparently it’s only uncomfortable if you sit on it.

The race itself was marvellous, and the course was equivalent to a pleasant and civilized tea party when compared to Menno Cross, which looked kinda like this:

The awesomeness that was Menno Cross.

The course was swoopy, with lots of fun off camber turns and ups and downs. There were three “obstacles”, including a set of barricades, a steep run-up aptly titled “The Stairway to Heaven”, and the sand beach, which I decided from the get go was going to be a “no ride zone” for me. I have enough trouble keeping upright on the sand in flip flops, never mind a bicycle.

Carnage on the beach. Photo courtesy of (or rather swiped from) FGBC.
Fun and grassy swoopiness.
The Stairway to Heaven.
It just keeps going, and going, and going….

Shouldering my bike is a skill I need to work on. I seem to have no area meaty enough on my shoulder to protect the bones from getting a sound thrashing by the frame. Perhaps it is a physical defect, or more likely a technique issue, because I cannot be accused of being too skinny. But considering the painful bruises I get, I have started looking into a jersey with built-in shoulder pads, not really caring that I’ll end up looking like Donna Mills from Knots Landing.

Early in the race, on my second lap, I was having more difficulty than usual getting into my right pedal. Try as I might my foot would not clip in. Finally, after I struggled through the lap only half attached to the bike, my foot finally went in. About 6 feet before the barricades. Merde. On my next remount, the same thing happened and I realized one side of the pedal was broken, missing a critical metal bit as well as the screw that once held it in place. So the rest of the race was a bit of a game of chance, with the pedal defying the laws of peanut butter toast physics, always seeming to land bad side up. Double Merde.

In spite of that, I had an awesome race, much better I think than the first one. I felt like I was actually racing, as opposed to just floundering to stay upright, and I DID NOT FALL ONCE!! Now I am even more disappointed that I can’t go to the Southern Cross race, as I sure it will be as much fun and even more painful, but followed by beer. It will be on the must-do list next year.

The A race. Man I love watching these guys try to kill each other. Poetry.

With the great course and cheering crowd armed with cow bells, plus the added unexpected fun of the broken pedal game, I completely forgot about my wooden legs. Don’t get me wrong, they hurt like hell, but no worse than the last race, or any other kind of race for that matter. It wouldn’t be a race if it didn’t hurt.

Call me crazy, but I think I have found the cure for sore and aching muscles. It is not deep tissue massage, popping advil, gentle stretching, or even something I’ve heard of called “recovery”. The cure for almost anything that ails you is, in fact, a cyclocross race

Proper kudos to the Olympia folks who put on a stellar event and made an interesting, fast and challenging course. And a big merci beaucoup to the spectators, volunteers and the kind St. Malo folks for making this such a great event. Looking forward to next year already!!