Friday, April 27, 2007

The Devil Makes Us Do It

Ahhh, once again it's time for the race that always evokes the "why-do-we-do-this-to-ourselves?" question at least once during the day. Maybe it'll be when the alarm goes off at 4:00 AM. Or maybe when you first get out of your car at the course, and realize that the dry wind is already sucking the moisture from your body. More likely, the thought will hit you as the front group (maybe just a person or two) slowly climbs away on the steepest part of the hill. Face it, that happens to a majority of the people in the race. My typical scenario: hang on to the front group for the first half of the race, then eventually succumb to the dehydration, cramps, and power of the strongest guys. I have more 10th-20th places at Devil's Punchbowl than I care to remember.

But last year was looking good. I had feeders ...several of them! Ice cold bottles can transform this harsh desert into an almost-hospitable place for a bike race. And as luck would have it, the race unfolded in such a manner that I was realistically vying for a top-6 place with only one last time up the hill to complete. I was climbing well--side-by-side in a small group with C-Walk--and the dreaded "why?" question hadn't entered my mind.

Then a scorpion jumped up and bit my tire (or maybe it was just a rock) and it blew out at 40+ mph. As Walker passed by with a devilish grin, he snickered a half-sincere "bummer". I had been trespassing in his domain, and we both knew it.

As I waited an eternity for the wheel truck, and all the early casualties passed me by, that's when I asked the question, yet again, for the nth year in a row...


The Devil's Punchbowl Road Race, edge of the Mojave desert.

I hadn't seen a elevation profile for this race, so I made one myself. I'm too lazy to do the math, but I can tell you from experience that it gets dang steep near the feed zone ...39x23 steep, and that's my Painted Cave gearing.



If you have an appreciation for geology and arid landscapes, be sure to take a look around. It really would be beautiful if you weren't suffering!

Note the inviting snow-capped peaks in the distance... I think they're taunting us!

6 comments:

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

i've always wanted to head out that way ... but, i think i'd be sliding into that 27t.

Marco Fanelli said...

You wouldn't be alone in that 27!!

The weekend you should hit in SoCal some year is Barrio Logan/San Luis Rey in San Diego. It's a trek, but worth it for a change of pace. Too bad it conflicts with Cat's Hill.

Steve Weixel said...

Good job on 4th. I got 23rd (of 40 finishers). I think not too bad for my first "real" cat 5 race... I wish I had the legs to stay with the front group but I'm glad I still had some energy at the end to sprint for a few extra places. Thanks by the way for the advice on Thursday and the map and profile you posted here.

Kimberly said...

I got 7th today. Not my best race, but it was fun in some demented way! I'll write my report tomorrow...my finish was one to behold though. It was by far my most fun moment in cycling...and impressive enough that 2 guys gave me their water bottles after the race! Nice to meet you as I was beginning the pain and you were finishing. Great race... My highlight was having Dotsie Cowden-Bausch driving around the course and cheering for ME! How cool is that!!!

Marco Fanelli said...

Good job Steve and Kimberly! That's about as harsh a race as you get here in SoCal. You both survived and feel good about it, and that's what it's all about. More stories and more memories for your mental scrap book.

BTW Kimberly, when I passed your group starting up, I still had a lap to go!

My race by the numbers: 80 miles, ~3:40, 8 bottles, 3 wicked cramps, 4th place, $70 prize. The suffering ...priceless!

Aram Dellalian said...

Heyhey Mark...

I'm thrilled that you've finally adopted the use of the "C-Walk" alias. I miss the guy, man. Please tell him 'hello' when you see him. And wish him luck at the master's worlds. He'll crush it.

Looking forward to the punchbowl report...

Abientot!