Tainted Glory 1: Racing Mr. Jones

Riding into work today, it occurred to me: almost all my friends are in their 40’s now. This was followed by an even more shocking realization: I’m less than a third of a year away from being 40, myself.

I can feel it: I am rapidly approaching the age where I do little but sit around and tell stories of my glory days.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what this whole blog is for already.



I Shall Briefly Attempt Honesty, Just to See What It’s Like

The problem with my glory days is that almost without exception, they’re only glorious if I leave certain key facts out.

Over the next several days — until I get tired of it, basically — I shall tell you of some of my most glorious moments on the bike, in much the same way I tell these stories to people at work, at parties, and on planes.

And then I will tell the part of the story I normally leave out: the part that makes my story of glory rather less glorious.

Any questions? No? Let’s begin, then.


The Day I Beat Kenny Up Squaw Peak

Riding mountain bikes up Squaw Peak road to Hope Campground is an ideal training ride. You peg your heartrate during the 4.3 mile stretch of paved road, climbing 1800 feet. Then, as a reward for your hard work, you get to descend on a straight-down stretch of terrifying singletrack, hanging your butt off the back as far as you can in order to not flip over the front, and releasing the brakes to the extent you dare. It’s a huge adrenaline rush.

The first person to the top gets to be the first person down, and that person was always Kenny Jones. Now, I have never been as light or fit as the years Kenny and I rode together. If you ride with Kenny, you just have to learn to be fast. No matter how much I improved, though, I could never beat him to the top of a climb. He has the ability to put his head down, dial up a massive gear, and then just hammer away, suffering like he loves to suffer, leaving me — and everyone else — in the dust.

But once, I beat him. I beat him bad.

We started the climb as we always did, riding together at a medium pace. We went along, slowly driving up the pace, ratcheting up higher gears and inching ahead of the other guy to test for weakness.

It’s usually mile three that Kenny would start to pull ahead. He’d never just shoot off the front. He’d just inch a half wheel ahead of me, and I wouldn’t pull up alongside. Then he’d be a wheel ahead of me. Then a bike length. Before long, he’d be 20 feet ahead of me, and I’d be fully at my max, trying to bridge.

Then he’d be 30 feet ahead of me, and I’d crack. Dropping several gears and reducing my cadence by half, I’d drift backward while Kenny shot ahead.

This time, though, was different. At about the point I usually started falling back, I instead stayed with Kenny. And then I inched ahead.

I listened for the inevitable sound of him shifting up two gears. It didn’t come. I shifted up a gear, stood up, and attacked.

He didn’t respond.

In fact, he cracked.

Victorious, I distanced him and rode ahead, getting to the top of Hope Campground a minute or more ahead.

This was my one and only victory over Kenny, and so I treasure it to this day.


The Part I Don’t Include

Of course, what made my victory possible was the fact that Kenny had just returned from a two-week vacation in Mexico, where he had:

  • Drunk an awful lot of beer
  • Eaten a lot of heavy food
  • Exercised not even a little bit
  • Contracted a stomach virus that gave him acute, persistent, intestinal distress

So the fact that I beat him isn’t really the story. The real story is that Kenny, in spite of all this, still very nearly outrode me.

In which case, you can bet that I wouldn’t be telling this story at all.


Bonus: Winner of the Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway

Karen sent me a picture and email that I just loved. I love that her husband actually has exactly the tattoo I’ve described. I love that he’s in his 50’s, is so fast, and has a tattoo. And I really love that his wife totally brags about her husband like this. Check it out:

I had to send you this pic of my 56 year old hubby, who has spent most of his life working and playing on various sprockets. He raced motocross for many years, taking the New England championship for three years. Now he is a radical mountain and road biker – rides with guys half his age, and usually kicks their butts (although he will tell you that he ‘rides a little bit’).  He’s participated a lot in the Vermont 50 and came in second in his class a few years ago, when there was not a separate class for anyone above 50 — so he was riding with the youngsters.  Now he would rather get up at 3 or 4 a.m. and pre-ride the course.  His trails are some of the most beloved and fun in Vermont….not that I am partial or proud of him….

He got this tattoo several years ago, and when combined with some of the grease off his sprocket, I thought it made a good picture.  And I love to tease  him about his Cat5 tattoo, while many have regretted assuming that the tattoo meant he’s a beginner.

Today’s weight: 167.6


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