Greetings, Team Seagal Loyalistas! Today I return with tall tales telling the trials and tribulations of two totally tenacious teammates and their tackling of the Tall Oak Challenge in the year Two Thousand Ten. Yes, you read correctly, a smaller, more surgical-strike style pair of soldiers embarked on a t'aint-destroying mission on the shores of Binder Lake near Jefferson City. Nico "Showtime" Toscani and I, Casey "The Crotch" Ryback were hellbent for leather, and also for glory. We were much like the Apocalypse Dudes from the Turbonegro song "The Age of Pamparius," who in fact have nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, all of our photo surveillance equipment was under lock and key at Team Seagal Headquarters for analysis from the last deployment. So we returned from the shores of Binder Lake without photographic evidence of the events that transpired. So instead, what follows is an account of Saturday, which was probably my best race of this year.
Picking Jerkward up early that morning, it was almost immediately clear that the day would be something special. First, we did not get stopped by ONE stoplight between his place near Clayton Ave and Tamm in Dogtown, and our first stop of Schnucks in Richmond Heights. If you know this area, you are fully aware of the intense stoplight population density in this area. But this didn't mean we had clear sailing on our brief journey to Schnucks - we almost were forced to run over some dude on a Sea-Doo with wheels who decided to pull out in front of us. We decided at the last minute that even though we both thought he would be better off having been run over by the Team Seagal War Machine, the courts probably wouldn't see it that way. So we let him continue on his way to sucking the most dicks. Less than 70 seconds later, Nico called my attention to a man leaving the liquor aisle wearing a "Hale-Bopp Comet" T-shirt. We were both confused, because didn't all of the Hale-Bopp fans kill themselves while wearing tennis shoes back in the '90s? This guy must have mistakenly drank the *regular* kool-aid.
Driving over it was apparent that the temperatures were going to be a dramatic change from what has been the fucking norm in Missouri for the last couple of months, but more on that later. We would periodically see a lone cyclist on the I-70 outer roads and would wonder if it were our good buddy, Peat Goode. Speaking with him later though, he tried convincing us that it was not. Pffft.
Upon coming ashore amidst heavy suppressing fire on the shores of Binder Lake, we quickly scouted out a spot along the course to set up our temporary base of operations. We unloaded bikes, food, coolers, and water jugs and bottles that were pre-filled because the water out of the spigot at the lake tastes like it comes straight from a witch's septic tank. I had spent a fair amount of time preparing my sustenance for the day, which included heavy reliance 1 water bottle and 1 Gatorade bottle (mixed with a ratio of about 1 spoonful of water into a regular bottle filled to the top with Gatorade powder) per lap, lots of Gu packets, delicious home-made smoothies, gummy bears, cookies, bananas, and fury.
Nico and I lined up for the rolling start, and happened to see a couple of faces we hadn't seen in a while - Dick Destroyer, Matt Keevan, and even a healthy smattering of Big Shark riders. Excellent! There was not the same frantic urgency that sent everyone directly into the pain tunnel at the beginning of the MWSSC race, instead, it was more controlled, allowing the order to sort itself out in a more orderly fashion. I found myself pacing right behind Nico as we entered the woods, and he and I stayed together for most of that lap, until I got a flat tire about 2/3rds of the way through. Shit! It was my own fault, though. Fortunately, my "tube sock" idea seemed to work, as this was the first flat in a race in almost a year where the spare tube was actually good and usable.
I watched that strong group with whom I was riding, which included Jerky, Jeremy Bock, good buddy Steven, and one or two others ride away from me. Calm and collected, I fixed the flat as I watched at least 15 other riders pass me. No problemo, still had five and a half hours to go.
Back in the saddle again, I put the hammer down for the rest of that lap, and then all of lap 2, just skirting the realm of annoying back pain. I managed to catch a lot of those people who saw me fixing my flat, which felt pretty damn good! As planned, I stopped in at Team Seagal Base Camp for another tube and C02, tube, Gu, and bottle swap. Off and running, I was feeling really damn good, no pain, and above all, I wasn't swimming in sweat, unlike at RIM and MWSSC! I think everyone out there appreciated the fact that the temperature was fucking phenomenal, and the trail surface was unable to get better. And by that, I mean it was perfect - tacky, not dusty, not overgrown, and only a couple of small puddles to splash through.
Perfect trail and weather conditions, with a slight breeze coming through the trees on the backside made it much easier to keep a much more clear state of mind. Some of the laps blur together, but I ticked them off one by one, with no issues of chaffing coming into play till much later. Somewhere around lap 4 or 5, I came up on one very Jerky individual who was very happy to see me, and whom I was very happy to see. He was enjoying the newest addition to his 29" SS stable, a fancy helix-twist Lynskey Pro29, and jamming along almost the same pace as I was. So we rode together for a while, until he decided to refuel at TSBC, while I soldiered on, snapping wrists and devouring souls. He called out that he'd be back with me shortly, but I must admit, that the next time I saw that jerk-ass jerk was when I was sipping PBRs and eating tubed meats post-race.
Passing through lap after lap, I was counting my way down to finishing 8 laps, as that was my goal. Periodically I would catch a glimpse of Greg Ott, who was riding pretty strong that day, but would never be able to hang with him for long. That's pretty good, because I felt about as strong as I think I'll really feel this year - never felt the need to walk any hills, never bonked, never really got too hungry, and could get out of the saddle almost any time I needed to without too much protest from my body. However, by lap 6 or 7, I was definitely thinking of ways that I could quickly retrofit the Never-Reach filled with Chamois-Butt'r onto my saddle, and maybe cutting out nipple-holes in my jersey to stop the irritation at the next stop.
It didn't take too long to realize that I would get back with plenty of time to head out for a 9th lap, which oddly enough seemed easier than the rest - it meant we were almost finished! Little did I know that Nico was putting in his fastest lap of the day not too far behind. I think I ended up as the fastest SS Solo person. Not that anyone was counting. Come to think of it, was there anyone else besides myself and Nico going Solo on the SS?
We both finished, ready to get home and relax my t'aint on the couch while watching one of my favorite movies. Post race was oddly laid-back for a mountain bike race in Jeff City. I mean, no Octagon, no drunken ridiculousness, yet we still managed to have a good time despite those setbacks. We had time to reflect on how badass of a race that was, and just how we will prepare for Burnin'.
Speaking of Burnin', that shit is almost here! I might have to put this song on constant loop in my head while crushing out a path of destruction around Council Bluff:
Specifically these lyrics:
Oh, hell what a night,
keep a rockin' on night
Hey, boy can't you see the light
To get motivated for Burnin', read Borb's race report about his ascension into glory at the Leadville 100: http://gumbobottoms.typepad.com/team_red_wheel/2010/09/im-totally-gonna-whip-dons-ass-at-hutl.html
Also, stay tuned for info about the Chubb Challenge. We're currently "deep" in the process of figuring out a date.
-Casey "The Crotch" Ryback