Monday, December 19, 2011

A CXMAS ("Cross-mas") story

*All quotes are from the movie A Christmas Story, one of my favorite holiday movies.*

**This also serves as my race report for XLMIC's Jingle Bell Hell virtual race.  I don't want to hear any complaining that a bike race shouldn't count, either, because I checked the rules and nowhere does it say that you have to RUN.

See? No running specified. :)
To get some of the details out of the way, I did meet the criteria:
  • At least 5K: I think it was around 25 miles. 
  • Challenging: definitely.  Running across sand, carrying a bike up 200 stairs, riding while drinking beer...
  • Done Dec. 18
  • Laughed: many times
OK, now that the virtual race details are out of the way, back to my story.....**
I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
It all started innocently enough, as these things do, with a question.  My 8 year old asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I answered.  (No, it wasn't a Red Ryder BB Gun.)  His response was cute, so I posted it on Facebook.


One of the responses suggested I might get a cowbell hookup if I showed up on Sunday.  What's Sunday, I asked.  The answer: "CXMAS...duh." (Just click the link.  Please.)  Now, of course I'd heard of CXMAS, Team Seagal's epic non-race.  I'd already read the race reports from previous years...but still channeling the nerdy high school self who never showed up at the cool kids' parties, I hadn't imagined actually going.

I was intimidated.  I was nervous.  I was confused about which parking lot.  Not only did they tell me about it, though; Jim and Wendy also made sure I knew where to go.  How could I skip it?  Even having read the reports, though, I wasn't sure what to expect from the day.
What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture?  Hmmph.  Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.
Knowing that holiday spirit should be on full display, I next set to creating a Christmas-y outift to wear.  I wanted to dress like Mrs. Claus, but since I'm always catching my chamois on my bike seat, I definitely didn't want a skirt.  An apron, though...that might do the trick.  Conveniently, because I make our Halloween costumes, I actually had everything I needed to whip up a Mrs. Santa apron. 

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Photo credit: Wendy Davis
It didn't even take me that long.  I was pretty happy with the results, but it needed something more.  While shopping for holiday socks at Target and Walmart, I spotted a pair of Christmas panties.  The perfect final touch!  Choosing the correct size to wear over bike shorts was a little tricky, but I guessed right.

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As I dressed for the race, Jeff just rolled his eyes and then, knowing I'd want the pictures for the blog, grabbed the camera. J was curious. He asked, "Are you wearing underwear under your bike shorts?
"No," I answered, "you don't wear anything under them."
"That's kind of gross," he responded, "but I guess it's good you're wearing some.

Downtown Hammond Team Seagal was preparing for this yearly baccanalia of peace on Earth and goodwill to men.
I left in plenty of time, thankfully, because despite having good directions I managed to get a little lost.  I made it with about 15 minutes to spare and quickly pulled on the panties and apron that I had opted not to wear into the gas station along the way (I got enough weird looks with just the socks).  Unlike previous years where the temperature was below 10 degrees, it was around 50 today, so I ended up taking off one of my shirts and the arm warmers.  If I was originally a little self-conscious about my outfit, that feeling evaporated as soon as I looked around.  My outfit was pretty tame compared to other non-racers, and my underwear certainly wasn't the only pair on display.  I did a lot of laughing at the costumes on display.

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Like this one...

Or, yeah, this.  No competing with this.
I dropped off my canned goods "entry fee" for the non-race, as well as a 12-pack of beer, then said hi to some of the Team Rev ladies and Jim and Wendy.  My friend Kube asked who I was riding with.  I hadn't thought about this.  "Ummm...nobody, I guess?"  She offered to stick with me, and while I've done lots and lots of rides on my own because I'm so slow, it was waaay nicer to have company. (Kube made her first appearance in my blog way back in August when she kicked my butt in the Edwardsville Crit.  Well, everybody kicked my butt, but she at least did it after offering several important pieces of advice.)

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Listening to pre-non-race directions
After some intentional start-line confusion (Costumes in the back...no, wait, you're in the front!  We're going downhill/we're going uphill), we were off.  We started on bike trails, and I quickly fell behind Kube and her friend Gabrielle.  Being on a mountain bike with a bunch of cyclocross riders (who were on lighter bikes with smaller tires and slightly different body positioning), I was at a distinct disadvantage, but I definitely learned at the crit that your equipment is only one part of the equation.  (Kube and I had the exact same road bike, and she crushed me.)  Even so, the first level of "hell" was definitely struggling to keep up with your friends so you aren't holding them back and spoiling their day.
The [pace]line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute St. Charles.  And I was at the end of it.
We turned off the bike trail and onto the fairly steep grassy hill that led from the overpass to the road below.  The girl in front of me clipped out to walk, but I was comfortable with riding it.  Wendy told me later that they had all watched to see if I would ride it; honestly, walking it never occurred to me.  We followed the road to Creve Coeur Park and continued on the paved trails there.  I'm sure that the people we all passed were very curious about all these crazy people in the wacky holiday clothes.
"He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny elf..."
Our first CX-style obstacle (I guess) was in the park. We took a brief detour onto a gravel trail.  A ditch that was maybe a foot wide and 18 inches deep (? totally guessing here) crossed the trail.  The line I was in slowed as a guy wheeled his bike past us with a tacoed wheel.  That's a lousy way to end your race.  We dismounted, crossed the ditch, and headed back down the trail.
"Dadgummit! Blow out!"
...the Old Man loved it.  He had always pictured himself in the pits of the Indianapolis Speedway in the [Little] 500.  My old man's apare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense.  They were round, they had once been made of rubber.
More riding on the paved trails around the lake until we came out by the beach, where we had to ride (or run) our bikes through the sand to get our first (and my only--since there were only 40 or so at each, if you weren't in the first 40 riders, no zip tie for you) zip tie.


Hoping that my gigantic mountain bike tires would allow me to ride through the sand, I didn't dismount at first, but the slow progress really wasn't worth the effort, so I pushed my bike the rest of the way.  As I staggered through the sand, I was feeling a little apprehensive.  I'd ridden this area on a Trailnet ride a couple of years ago, and I was pretty sure I remembered a huge, endless hill that we'd ridden up...just the kind of thing that these twisted minds would impose on us.
My little brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years.

Photo credit: Team Seagal
Instead, we rode across the street to a parking lot where a table full of egg nog awaited, along with Kube, who if she was kicking herself for offering to ride with me, was concealing it well.  We had to drink at least one cup of egg nog and then carry the bikes up a staircase.  I've never had egg nog, both because I know it's loaded with calories and...egg nog...it just sounds gross.  This was part of the race, though, so of course I downed my cup.  It was good. 
In the heat of battle my father she wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan the Missouri River.
"Ok," she told me, "unless you're really hardcore [she reads this blog, she knows I'm not], why don't we switch bikes for the trip up the stairs.  I'll carry your mountain bike, and you can carry my lighter cross bike."  I'm not too proud to accept help when I clearly need it.  I lifted her bike, and looked up at 200 concrete stairs.  Suddenly riding up the big hill didn't seem like such a bad option.

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That's not me, but it is my bike.
Carrying a bike--any bike--up 200 stairs: more hell.
I had by far the better end of the deal as I think my bike weighs twice as much as Kube's.  As she lifted that monster, she had a few choice words to say, which only increased as the staircase went on; however, even lugging that weight she still was ahead of me the whole time.  Not only did Kube stay ahead of me, but a guy passed me on the stairs carrying a tandem mountain bike. Sigh.  The good thing about events like this is that they keep my ego firmly in check.
I just hoped Flick would never spot them as word of this humiliation could make life at G. Harding School a veritable Hell.


At the top of the stairs, it was back on the park roads and around to a playground, where we had to dismount, go down a slide, and eat some R-rated donuts before riding down a steep gravel hill.  I remembered all the hill advice I've gotten and made sure to get my butt up and almost behind my seat, then I eased my way down the hill.  From here it was back along the lake, across the bridge, and onto the Katy Trail, parts of which were pretty sloppy.  As we rode towards the Family Arena, riders passed us in the other direction carrying gigantic wrapped boxes.
"All right, I'll get that kid to eat drink.  Where's my screw driver and my plumber's helper? I'll open up his mount and I'll shove pour it in."
At the box station was none other than Jim Davis, who chased me down and forced me to take a beer.  :)  I think he felt it was his personal duty after I'd told him earlier that I wasn't good at riding and drinking (that goes for drinking anything, not just drinking.  I'm just not all that coordinated).  Despite having one hand full and trying to navigate the soggy trail, I managed to not fall off my bike.  Though Kube was ahead of me in the distance, I did manage to pass a guy who was also riding a mountain bike.  "I'm glad I'm on my mountain bike," I told him, "because otherwise I'd have to come up with another reason for feeling so bad."  He laughed, and I didn't see him again until we were heading onto the singletrack at Bangert Island.
The heavenly aroma still hung in the house.  But it was gone, ALL GONE!
Wendy is always telling me to stop being overly nice and letting people go ahead of me, and maybe I finally learned my lesson.  At the trailhead, some riders were coming out of the singletrack, so I waited to let them by before riding in.  In the meantime, the guy I'd passed came up behind me. "Why don't you go ahead," I suggested.  He did, and so he got the very last CXMAS spoke card!  I was definitely disappointed but figured it would just be added incentive for me to ride faster next year.

The Bangert trails were a lot of fun, though there were several really muddy low spots.  It was interesting to try to figure out gearing in these areas, because if you stood in your pedals to get more power your back wheel would spin out.  I made it through without crashing and, despite having never been on these trails, felt more in my element than during any other part of the race.  For this section, my mountain bike was an asset.
  I left Flick to certain annihilation.  But BB gun race mania knows no loyalty.
From Bangert, it was a straight shot back down the Katy to the finish line.  Knowing that even I couldn't get myself lost for the remainder of the race, Kube took the opportunity to stretch her legs while I meandered behind. This time there was no part of the trail where I could avoid the soggy mess, so I just rode on through it, figuring that if I couldn't be fast at least I could be dirty. 

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Mission accomplished.
Unlike with the spoke card, I was not at all disappointed to find out that the presents were all gone, because I'd been worried just how I was going to manage to ride back with one, especially when I saw how far they had to ride carrying them. Relieved that the day was that much more unlikely to end with a broken arm, I rode back to the parking lot...and it was over.

Photo credit: Team Seagal
It's a Major Award!

Photo credit: Team Seagal
Winners got some really cool CXMAS steins.  Of course, I'd had no illusions of victory, but I had hoped to score a spoke card.  I was telling my story about stupidly letting the guy go ahead of me and get the last card when Gabrielle brought over hers.  "You have to have one from your first year," she told me.

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Mine...all mine...

How cool is that??? I met her that morning in the parking lot, and now she's giving me one of the prized spoke cards?  Basically, the day was a whole bunch of awesome because of some really tenuous links to people: Wendy, who I blog stalk and had met...um...twice before the day; Jim and Kube, each of whom I'd met once; and Gabrielle, who I'd met that day. It's really a testament to the awesomeness and inclusiveness of endurance athletes combined with the internet's ability to help you get to know people you rarely see in person.

Now I have a year ahead of me to save up for a cross bike, design a contest-winning costume (though I think the answer there is probably more cleavage), and get into better shape so that at the next CXMAS I can earn my own spoke card and, hopefully, keep up with my riding partners.

And for a less PG-rated version of the day, check out Team Seagal's post about the day.  Thanks to them for a fantastic, hilarious day.  And for more pictures from the race, check out A Pabst Smear.  See if you can find me. 

17 comments:

ajh said...

You will improve next year and earn your own spoke card no sweat. That is cool that someone you just met gave you theirs. You should have worn the whole costume into gas stations!

What race do you have in store for Christmas weekend or are you taking it off?

ajh said...

THREE more days of school. :(
I'm trying not to be very jealous of you! I have sooo sooo sooo much to do! I spent way too much time shopping for elephants!

Caroline said...

Marjorie...are you reading this?
this qualify for a prize!!!!

wow!
OK I love that outfit!

the underwear discussion that made me laugh

you must find a cowbell before sunday!

it is pretty fantastic to meet kind people isnt it?

Merry Christmas Kate!

Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri said...

Hole. E. Crap. That looks and sounds like SO much fun. I love your outfit. I love the post-ride mud splatter. I am jealous.

What search terms should I use to find something like this in my neck of the woods?

XL said...

This is AWESOME!!! You are pulling out all the stops, aren't you? You always do, don't you? When you enter my contests, you go ALL IN! I love it :) Thanks so much for participating!

Raina said...

Wow. The outfit was incredible! The Mrs. Santa outfit was cool, but the underwear were even better!

I love that you used this for the virtual 5k :)

TriMOEngr said...

Absolutely fantastic. Watched that movie this weekend and your post brought it all back. Perfect! Way to go!

Johann said...

Awesome fun and really great outfits all round. Very enjoyable post, thanks Kate!

Kovas Palubinskas said...

Looks like a total blast! Cannot imagine picking up a tandem mtn bike let alone carrying one upstairs.

bobbi said...

This is my favorite non-race recap of all time. Seriously, you do the coolest things!!

And you outfit ruled. For real.

Patrick Mahoney said...

This totally qualifies for a prize. Though not a member of the electoral college consider my popular vote cast for Kate.

Mike said...

Awesome ride Kate! Your adventures are always fun to read about. Your costume looked great too. So what type of bike is next after the cross bike? A recumbent? Beach cruiser? :-)

Terzah said...

Hilarious! I love the way you wove those quotes in with your latest adventure. That's one of my favorite movies too. There are two houses in my neighborhood with "major awards" aglow in their front windows. I'll try to get some pics just for you.

Abby @ Have Dental Floss, Will Travel said...

I have to say, cyclo-cross has never really appealed to me, but this makes it sound like a lot of fun - and I love your interpretation of the virtual 5k :)

Kelley said...

That is hilarious! The outfits are awesome. I loved your son's e-mail. I love how he said so matter-of-factly, "I don't have a cowbell". Ha!

Laima said...

Awesome - love the outfit!!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Black Knight said...

Hilarious, another great post, full of beautiful pictures.
I like the outfit.
We are planning to run wit "only" a St. Klaus hat (nothing compared to you)!!!!