Sport > Sticker Season

Sticker Season

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: September 18, 2010

I'm sitting at my local pub. Due to a re-surging economy, my usual seat at the bar is occupied. I sit at a table near the door. It's 7:11 PM and I see that, that...it's getting dark out? I check the calendar and see that, oh yeah, summer is but a few days from calling it quits.

Yes, it was like that. About 15 minutes ago I was sweating the onslaught of san Diego tourists who would the beaches as crowded as LA freeways...and now, all gone. Summer went bye-bye. Granted being gone from home for 10 of the 12 weeks of summer probably helped me miss this transition. But here we are, the last few days of summer. Everything has dried out here in town, the winds are picking up and that means...the stickers are back on the roads.

Auto drivers are oblivious to this change of seasons. But bike riders can't miss it. I've seen legions of my brethren on the roadside with that deflated look. After a while, you just figure its better to walk than to even try to fix it.

My brother, luckily, is back on the east coast. They don't have sticker season there. What they have is double and triple Iron Man season. They run a Double Iron Man (DIM) the first day of our sticker season, then they finish with a triple about the time the rains come and wash our stickers out to sea.

He was at the starting line for the Double at Lake Anna Virgina about 9 hours after I noticed the early sunset. He wasn't actually racing, he was there as a volunteer. He was running one of the timing stations.

Now while he was goofing off as a race guy, I was busy doing what I do. I was out of bed at about 4 pacific time, did my hour of yoga and ran a solid 4 miles through the park before breakfast. That was coincident with the 2-3 hours that the racers took to swim the 4.8 miles.

My brother, I should mention, did a 4.4 mile swim across the Chesapeake. That is a bay/sewage outfall back east. So he could have done the swim. But no, he was just hanging out on the shore while everyone else in this story was doing something.

One guy was an All American swimmer. He was out in two hours, pretty spiffy swimming for sure. The rest struggled. But they all swam, all 9 of them. Yes, 9 people in this race. A typical Iron Man has about 1500 people racing. Here, 9. 8 men, one woman. They have the option to canoe the water course. Now here I have to say that when you have the chance to cheat, by all means, take it!

No one listens to me. I'm off to work to do teacher stuff. My brother is timing the bike portion of the race. This race is all done in laps, 12 laps on the swim, 50 on the bike, etc. There is a lot of math involved, much like my work. Except I'm in 68 degree San Diego rather than 86 degree Virginia.

I get done work and come home for my bike ride. I ride 10 miles through the park when I'm home. This is where I come across sticker problem number 1. I have a flat on my front tire. It was a garage flat, I had air when I pulled in, but I picked up a sticker near home and it went flat overnight. Luckily for me, I have 4 bikes and an extra wheel, so garage flats are fixable in about 30 seconds by simply grabbing another ride.

At this point the racers are 7-9 hours into what will be an 11-15 hour ride. In fact by now the field has dropped from 9 to 7 racers. This now qualifies it as a Mom and Pop race as my Dad had 9 kids, my Mom had 7. There is no doubt that the support staff and the fans far outnumber the racers. I'm thinking this is how all races should be.

After my ride I patch my tube. This is a good 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back. I should just toss the tube and put in a new one, but it was the first leak and mostly it is an old habit that my dad passed on to me, so I patch. By the time I'm done and off to dinner the race leader is off the bike. Roughly 13 hours for the swim and bike. Now all he has to do is knock out a 52.4 mile run and he's home.

My brother, who has done nothing all day, but has completed a bike ride of 200 miles this year, is off to get a catnap. really. Here you have 7 racers who are going to race through the night without sleep and the volunteers are going nappy time.

I go to dinner with my daughter and try not to think about the sad state of affairs back east. Next morning, I'm up to repeat the process. Now I see that its worse, I've now picked up two stickers in my front tire. Another wheel swap and I'm off. 7 miles into my ride I see my back up wheel is near flat, I pump that up and make it home. I get in another 4 mile through the park.

I return home and apply three more patches to inner tubes. By now just about all the racers are done. Everyone that finished the bike made it through the run. There is no doubt in my mind my brother can knock out the first two legs of this race easy. But right now he's a run crip due to a heel injury, so no way he could run it this year.

Still when you do the accounting of those 36 hours, I got a days work in, rode 20 miles, ran eight miles, did a couple hours of yoga and patched four tires. My brother hung out at a race, ran a timing station and offered encouragement to a handful of people who were crazy enough to attempt this event.

I know he is seriously thinking of doing the event next year. This is all part of the advance planning, getting the beta on the race. I'm sure he learned a lot. And being inside the ropes on some of these events I can assure that he gave a lot to the people doing the race.

But deep in my heart, I have to think he is over-planning this. Gearing up for the 2011 DIM already is just too much to think about. He'll be in some sort of mental concentration camp for a year. That can't be right, it just can't be.

I think it better that he goes about this the other way. He's sitting around late next summer...notices the days are getting shorter, hears me whine about 5 flats in a week and goes into a blind panic and realizes that he hasn't fled his entry for the DIM at Lake Anna.

Trust me bro, that shot of adrenalin is as good as a year's worth of planning and training.

Any Comments?


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