Since I can't race my bike (or even ride it), I spent my Sunday serving as a support crew for Matt, as he raced the Stoopid 50, a 50-mile trail race at Roth Rocks, near State College, PA. Although I have several friends (OK, just two) who regularly contest marathon-type mountain bike races, this was the first time I'd been to one.
It's been a long time since I was in charge of supporting a rider, so I took some time on Saturday to think about the most important aspects of the job. That seemed to be to make sure my rider got to the race on time. To that end, Matt and I joined several friends at The Fun House to see Start Making Sense, a Talking Heads cover band on Saturday evening. Matt left the bar a little after 1 a.m. while I stayed until close at 2 a.m. because the band was rockin' and because it was my turn on DD duty and my passengers were having too much fun to leave. So, I hit the sack around 3 a.m. To make the three hour drive in time to be ready for the 9 a.m. start, we needed to leave Matt's house by 5 a.m.
Clearly my support crew career was off to a good start.
Predictably, I slept through by alarm (which was set for 4:15 .m.), waking up only when Matt called me at 4:55 a.m. to politely say, "Where the fuck are you?" So, I hauled ass over to Allentown and we hit the road 30 minutes late.
The race started en masse, but broke up quickly
Apparently, 50 miles on dirt is harder than on a road bike
Fortunately, the drive didn't take quite as long as we thought, and we got to the race in plenty of time. Having fulfilled the day's first mission (on two hours of sleep, nonetheless!), I let the promoters know that I was happy to help with any tasks that needed doing -- provided it required only one arm. Once the race started, I hoped in a truck going to set up the feed station. We set up tables, water, food, and other supplies, then organized the 300 "drop bags" -- Ziplocks filled with whatever supplies the racers thought they might need to finish the 50-mile race.
Once the racers started coming through the feed station for the first time (at mile 14 -- they passed by again at mile 34) other volunteers and I stayed busy handing the bags to the racers, being sure to keep them all carefully organized by number. It was a busy assignment, and the five hours I spent in the feed station flew by, even when it rained and while getting chewed on by bugs.
Eventually, I caught a ride back to the finish, arriving just after Matt crossed the line in 6 hours, 30 minutes -- 30 minutes faster than he expected. Matt Morrison, another Emmaus resident, had an even faster ride, finishing in 5 hours flat.
I returned to my support role at the finish -- driving Matt to a fun-looking bar in State College (their Coke is not to be missed), and then getting us home safely.
The problem with being a supporter for a racer instead of being a racer is this: It makes you want to race. I don't even ride mountain bikes, but now I want to race the 50 next year. The trouble being, or course, I would be a beginner incapable of keeping up with the fast guys at the front of the race. That's not a real concern, though. Overall, I was happy to spend the day supporting my friend, and helping out the 300-odd other racers. It's fulfilling in a different way than racing, but still a day well spent. And how am I still awake?
Side note: My cast is getting more disgusting by the day.