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They say a barking spider is what happens when one consumes lots of chili. We'll never know, because there was no chili served at this year's race.

Which was the opening event in the 1997 Nike Fox Sports ProFlex Fuji Smith Georges Albertsons VO2Max Wild Rockies point series. (results are supposed to be at the website.) Ron has gone commercial in a big way, getting two new pickup trucks from Chevy and a nice big trailer (like 20') from Nike. There were a couple hundred people there at least, more than I would expect for the first race. Especially on a day that started out chilly and windy. And stayed windy. Being at an off-road recreation area (for dirt bikes and atvs) there was a fair amount of loose dust blowing around, so it was not a fun day for my contact lenses and corneas.

First I had to get up an hour late, hop in the car, and cruise on over to Boise averaging 85. I sure do like the new sixth gear on my transmission. It's great for cruising, just like I wanted. See the car section of my homepage for details.

But I arrived at the race site eventually, not especially aided by the minimap on the flyer. And it was still about 30 minutes before the first start. So I got to stand in line to pick up my number for 30 minutes because it was too windy to hold registration outside of the nice new trailer. Ron delayed the start another 30 minutes for those latecomers among us. By this time it was feeling warm enough for just a jersey and shorts. And a nearly full Camelbak, because I didn't want my contacts to dry up and flip out - I was kind of surprised they behaved at the St George race the previous weekend.

After some perfunctory warming up, it was time to head into the start chute as the 17 distinct groups ahead of me (a Clydesdale once again) started at one minute intervals. Pushing through the remaining masses of beginners to start with the others in my group just as Ron started us, it looked like about 15 total in the big boy field.

A couple guys went out fast, and I went after them. Passed them and kept going into the stragglers from the previous start, up a gently sloping jeep trail. First mile maker goes by, out of 9. The climb is a bit steeper now, but I am still picking my way through stragglers. Then two guys pass me, the course loops around back towards the start in some big whoop-de-dos and it's back and forth with several others. As we go by the start in what turns out to be a sort of a figure-eight thing, apparently some people think this is the end and start sprinting. Then they blow up hard as the course does not in fact end, but crosses the road and begins a long drawn-out climb. Into the wind again, did I mention that? This part kind of hurts, maybe I should start training or something. Still, not many people go by. My chain is making lots of griding noises, or perhaps my resonant Y frame is making it sound that way. Still, perhaps it is time for a new chain. I have recently discovered that I don't care for grinding my knees into pavement when my chain breaks.

The course winds down with a twisty descent in a three-foot-wide ten-foot-deep ravine, banked turns and all. Kind of fun to ride, but I don't particularly enjoy the race pace and beginner guys breathing down my neck, eager to slam into a rock wall with the slightest error. Perhaps my bike handling improves back towards its previous summer's level as I go. Right before the finish is a bunch of smaller whoop-de-dos - again fun to ride but not race, then it's back across the road and into the chute.

A glance at the tag board reveals no other Clydesdale tags stapled there yet, but the tag-takers are always working through a buffer. By the time mine gets added there has already been a first place finisher. I guess I'll have to be satisfied with a second place on no training.

In the next couple of hours before everybody else finishes (experts did two laps, but didn't take that much longer) and the results are finalized, I change clothes, munch on my banana/poptart/bagel/powerbars, hang out and renew acquaintances with mountain-biking people. Craig Kidd got third in experts, and he says that Tuesday night rides in Pocatello will start as soon as Daylight Savings does. Ronda has a nine-week old fox terrier named Nike after the series sponsor, and Nike weighs about three pounds. I get to hold her and fend off kids and women as Ronda does race stuff. I talk to Anna, the girl with the Eddy. She has for some reason decided to move up to Expert this year, and is dispiritedly putting her Litespeed mountain bike into the Trooper after not finishing both laps today. She tries to talk me into going to the Baker race, as in Baker City, Oregon, two hours past Boise. The same weekend as the good old Hammer at the Slammer south of Salt Lake, a good three hours closer. I am still undecided, however.

Finally Ron gets around to awards, after some drawings. I won't complain about the drawings too much because I got a Nike gift certificate for $125 out of them. Of course Super Dave got one last year and Nike sent him a couple pairs of ugly green shoes for his $250 value.

Towards the end of the awards ceremony I get my red ribbon and custom cast medal (Barking Spider one side, Nike Wild Rockes the other) and shake hands with first place, Rich McCrystal from Boise. I've got about ten pounds on him, so that training would really come in handy. But then if I had been training I might just be ten pounds lighter. I never did see where he passed/got in front of me at the start, either. But maybe it will be an entertaining year in the Clydesdale class, where I will have to do a little more than just not mechanical myself out of first. Both of our prizes appear to be some kind of cross-country skiing glove, or so I guess from the Scandanavian flags displayed thereupon. Oh well.

Back into my car, and I motor back home at a sedate 75. Which happens to be the speed limit, thank you very much. Again I am very pleased with my relaxed 6th gear, which returns better mileage and lower noise than fun but high-strung 5th.