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Taking advantage of the "temporary layoff" caused by a "temporary cash flow problem" at MeltTran, I was able to leave quite early for the NCS cross-country at Park City. My race was Friday afternoon, but I was free to leave anytime after Thursday. But without any motivation to visit Utah earlier (Kim having not notified me of any return from Florida) I opted for the just-in-time approach and drove down in late morning.

A brief but intense shower had sprinkled the mountains, and the highway construction was fun as always, but I was only hoping for a better mechanical result than last year's leaky rear shock. The oil seeping around the shaft seals lately was probably not a good sign. Note: this is not foreshadowing, however - no adverse functions of the rear suspension system were experienced.

Checked in, saw a few people I know from Pocatello and Boise. Went back to the car, got out the bike. Since Dave was just returning his European trip, there was nobody I knew there with a similar agenda and start time. Rode around a little, reported to my start area way early and chatted with the official sign-holder. She was very excited about marking my class number on my leg. Unfortunately it was supposed to be no higher than the calf. Oh well.

Time passes. In the "oddities" start - last sport-class start of the day - were, other than under- and over-35 clydesdales, the single-speed category and tandem category. Eventually three of each big-boy class showed up, along with one single-speed and a tandem. Away the starts in front of us went, and we shuffled closer to the start line.

Time to start. I planned not to go out as fast this year, knowing as I now do about the 15% climb that starts 200 yards into the race. It was a little slower, but I still gapped everybody to the base of the climb, where I again got off and walked. Gotta love it when a plan comes together. Continuing up the initial climb, with some riding to break up the monotony of bike-pushing, a couple other clydesdales went by. Back to a rideable section, one guy kept pulling away and I was leapfrogging with the other one. Unfortunately the one getting away was my class, the other guy was in the older class.

Still going up a lot, some slippery roots in-between the trees, it's nice to be able to ride these instead of push a crippled bike. Then finally there are some open meadows with rollers, some birch singletrack as a change from the pine. I felt alone here again this year, though it wasn't because everybody was already in front of me. That climb certainly spread the field out, though.

Coming back towards the base area, I even started catching people, other sports who had started earlier. Feeling pretty good. Then the course became different from last years, going through some very bumpy singletrack featuring roots. It was most likely somewhere in here that I flatted the front, perhaps on a good dismount with partial remount as I ow,owed away down a steep rocky section. Flat front tires don't turn nearly so well as inflated ones, but it took me a couple more dismounts to figure that out. At that point I thought I was maybe a mile out, mostly downhill, so I might as well run in with the bike. What was I thinking? I was in second, could do no worse than third, not in any particular NCS points battle.

It was more like a mile and a half, and I had to let by just about all the people I had passed along with the expert women coming in from a longer loop (ours was merely 9 miles). And do I like running? No. What was I thinking?

But at long last I clomped across the finish line and gratefully accepted a water bottle from the finish-line-bottle-hander. Then, of course, there was nothing to do but push the *&% bike back to the car. Where I noticed that my under-seat bag had mysteriously vanished, breaking the neat plastic rail mount - the velcro strap around the seatpost apparently didn't help at all. So I wouldn't have been able to fix my flat anyway unless I had stopped at the point of impact. I therefore lost not only my spare tube and tire lever, but also spoke wrench, chain tool, patch kit, spare links, a quarter, and especially a pair of titanium double-ended hex wrenches that Ron had just given me about a month earlier.

I figured well over an hour to go and search for the stinkin' little bag, if someone hadn't already picked it up. I was already behind schedule for getting to Burley for the night, so I sucked it up, cleaned off a little, and waited for awards. Mumbling to myself.

Picked up my ceramic third-place medal (better than last year's plastic item) and was off, pausing only for some power steering fluid (the GTI's only vice) and a tub of potato salad (one of my vices).

For the second part of this twofer was starting in Burley in just a few hours - ok, 7am the next morning. The world-famous Spudman triathlon, which I would take part in as the bike leg of a team of swimmers, or should I say people I know because of swimming. Ken was the swimmer-swimmer, Barb was the runner-swimmer, and with me as the ringer biker-swimmer we thought we would have a good shot at our combined-age-group-coed-team title.

There was a dearth of hotel rooms in Burley, but luckily Ken's uncle lives 3 miles up the road In Paul, and made his lawn accessible for our use. I arrived there right at bedtime, set up my tent and hopped in before the mosquitos got too much of me.

Arising way too early the next morning, away we went to the "bike checkin" which was really just the swim/bike transition area, not much checking going on. So I put together my other bike with toys while Barb took Ken to the swim start. Rode around a little. Waited for the individual swimmers to start, then another ten minutes until the team swimmers started. Lots more individuals than teams.

Mile and a half swim in the river, current-assisted, but I was thumb-twiddling for a while until Ken popped out and tagged me. Then I got to jog in cleats back to my bike and over to the road. I had wondered why the swimmers coming out were taking so long to clip in after straddling their bikes, but after that little jog I was shaking just enough to have to calm down myself. And then I was off.

Starting off behind a large number of individual competitors meant I had lots of people to pass, so I got right to it. I couldn't believe how many people were riding mountain bikes. In a triathlon, where the object is to go fast on a road. Down went the hammer, trying to maybe beat my 48'01" from last week on another supposedly 40k course. What mountain bike race yesterday?

There were some small rollers on the course as it went south of town towards Malta, and the turnaround was just over the top of one such roller. I made it in good time, having passed the majority of people on the road, and proceeded to resume chasing down the rest on the way back. Getting to be fewer mountain bikes ahead of me, I might have gone by all of them before the turnaround. I was trying to catch Peter, who as an individual had a ten-minute head start on Ken modified by the difference in their swim splits, whatever that was, assuming about the same.

I didn't catch him, but I rolled by a lot of people. There was only one bike rack half-full when I came in, the second team rider, and the biker handlers tried to take Eddy away. They were only unfamilar with the concept of teams, where the biker gets to keep his bike after tagging the runner. Which I had done, so I kept my bike and wandered with it over to a grassy spot. The last few turns into the marina parking lot had been taken cautiously, and I'm not sure of the total distance, but I looked down and saw a 59'something as I tagged Barb. Ken figured around 59'30". Not bad for a few rollers and an NCS race 16 hours ago, I guess - still under an hour, anyway.

Nothing to do now but bake in the sun and wait for Barb to finish up. No food yet, but they started cutting up fruit after a little bit. Dum de dum. First runner comes in. Several more. There's Peter. Hey, there's Barb. She's upset about getting passed by a team runner. Turns out it was from our class, too, so we are bumped to second. Oh well. Peter says he has a 1:03' bike split, so I got four minutes on him. Even if he did swim a little beforehand.

The food is served, and much eaten. We get little Spudman figurine trophys with class and place stickers.

And now I hop in the car to go home and maybe catch the tail end of my ten-year high school reunion picnic.

Without a shower, I drive straight to the park area. Did I miss them? I see a gathering, but nobody looks familiar. Then someone recognizes me, so it must be the right place. I get to regale questioners with my biking adventures and laid-off work status, which is sort of fun and not very fun, respectively. Some people have the exact same haircut as they did in high school, others look totally different. That's the way it goes, I guess.

I get talked into attending the dinner that night, and have just enough time to go home, shower, and take a small nap before it's time to go again. I tell some more people my sob story, that's more fun. The dinner and picnic are just about like high school, I mostly talk to the same people now as I did back then, and have as little in common with everyone else as I did then, too. This is progress? What can you do.

Go home and sleep a lot, that's what you can do. So I do.