What is the actual point? During almost every major long distance event I ask myself this, sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for hours. The answers vary, beauty, friends, experience, challenge, facing down the abyss…. This year was different because I knew I wasn’t ready and there was not a thing I could do about it.
Starting in early 2021, my job began to change, the screws slowly tightening. Time has become shorter, stress levels are intermittently off the charts, more nights are sleepless, but this has come with a major increase in job satisfaction. We are doing some very cool $hit, and some extremely freaking tiny people are living. Tiny like some of em weigh less than my drive train and are born almost four months early. Everything in life is a trade off, and I’m ok with what I’m trading…. I think.
Fortunately I had not really examined my stats before the start line. I knew my numbers were sketchy, but I also knew I was hitting decent powers when I could ride. I’d managed to keep my, ahem… watts per kg under control, plus I’m pretty ok at not crashing, protecting my equipment and eating and drinking all day. Finishing was a definite possibility but certainly not a guarantee. In 2019, the year I rode 200 miles in Kansas, as of the day before BWR I had 2200 miles in my legs. 2022, the year I did the Dubbelberg Header I had 1800 miles. This year, 1200. Twelve freaking hundred. Whelp. I could have fun and knock a Wafer out no problem, but where’s the drama in that? What is the actual point? Fun? Hmmm. Maybe I am in fact missing the point.
At the start line with cool group of Velonutz guys, the perfect vibe, I am chill. I lie to myself and say I’ll just see how it goes and have no pride, I can always call it if I need to. The “One Wave” roll out was fine, Ed Philbrick and I calmly pedal our bikes up Twin Oaks, keeping it smart. I chatted a bit with Heather O’Brian who asked if I was doing Wafer, nah. Chilled down Questhaven ‘cause there’s just no point of a serious road crash early on.
Elfin, Lake, Hodges, Raptor, Bandy, all pretty drama free. Just after the dam I holler out to a group of riders missing the turn onto the technical sector of Lake drive dirt. Only one turns around, a cool guy on a MTB doing Lentz is More. Later I see Andy on the Bandy out and back and calculate I’m around 25 min behind him. Not too bad, we will see how the day goes and I’m happy maybe we will end up riding together later.
Climbing Bandy I see my roadie friend Yee with his DSLR. Gleeful, feeling great and watching him awkwardly shooting one handed I realize he’s flying his drone with the other hand. He flies lower and lower and then CRUNCH SPLAT SPLACK WHIRRRrrrr he crashes into a tree! My laughter is so hard that it’s difficult to continue climbing, I even get my phone and text my Nick-and-Yee chat “YEE JUST CRASHED HIS DRONE” Dying. There’s quite a gully Yee had to hike down in his Roadie Mc Road shoes to retrieve his little dude.
The HVR climb is lush and green, and I find a little group to ride with into Ramona. I see the leaders coming the other way and wave to Phil on the lead moto. CASEY!!! He screams and the dudes I’m with look back at me wondering why the lead moto knows my name. They didn’t realize they were trading pulls with the mascot.
Into Heisenberg Forest, we cross paths with many groups towards the front of the race, I trade yells with Zack Allison. We approach the surprise deep water crossing, two way traffic ongoing. The oncoming riders are least 15 minutes back from the leaders and maybe 50-70th position. It’s a wide road, but with the combination of the unexpected water, and the traffic, it’s suboptimal. They weren’t yelling at me because I WAS the fck out of the way, but someone yells at the riders just behind GET THE FCK OUT OF THE WAY. This was a moment of major disillusionment. My dude, you’re racing for 50th, and yeah it was a safety issue, but a simple “heads up” or “look out” would have been nicer. I told this story to my Pendleton Ride riding husband. He disagrees and states “get the fck out of the way” is in fact the correct corrective action. Hmmmm. I mean, I wasn’t actually looking behind me, maybe the people behind me really were the fck in the way? I don’t fcking know.
I get cheered up at the aid station seeing Marc Chilcolte and the Rouleur crew, but still I head towards Black Canyon with a bad attitude. As I traverse a techy sand and mud sector I hear a familiar voice with the best brand of sarcasm and encouragement behind me, It’s Robyn Blackfelner but she said she was doing the Wafer. Turns out I had talked her into just doing the full, because I was like dude… you can ride forever, plus she’s got the best dirt skills around. I’m so glad she listened!
I ride with Robyn for a bit, we catch Ed, but I feel my legs failing and I don’t want to be an anchor for her. Ed and I ride together with Robyn tantalizingly 30 feet up the road. Ed says “She’s slippery isn’t she?” or something like that. At the top of the descent he drops me like third period French as expected. I try to claw my way back to Ed and Robyn on the Sutherland Dam climb. The gap starts to close a bit, but then I implode entirely. I see Ed looking back frequently, checking and checking and checking on me. I know the feeling. He doesn’t want to leave me for dead but knows he has to, and clearly knows I am dead. Just ded. I knew he was hoping to shepherd me down the upcoming sketchy highway 78 section. It’s a great feeling knowing friends are looking out for you…. But I am 100% glad he left me, I was a giant squid ready to entangle and drag them to the murky depths.
Back in Ramona at the aid station, I stopped to text and let Nick know I’d be around Hodges in two hours and decided use the park restroom like a civilized human. I walked in, didn’t touch anything other than my jersey, and as I peed I remembered my NoFcks bacon was in my back center pocket. Yup. Ate some bacon before I stood up. Gravel turns me into a disgusting creature. I was cracked. I needed the laugh.
I got back to the bike and did the route math. Ugh, 50 more miles. Well, after 154 miles in Kansas I definitely felt worse and I managed to ride another 50 miles. It’ll be ok. Back through Heisenberg’s Forest and those silly deep water crossings. To my surprise a crowd of locals had now gathered, maybe 25 people. Parents, kids, chairs, beers, all of them screaming and hollering as each idiot rode through the hubs deep water. That was awesome. Joy was needed. Find the joy. Find it.
Mile 82. And then the darkness descended, and by descended I mean false flat uphill headwinded. The flats at the top of HVR and Archie Moore were a hellscape of desperation. I imploded so hard I became antimatter. I was doing 113 watts. Ok cmon, how about 140, that’s nothing, try to hold 140. Nope. Scattered riders up ahead, heads dangling, the very occasional quick pass by a guy who clearly must have had a mechanical to be behind me. Another guy, on his phone, DNFing. “I’m toast” he says. I regret not talking him into creeping to the downhill with me. Maybe I could have saved him. Maybe he’s still there under that billboard. Somebody go check.
Mile 83. It got VERY dark. Maybe I’ll take two weeks off the bike. Maybe the job is just too hard now to accommodate this life. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’ll just do pilates or something. Maybe I just can’t do this anymore. Maybe this is it. Should I make a phone call? 112 watts. Should I just burst into tears? Should I pull over? 120 watts. As I spent my time deciding how much I should list each of my bikes for on Craigslist, I somehow made it to Green Valley Truck Trail intersection. Now THERE’S an idea! Why don’t I descend Green Valley Truck Trail, get arrested and fined $5000. Now THAT would be a great DNF story. Hmmmm, wait, was that a glimmer of a sense of humor creeping in? 135 watts.
Mile 88…. The HVR descent, home pavement, I love it and was thrilled to have made it this far, I’ll get down it, assess how I feel on the flats and then decide if I should call Nick or not. Whee…. WHEEEEEE…. Wait, your judgment is not sound right now, slow a little… but WHEEEEEE… and then came that little riser that we all stomp up in the big ring to conserve momentum, 525 watts. WHAT THE ACTUAL FCK. 525 watts?!?!?! IS THIS ALL IN MY HEAD??? Holy fcking fck fck. Dave Goggins says “When you think you’re done, you’re only 40% done.” False flat before Bandy, 205 watts and able to hold it. Like a motherfkcing light switch got flipped. I think to myself I GET TO SEE MY PIG!! Yes, I have claimed that giant hog that lives at the corner of Bandy and HVR as my own, I’ve watched him grow up from a tiny piglet to the glorious beast he is today. I keep an eye out for that access pothole but desperately need to lay eyes on the pig, scanning, scanning, oh no, where is he, If I don’t see him I might not finish….. I find him and scream out loud FUCK YEAH PIG!!!!!! 215 watts.
I finish the descent with the fantastic Josie Fouts, paracyclist extraordinaire. I squeal at her “I’m having this crazy ass second wind right now, lets RIIDEEE” We WHEEE down the last bit of the downhill and ride together to HVR trail. I realized this is her first full Waffle, and she looks great, she’s totally gonna make it, I can just tell. I’m not gonna congratulate her yet so I don’t jinx her, but how awesome is that? We split up at the start of HVR trail and it’s full on my patented mile 96 home dirt mania that always sets in, but this year on more technical stuff. I tell myself don’t do it, Andy would not approve, but I can’t help it. I pass like five guys, excuse me, can I come by, its my HOME DIRT. So much fun. There I see my friend Todd Gunther taking pics up ahead, I try to make him laugh by fixing my jersey for my pic. So great to see him.
Next the Bernardo bay section, I took this part easy because I’ve never actually ridden it in this direction, and crashing or flatting at this point seemed really dumb. Fun new sector though, I definitely approve. Next the real home dirt, Hodges. Don’t ride it like you stole it, you unmitigated idiot. Yes a guy just passed you, but don’t do it, you didn’t steal it, you actually paid a small fortune for it.
Mile 105. I get a text from a Nurse Practitioner I work with, but I can’t look at it right now. Weird.
Next Nick and the poodles met me. I was in awesome spirits at this point. I had them meet me this late because I knew if I made it this far I’d be stoked, and I wanted to share the stoke, not the darkness with him. This insane, manic and borderline drunk haze usual sets in on Hodges. He and the pups gave me a hug and a Mexican coke and I fill my center pocket with more bacon and was off. He later told me he’d been turning strangers away to save coke for the friends he assumed I’d roll in with. He’d confused this with a NoFcks ride. It’s the Waffle. Kill and be killed and be left for dead. Nick had seen Andy and they checked my GPS dot and quite correctly decided Andy should continue without me this year. This isn’t supposed to be fun.
But believe it or not, fun was what I had the rest of the day. Mile 110. A great group coalesced and traded pulls through Elfin. Coureur riders volunteering, Stephanie Shaw and Kevin Smidt, took great care of me at the oasis. “How are you feeling?” “Terrible, but I’m gonna make it!” I offered strangers bacon from my filthy pocket. Strangely, nobody accepted. I climbed Questhaven slowly, but I was fine. I saw a sign for Craig Miller, you old codger, made me laugh more.
I rode the base of Double Peak with some strangers who were in varying stages of dead, but making it, I let them go and pedaled slowly. Then ahead a cowboy hat, boots and USA Speedo. Not the OG Whiskey Cowboy but a damn good facsimile. He’s politely asking people if they want a push. From 50 feet back I let him know, yes please sir, I would appreciate a push by screaming AMERICA!!! FUCK YEA!!!! Dude grabs two full handfuls of my entire ass, yells GRAB A GEAR and absolutely flings me like 40 yards back to and past the group. “Holy crap, it’s like you’re on Mario Cart!!!” says another rider. I laugh and say “that guy just grabbed my entire ass!” He says “Me Too” HASHTAG METOO!!!
I get halfway up and there’s a group cheering with a sign that says “Pain is temporary, Strava is forever!” I say “Oh my gosh thank you so much for being out here so late you have no idea how much it means to us slow people to have people cheering on double peak you are so awesome thank you thank you hahaha pain is temporary strava is forever only if your Garmin successfully uploads hahaha”. I ride past and hear them say “how was she talking?” Yeah, what the fck. I just spouted a giant, loud, run on sentence while climbing double peak. Yup. When you think you’re done, you’re only 40% done.
Top of Double Peak, always stop for a coke. Always. I grabbed a red vine too. Then my IRC friends with Steve Driscoll taking pics are at the tip top cheering me on. I am beyond stoked. This moment, the Double Peak descent on a day when I thought I wouldn’t make it, just the best. In 2017 I literally cried, came close this year, but instead just screamed WHEEEEE.
MMX was there at my finish line for the first hug, Andy, Terry, Michael Macare and so very many of my dear friends waited hours to cheer me across the line. I love my community.
What’s the actual point? Why bother? It’s about finding the joy, finding the reset, finding the ladder out of the pit of despair. Yes, it’s a hole we put ourselves in and for most ultimately meaningless, but through terrible self inflicted suffering, we practice crawling out of the hole. When the real life hole comes, we can build our own freaking ladder. Find the joy, the small wins, and flop around in the large wins like happy hog in a mud puddle. Find some friends, strangers even, and help them out of their hole too.
Can I not make a phone call in the Archie Moore headwinds of doom? Yes. Can I stay up for 24 hours and continue to project calm standing by my 10-36 cassette sized patient? Yes. As Echo and I like to say, we do hard shit, might be shortening our lives, but it’s prolonging others. That text from my NP colleague at mile 105? It was a pic of a patient we coded together at 2am one night. The night before BWR he came to visit the ICU as a happy, healthy, adorable 2 1/2 year old.
Fuck yea pig, fuck yea.
Source Endurance coaching – Thank you for making this possible despite my very limited riding.
Waffle Bike: Canyon Ultimate Evo disc with SRAM road 2x AXS with a 10-36 Squeezed in there
Tires via https://puregravel.com/ 32mm IRC Boken Plus
Spinergy GXX https://www.spinergy.com/products/gxx
Strava File https://www.strava.com/activities/8904512445
Loved reading your story! “We” love the pig and donkeys on HVR.
I said hi to them that day too…
Good question, “What is the actual point?”
For me, I have found myself asking that same question when ramping up the training miles before a BWR. At that point, I just want to race to come in order to stop the training grind. Ugh! Sometimes, if I can catch myself, I get determined to go out riding in complete rebellion to my training. My ride tactic shifts over to exploring, getting lost, and lifting my head up in order to take in the sights, and enjoy! After that, I find myself able to continue training a bit less internally grumpy.
BWRs Waffle events are HARD even with training under your belt. If I lined up, as you did without much training, my answer to “What is the actual point?” would be riddled with lots of rational reasons why it would be a bad idea. I’m impressed you suppressed all the reasons why you shouldn’t do the race and actually showed up on race day to make it whatever it was going to be for you that day. As we lined up, I remember you mentioned how you felt you may have over-BWR’ed yourself last year (with the analogy about when Dads make you smoke a whole pack after trying one ‘BWR’ cigarette).
As I read your blog, the actual ‘point’ I read was that with a community of biking friends, husband and poodles, and a whole LOT of mental grit helped with your push to re-solidify that you can do this hard thing called the BWR Waffle Ride. Congrats Casey!! After that, I don’t see how Nick has any excuse left not to saddle up for a BWR – can’t wait to see you out there Nick! 🙂 🙂
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