May and June, 2012
I don’t ride much during the year – I get no joy from commuting on the bike and on the weekends, I’m usually doing something that involves a dog or two. And most significantly, I don’t have the passion to go out riding just ‘cuz. That’s why the Utah 1088 12-hour rally is such a challenge for me. I’ve been friends with the organizers and many of the riders for years through Rich’s participation, and since it was my off-hand suggestion that led the Rally Master to add the 12-hour version to the mix in 2011, I felt compelled to give it a shot last year. I actually had fun and I promised that I would continue to enter as long as he continued to offer it. Oh yeah, it didn’t hurt that I won and had a title to defend. (If you haven’t seen my report from last year, you can catch up here – 2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations.)
But in May of this year as I absorbed that fact that the event was quickly approaching, I also realized that I hadn’t done any preparation to get in shape. That’s not the way to go into a 12-hour ride – you’ve got to get both your body and mind ready for the grind. And more importantly, I was at risk of suffering the unprecedented humiliation of having my starting odometer for this event read exactly the same as it did at the end of last year’s rally. The Rally Master loves to call people out at the awards banquet and I knew that this fact would be fair game. I simply couldn’t allow that to happen.
Rich and I had done so much bike preparation for last year’s event (Farkles for the Ninjette) that there wasn’t much to change. On our last trip to the San Mateo bike show, we discovered Clearwater fork-mounted LED driving lights. He needed new lights for his ST1300, but we saw that they also had a kit for the Ninjette. This had nothing to do with the rally since I only run during the daytime, but they’ll light up the night on the rare occasions that I find myself out after dark.
And just a couple of weeks before the rally, when it was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to ride his own bike (strabismus, a vision problem requiring surgery), a friend mentioned a very cool hitch rack she had seen that would eliminate having to tow a trailer. Avoid the ridiculous California speed and lane restrictions and hassles backing up? Done! We added the Rage Powersports SMC-600R to our arsenal.
With the rally date looming, I asked Rich to whip me up a couple of warm-up rallies. He actually loves doing this because deep in his heart, he has always wondered how he would do as a rally master. The first request was a 3-hour ride ending in Calistoga, where he and Billy (our young Border Collie) would meet me for dinner. The second was a 6-hour ride ending at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland, so I could attend a membership meeting of my dog agility club. This one had an additional incentive – Rich was going to a bike show in nearby Dixon so he met me in Woodland with the van. We’d load the bike on the new hitch rack for the drive home, which allowed me to also enjoy a cocktail to celebrate a friend’s birthday. This would give us the opportunity to fully road test the new hitch rack before he left for Utah.
He put a lot of effort into these training rides and threw all sorts of challenges at me to get me ready for whatever deviousness the Rally Master might deliver. He sent me searching for headstones in cemeteries (time waster of uncertain duration); he reinforced that easy small point bonuses aren’t necessarily worth the effort if the wasted time puts larger bonus gathering at risk; he taught me that things aren’t always as they appear; and he reminded me that if you can’t do what the bonus question asks (there is no place at the Aetna Springs Golf Course from which to get a receipt), you need to do something to at least prove you were there and that you tried (take a photo of the club house – I passed that test).
Both warm-up rallies were successful and through them, I accomplished several goals:
- Refreshed my routing and planning decision skills
- Gathered my gear and organized what I would and wouldn’t need for the Utah trip
- Got my brain in gear and my rhythm going for the bonus-gathering requirements – photo/question, mileage, time. Always all three. Miss one, no points.
- Abandoned my plan to break in my new deerskin gloves – a seam was digging into my knuckle, so we followed the instructions for softening them up and the seam blew out! The new gloves went back to the manufacturer (and have since been repaired and returned), and I pulled out my old gloves that I wore comfortably in last year’s rally.
- Broke in my body – hand, wrist, shoulders, butt, knees, neck. They all take a hit on a ride of any duration, but the warm-ups reminded me that I could survive it and the discomfort would pass.
- Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I can survive in the heat. During the second ride, I spent most of the ride in official temperatures in the low 100s, but registering on my thermometer in the 110s. I learned to respond to how I feel and not get freaked out by what the dial says. And to stay hydrated.
I also exposed some gaps in my gear – things that had been misplaced or weren’t on my checklist. The warm-up rides gave me time to mitigate these deficiencies before I left for Utah.
I was left with much more confidence about the upcoming rally and a few hundred more miles under my belt, thus side-stepping the threat of public odometer humiliation. All that was left to do was change the oil, load it up on the rack, and send Rich and the Ninjette off for Utah. He also took Billy, one of our dogs – we have a long-standing tradition of bringing a dog to MERA events.