Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Double Deathmarch

(At right, Ironmaster's Hostel appears peaceful in its mountain setting.)

The Ironcross event in PA was all Kevin promised and more. Kev must have thought we would not be humored enough by the epic 62-mile backcountry race, so he reserved our lodging in a hostel. Ironmaster’s Mansion Hostel had all the resume points of cool since it sits at the midway point of the Appalachian Trail. But we learned the second that we pulled into the gravel lot Saturday afternoon that there was more to the place than free-loving hikers and porch rocking chairs.

As we pulled into the gravel lot, the manager was outside greeting and indoctrinating us before we could even step into the place. Hosang was convinced early on that the manager was a serial killer, and that she was running out to greet us as the others inside were covering up murders. The spaghetti everyone was eating for instance did not have spaghetti sauce and meatballs but blood and eyeballs. Carol, Laura and I were amused all weekend by Hosang’s conjectures but we started to notice how Kev and Gener took on the look of bored wives every time he made a joke.

Around the hostel, there were signs with angry—no controlling—tones. We were told where we could walk, how frequently and in what stage of dress. It surprised me that the manager granted our request that the men and women stay in the same large room. She originally tried to put us 3 women in a room downstairs near a group of boy scouts but we objected. She probably thought that women who would rather be in a room Kev, Hosang, Gener and McMahon should stay away from the young scouts anyway.

We left for dinner, and upon our return to the gravel lot, we were once again greeted, this time with sharp rebuke. It was 1130 (we had been on a ridiculous search for Wal-Mart) and curfew was at 10. She had, in fact, called the restaurant where we had been to find out where we were. Gener and Laura responded to the discipline by ignoring it as they fought over energy bars in the lot. Manager freaked out, saying they were too loud as she tossed her body between them. I could only think of how loud the boy scouts would be once we entered the place, but she had apparently subdued them since the house was quiet. Gotta give her credit for that one.

Rob, Carlos and H had joined us, and Hosang put in some really bad DVD as we hung out in the TV room. Something about a guy who got freaked out about closets as a kid and lives in a glass house as an adult. We cut that thing off and made jokes about who would be on top in the bunk beds. It was quiet in the bunkroom just before I feel asleep and of course Hosang got the last word in. “Why don’t we all push our beds together?” he pleaded. I think someone said, “Because the manager would hear and come in here and kill us.” There seemed to be lots of concern that we would die in that hostel.

I was not worried about dying until about mile 40 of the 62-mile race the next day. This cyclocross race is in a class all its own. A true cyclocross event lasts an hour or less, involves various terrain and has forced dismounts and run-ups. Well, the organizers have transposed this model into a long event, so all cyclocross attributes are there, but each is stretched out. There was a “run-up” at the 40ish mile point. A run up would take 5-10 seconds in a regular race. This one up a rockslide took me about 15 minutes. It was so steep and rocky that I could barely get one foot in front of the other. Hosang calls this one a "crawl up."

Carrying a mountain bike in such conditions is unbearable, so I had a first class meltdown. I was cussing and nearly crying so insanely that the competitors around me were just plain embarrassed I am sure. I felt better when Cara, the eventual women’s winner, passed me on this run-up and told me she had just been cussing up a storm a few minutes ago herself. She and a few others had taken a wrong turn and were off course for a while. It did not make me feel better though that she was walking up that rockslide quick as a mountain goat.

I finished 5th after riding much of the race with the 3rd place finisher Karen. I could not stay with her on the longest climb of the day at about mile 50 and I fizzled the last hour. Carol finished 6th despite her knee issues. Gilmer would have been in top 15 for the guys had he not got off course and had to backtrack. The organizers have definitely tweaked this course to best suit cross bikes (not so past 2 years) so if I do the race again, I will use a cross bike.

Turns out Robert, Tim and Gilmer had been beating on the hostel door, trying to get in around midnight. We could not hear from the upstairs TV room, but I am very sure the all-knowing manager heard them. She had practiced tough love and did not let them in. I enjoyed myself tremendously though and will return next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I will be there next year with my X bike too. Love, pain... and of course, I will stay at that hostel, which became a part of our lives at Ironcross.