This is part of an ongoing series of national championships-related articles to get you ready for KC as a racer or spectator. You can view the rest of the series articles here.
How to pack when you’ve given up
by Ryan Kelly
Here’s a predicament you may be facing – as soon as registration opened for the big races, you signed up. Sure, you had the best intentions. This was going to be your best year ever! The time off in early August saved your legs for cross season! You bought an early ticket to Kansas City for nationals, totally focused on getting a top five in the B/Masters/Juniors/Whatever race!
But then your season went…
how can I put this nicely…
…Down the shitter.
Sure, you had a decent result here and there. Won some money in some smaller races; but in the bigger races, the leaders used a surgical saw to remove your own ass cheeks and delivered them back to you.
This may have been somewhat demoralizing. But beyond your soul crushing failure, you’re now stuck with a $400 round trip ticket to the middle of the country, entry in another weekend of racing and far too many hotel reservations. Are you actually going to give in to the airline, hotel and online bicycle race registration industries? You’ve already abandoned actually racing your bike (which fulfills the yearly quota of wussing out and giving up), so you can’t quit traveling to races. Besides, what the hell else are you going to do? Enjoy a weekend with the family? Screw that. It’s way better to stand in the cold and be a loud idiot.
Thankfully, for you, I’ve given up on racing my bike many times, so I am a wealth of information on how to pack when you’ve given up. I’d like to think I’m doing a service to all the quitters in the cycling world – because you can give up, and still have a good time traveling to races. You just have to have the right tools:
A Nintendo DS: Most “real” bike racers bring a laptop with them on the weekend so they can send power files to their coach, or update blogs. Obviously, your coach has totally failed you, so there is no need to send power files to one of Chris Carmichael’s minions. You’re much better off packing a Nintendo DS and a copy of Super Mario 64. That way, when you’re carpooling to the race and every one else is talking about tire selection, you’re far more worried about getting eight red coins in the Bowser levels. And in the grand view of life, what is more important – 100% completion of Super Mario 64, or superior mud shedding abilities?
A bag of Wendy’s Baconators: The Baconator is the most amazing fast food item ever created. Not a touch of vegetables (unless you count ketchup). Meat from at least two different animals. Tons of protein. Tons of fat. And as an added bonus, if you eat more than two of them you feel like you might actually die.
People always talk about how many calories they burn while racing. You know what else burns a ton of calories? Running around at a bike race, screaming at your friends and making a general fool of yourself. And you know what you need to fuel all this running, screaming and insulting? Sweet, delicious bacon. And something that is, legally, ground beef. Plus copious amounts of mayo.
When your travel buddies are debating whether or not to go for the whole grain pasta or the organic, part-skim chicken pizza, you need to whip out a grease-soaked pile of awesomeness, bury your incisors into it (just the way evolution intended), and embrace the glory of quitting.
Multi-vitamins: Did I mention that a Baconator does not contain any vitamins, or anything remotely healthy? Well, it doesn’t. So if you are embarking on a 48-hour diet of meat, bread and fat, you might want to pop a couple of legal pills to make sure you keep up proper cellular function. But make sure you do it out of sight of everyone else, so as to not ruin your reputation as a straight-up carnivore.
The vitamins will be our little secret.
A pint of Ben and Jerry’s: You know you’ve been thinking about it all year. Now it’s time to eat an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting. You have months to work those extra calories off.
Halls cough drops: Ideally, when you travel to a race and you have given up on racing, you should be running around screaming at everyone you know. Hell, you should even be screaming at people you don’t know. Maybe even screaming at attractive members of the opposite sex. Whatever the case may be, you should always be screaming. Give Richard Fries, or whichever race announcer is there, a run for his money.
But in order to keep this up from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. all weekend, you’re going to need a little help. Pop a few cough drops when you go to the bathroom (which is probably the only time you don’t need to be screaming. It’s not polite to sit on a port-o-potty while screaming. In fact…it’s just a whole other level of weird) in order to save your voice. Perhaps drink a thermos full of tea and honey. But make sure you squeeze some Baconator grease into it, just to make sure you’re still getting all 15,000 calories that your body needs.
Fashion sunglasses: Every bike racer has a pair of racing shades. Or wraps. Or shields. Or whatever the hot marketing term is. But you aren’t a bike racer anymore, are you? So screw that. There’s no need to bring some bug-eyed pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to the race. All you need are a pair of “fashion” shades that make you look good.
Ideally, they should be fully reflective, so you can stealthily check out attractive racers.
The concept of the fashion shades brings up another point – this entire weekend, you should be looking good. And I don’t mean “bike race good,” where you show up in jeans lacking a hole in the crotch and a sweatshirt with no paint stains on it. I’m talking nice pair of pants (that show off your butt), clean shoes and a decent shirt (that hides your scrawny arms). Perhaps a good coat. This is your chance to show the gentleman or ladies of your racing circuit that you’re more than a bike racer…you’re a style maven. As well as a quitter. But more of a style maven.
A jambox: You want to bring a jambox (or some other sort of mobile music playing device) so you can walk around the course and be a moving party. Granted, there is a pretty good chance that no one will be interested in the party, but you should at least try.
So get the jambox, get your iPod, get a sweet playlist and get your dancing shoes.
I have actual proof of this working. At ‘cross nationals in 2005, I was racing with my college. As I was racing in an early race, my teammates and I had plenty of free time. So, being a lover of fine music and heckling, I assembled a makeshift jambox. This jambox consisted of a stolen pair of computer speakers wired into a headlamp battery, fueled by my iPod. I zip-tied and duct-taped this contraption to my messenger bag, and walked around the course with my teammates and friends blaring highly inappropriate Snoop Dogg tracks.
It’s also fun to email your favorite pro riders for what songs they like to hear at the start. Then, put those songs on your iPod, and bring your jambox contraption to the start to get them psyched up. I remember, during my days as an undergrad at UNH, emailing Mr. Jeremy Powers (probably one of the nicest guys in Pro-land) asking what his favorite race songs were. And then they were added to my iPod. Next thing I know, Mark McCormack is bouncing to them at the start.
Yeah. You should probably be drunk. And the best (and cheapest) way of doing this is by purchasing and consuming two 40s of OE. For many people, one 40 will get them kind of drunk. But two will most certainly get you totally drunk. And two 40s probably only cost $3.
Plus, because you’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars on races, travel and hotels, you probably don’t have any money left for good alcohol. You’ve also given up on racing your bike, so you might as well stop caring about what is going into your body. The best way to show a disdain for your body is to consume 80 ounces of malt liquor.
So, on Friday afternoon, put away your shoes, skinsuit and embrocation. Instead, fill your race bag with malt liquor, speakers and a complete disregard for what others think of you. Because even though you might be a quitter at bike racing, that’s no reason to give up on going to race weekends.
(If you’d like a more serious list on how to pack for a big ‘cross race, see David Hutton’s serious cyclocross race packing list or Josh Liberles’ comprehensive race packing list. Or for a semi-serious article on packing for a collegiate race weekend, see an old article on my website here.)
Photo Gallery of Ryan’s must-have items: