Monthly Archives: June 2015

Elliot Camrock

The In-Betweens: Bike Racing, Stolen Moments, and the Beverly Hillbillies

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

Driving along in our truck, just the two of us, time opens up and conversations can, and often do, go anywhere. On the way to Camrock Elliot and I were having one of those free, twisting and turning, talks and somehow we landed on the subject of the Beverly Hillbillies. Elliot had never heard of, or even seen a passing glimpse of, the show. I couldn’t believe it. Was I a failure as a father? I began to try to describe it to him and really warmed to my subject. I sang the theme song – “Listen to a story about a man named Jed, …” I explained the backstory, described each of the characters in detail, recalled some of the funniest bits I could remember. As I told all this to Elliot, it was like the show came alive to me again and I remembered how funny it was. And then I remembered, as if I was back there again, how happy we would be, my Dad and I, when we watched it together. Sometimes he laughed so hard tears would squeeze out of the corners of his eyes and roll down his cheeks. He’d rub them away with the soft heel of his rough brick layer’s hand, as if the touch of those tears on his fingertips might be too intimate to bear.

When Elliot and I arrived at the race, there was so much to do I forgot all about the Beverly Hillbillies. Registration, a warm up pre-ride of the course, eat a quick bite, roll up to the starting line, give the last minute advice on the course, and then, find a place for those all-important photos. The steep grass hill climb that starts the Camrock course has a false top, turns to the right, and then sends the riders up another steep gravel climb before finally leveling out into twisting, swooping, singletrack. I installed myself at the top of the grass hill and waited for the bellowing “Goooooo” from the timeless and eternally unchanging race director’s pre-race speech. Elliot showed a new maturity by holding back on the start, rather than going off like a rocket and using his tiny self to full advantage. If you’ve ever seen Elliot climb a steep hill ahead of a pack of kids who are all at least a foot taller than he is, then you know why power to weight ratio is real.

Elliot Camrock

But this wasn’t to be Elliot’s best race. I jumped on my bike and pedalled up to the next section of track where I could see him pass by – through the prairie grass field just before the trail turned into a tunnel of trees. As soon as I saw his face, I knew he was in trouble. That panicked look, holding back tears and yet still bearing down on the pedals. He gasped out broken words as he went by but I didn’t understand. Another parent standing beside me turned, “I think he said ‘can’t breathe?’” Then I knew what that panicked look meant – asthma attack. I raced back to the truck, found Elliot’s inhaler, and then rode the course trying to catch up with him. I didn’t find him until he was halfway done with the race. He stopped, took a quick puff, and was off again. He was almost a minute behind the first place racer. I jumped on my bike and rode to the next spot where I could see him pass by. This was after punchy climbs and tight snaking singletrack in the dim dark of the riverside woods. The first place rider passed me and I began to count off the seconds. Elliot came through looking fresh and determined and now was only 25 seconds behind the leader. In the end, Elliot made up all but 14 seconds and came in third in his age group. Afterwards he told me how, in addition to his asthma distress, his chain kept derailing from the front chainring and he would have to slow and back pedal to re-engage it.

I suffered through my own race, cramping like an old man on the last switchback climbs and finding myself stranded, unable to move my legs on the side of the loose rocky trail with less than a quarter mile to go. I managed to somehow remount my bike and soft pedal to the finish and that was the extent of my glory for the day. Another weekend spent driving hundreds of miles and racing so that I could see my name on a results sheet way down at the bottom end of my age group. My aspirations are only to get to the middle of the pack – no more podiums for me. Why do I do this?

On the way back home the truck was quiet. I was brooding over my results and Elliot sat listening to music on the radio. Then, after driving for nearly a half-hour in silence, Elliot asked from the back seat, “Dad, do you think when we get home we can watch the Beverly Hillbillies?” I had forgotten our talk about the show and was surprised that Elliot had remembered it through the excitement of the day. “Sure,” I said. “We can probably find some episodes on YouTube.” “Okay,” he said and went back to listening to the music.

Elliot Asleep in Truck

I glanced up into the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of Elliot’s face, shining with the news that we would watch this TV show. And then it occurred to me: The plans and the training and the packing and the camping – even the racing itself – these are all simply the structure that provides the “in between” places where life happens. Like the walls and the floor and the ceiling of a house merely provide the boundaries that must be filled with life and love to make it a home. The race, how it went for Elliot, how it went for me – what place we came in, our speed and pace, the blow by blow of how we circled through the woods rolling on the dirt with our legs and lungs pumping – that’s just part of the structure. Only a few memories are made in the racing and planning. But the planning and the packing and travelling and the racing, they are only a small part of why we do this. We do this because life is what happens in between – in between the moments we are training, traveling, camping and racing. Life happens while we are busy planning life.

And so why do we do this? The structure of our plans, the edifice of our efforts, provide the place for our lives to be lived. It gives us an excuse to go meet other people, like all the racing families from Vision, like Michael at our local bike shop, Race Pace, like all the other racers at every race. Why do we do this? Because it gives an excuse for Elliot and I to simply be together so that when one of those in-between moments of life happens, we will be there to receive it.

Back home we watched episode after episode of the Beverly Hillbillies and I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks. We didn’t talk about the race. We didn’t talk about biking. We just laughed and laughed at a silly TV show. But tomorrow we will be ready to get back on the bike, ready to plan our next race.

Full Circle

Being born into a family whose father was a self professed “motor head”, always working on something with an engine and if it was something other than for the yard like a mover or tiller it never seemed to quite make it to the finish line. He drag raced as a young man and did some local dirt stockcar races, so sometime around 1980 he partnered with a guy he worked with to build a bracket racer (drag car) and to this day (2015) he still has the engine in his garage but the car has long since been gone and never was raced. We were never rich so I started on mini bikes that he would buy at flea markets or build himself and I would run through tank after tank of gas turning laps and dreaming of racing myself someday.  Around 1981 I got my first real race bike, a used Yamaha YZ80 and I was on cloud 9 or so I thought. I rode that morning until dark or until I was told we had no more gas and thought MX here I come…. To my parents it was too much of a burden/expense and all I was doing was ruining the grass so I traded my motorcycle to a kid from town for his BMX bike and in June of 82’ I started racing, I would ride from sun up to sun down every day and moved quickly up to expert for the next couple of years until I discovered motorcyclejim road racing road racing in 1985.  Somehow I got some money together and off I went on what would be an addiction that I imagine was like the best drug someone could take, it consumed my every thought and waking moment for 20 years. Along the way I always enjoyed bicycles and would ride when I had time, but running always was my go to for fitness when I wanted to be in shape.

 

jim crashSeptember 2nd 2002 I got a wakeup call after a crash at Road America, my right eye got blurry and my depth perception was off and down I went.  I had noticed when my body temperature went up my right eye got blurry. After some test and a very uncomfortable lumbar puncture (spinal tap) the doc sat me down and said “you have MS”!!!  I spent the next several months sitting around doing nothing, April 12th 2003 I did a 5K for the heck of it and noticed my eye was not blurry, the meds were working! So back to the motorcycle I went for a couple more years…..

 

RyderOn September 30th 2006 our first son was born and we named him Ryder, he showed up about 13 weeks early but was doing fine. In the back of my head I wanted him to stay away from motorcycles and dreamt of the day we could ride our bicycles together…. On May 18th 2010 we were blessed with twins, a boy and a girl  (Lauren and Dylan). TwinsRyder had some health issues and on February 26th 2013 we said goodbye to our little boy as he peddled up to heaven.  In July of 2013 we decided to take a family trip to Paris to see the finish stage of the Tour De France and to visit friends in Germany, the race was amazing and I knew I wanted to ride a lot more after that.

Twins Paris

When we arrived home I had discovered my bathroom scale was showing 207#’s and I am not tall or big in stature, a glance at some of the photos from our trip confirmed what I was for some reason not seeing in the mirror and I knew something had to be done. Back in November of 2012 I was sidelined from a badly broken leg and since that injury I was very inactive and it showed, I started to ride my bicycles a little bit and jogged a little bit and by April of 2014 I was 188# and not happy so I decided on that day I was going to run and race 5K’s every weekend. I got down into the high 19 min. bracket and was finishing well and that’s when the shin splints started and put an end to my running. The off time to let them heal was killing me as I had reached 168# by July and was very happy with my progress.  Our friends from Germany came for their semiannual visit in October and on October 26th 2014 I decided I needed to be doing something and WORS seemed to be what I wanted to do. I bought some videos from Wheel and Sprocket and started riding on my fluid trainer (after dusting it off), I could only ride 20 minutes in the lowest gears before I ran out of steam. I knew I needed help so onto the internet I went and I found the Vision cycling team, I liked what I read about them; my next step was to send Nathan Guerra an e-mail to see if we could work together. We met at a coffee shop near his house to discuss my goals (which I thought were a bit lofty to say the least) but he made me feel they were possible.

Here we are almost 33 years since my first bicycle race and the day after Camrock; the site of my first Mountain bike win.  Jim Camrock PodiumThe season has been progressive to say the least, a 3rd at Iola, a 2nd at Rhinelander and now a win. I feel great; I weigh 144#’s (down 63# from post 2013 Tour De France) and without VISION and a great coach I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now. Thank you to everyone on the team and our great sponsors for bringing me back to where my racing started, on a bicycle –Full Circle.

WORS Crystal Lake Classic & Battle of CamRock All Spoked Up Race Reports

The Crystal Lake Classic held at the Tesomas Boy Scout Camp  is the farthest North of all the WORS races.  It’s a fun event that is worth the trip to the Northwoods.  It was another beautiful weekend perfect for camping and another great course.

Team All Spoked Up/Vision had a good contingent despite the distance.

Citizen

Christian Pieper                                 4th in age group – 19th overall

Griffin May                                         15th in age group – 71st overall

Reed May                                           13th in age group – 67th overall

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Griffin May 15th in age group – 71st overall

Citizen – Clydesdale

Alex Pieper                                         2nd in age group – 6th overall

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Alex Pieper 2nd in age group – 6th overall

Sport

Nate Knowles                                    1st in age group – 5th overall

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Nate Knowles 1st in age group – 5th overall

Comp

Marty Tank                                         2nd in Age group – 10th overall

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Marty Tank 2nd in Age group – 10th overall

Elite

Brett May                                            2nd in Age group – 23rd overall

 

CamRock is a singletrack heavy race that challenges a rider’s mountain bike prowess.  Nestled between Cambridge and Rockdale it’s an easy day trip from both Madison and Milwaukee.  Of course the event was preceded by another CamRock Cookout hosted by Mr. Loft & Shove himself, Scott Nyland.  There was great food and great friends.  It was great to solidify those bonds that makes the WORS community a second family.

All Spoked Up/Vision had a strong group of riders who tested their skills at the Battle of CamRock.

Junior

Matthew Garner                              11th in age group – 81st overall

Colin Knowles                                    1st in age group – 12th overall

Will Knowles                                      3rd in age group – 34th overall

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Matthew Garner 11th in age group – 81st overall

 

Citizen

Christian Pieper                                  9th in age group – 55th overall

Griffin May                                         17th in age group – 113th overall

Reed May                                           13th in age group – 84th overall

Nick Sdrenka                                      1st in age group – 3rd overall

Jim Gust                                               6th in age group – 59th overall

Walter Sdrenka                                 4th in age group – 63 overall

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Christian Pieper 9th in age group – 55th overall

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Nick Sdrenka 1st in age group – 3rd overall

Sport

Will Darling                                          4th in age group – 179th overall

Jake Peterson                                   1st in age group – 16th overall

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Jake Peterson 1st in age group – 16th overall

Comp

Marty Tank                                         1st in age group – 6th overall

Michael Garner                                 4th in age group – 38th overall

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Marty Tank 1st in age group – 6th overall

Elite

Brett May                                            3rd in age group – 31st overall

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Brett May 3rd in age group – 31st overall