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The Lesser of Two Stupids
or Why I Didn't Win the Triple Crown
or Humanity is Awesome

by Kevin Bruce

There's a roots band called The Fugitives who have a song called 'Humanity is Awesome'. It's a song that celebrates all of humanity's amazing achievements including such things as the plays of William Shakespeare, the pyramids of Egypt, the symphonic form, antibiotics, computer chips, and landing on the moon. When you think about it, we're really quite an incredible species, at least compared to, say, cats. For all our astounding accomplishments, however, humanity can also be quite stupid. After all, we're the ones that came up with war, the automobile, the fashion industry, and country music - so we can't be all that smart. As for me and my attempt at completing the LM 600 this year, suffice to say that my cat is more likely to find a cure for the common cold that I am.
I forgot my rain booties.

Now, I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of how it happened that my rain booties ended up on the floor of my hall closet and not tucked neatly inside of my Carradice rain cape where they normally live when they're not being worn nor drying out. There is no explanation for this anomaly. I simply do no know how it happened, and any attempt at an explanation or excuse would be a lie of sorts. Although telling lies can be quite fun at times, in this case truth is stranger than fiction so I'll let the truth stand. What I can say with certainty is that I was 99% prepared for the ride, but the 1% that was missing was what botched the whole thing for me.

Over the course of the previous week, I had spent a couple hours studying the route and noted that there were stretches of 90 to 100 km between most controls, so I decided to mount a third water bottle on the bike to minimize stops; I had bought an assortment of different energy bars and dried fruits so that I would always have something to munch on that would give me energy while the variety would keep my palate from getting bored; I had calculated the most likely time I would arrive at each control and estimated how long a break I could take before continuing so that I would make the overnight control in Merritt in enough time to catch a sufficient sleep; I even made a reservation at the Copper Valley Motel to ensure myself of a refreshing hot bath and a bed. In the end, it was all for nothing.

The brevet started quite normally: a motley bunch of cyclists wearing all manner of crazily coloured, unfashionable garb on bikes outfitted with a remarkable array of saddlebags, fenders, pumps, and whatnot's, departed from Boundary and Broadway shortly after an hour at which most people momentarily wake, realize it's Saturday, and then go back to sleep for three more hours. As we pulled out from the start, I made a few wisecracks at Alard, said good morning to Manfred, and then asked Karen where I might find the domestique because I could use a latté.
Some ten minutes later, as I approached North Road in Burnaby, it began to rain. I pulled over to put on my rain booties which I keep rolled up inside my trusty Carradice rain cape. After unfastening the rain cape from the back of my saddlebag and unrolling it, I discovered that the booties were not where I had anticipated finding them. I then did a really odd thing: I re-rolled the rain cape, and then unrolled it again just to see if they might be in there the second time round. They still weren't there. I then looked inside my saddle bag to see if I'd stuffed the booties inside - nope, not there. I checked the rain cape again. In fact, I checked the rain cape six or eight bloody times but still no rain booties. I'm not sure why I kept checking the rain cape but I soon realized that humanity isn't so awesome in times of sheer panic.

So, there I was having completed just 8 km of a 600 km ride, and already faced with a Serious Dilemma: either carry on with inevitably soaking wet feet or pack it in. Now, I could have continued and made it to Hope in the early afternoon at which point I could have stopped at the bike shop there and bought a pair of booties. Since, however, my feet would have been soaking wet by that point, I would also have had to buy a new pair of shoes and socks which meant not only riding the subsequent 450 km in a pair of brand new shoes, risking blisters, etc., but also packing the wet shoes and socks all the way at least to Merritt, thus adding a couple more pounds of weight to an already loaded bike on which I was trying to make good time.
It was a ridiculous situation to find myself in. To quit after only 8 km seemed stupid; but to carry on a ride for two full days with wet feet in unseasonably cold weather was also stupid. So, I had to choose between the lesser of two stupids. After a few minutes consideration, I turned around, headed home, and went back to bed.

A few hours later, I rose, got dressed and went to the racetrack to watch the Belmont Stakes. An undefeated horse named Big Brown was attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner in thirty years. As the race began, he came out of the gate from the rail position in a rather fractious state, appeared hard to rein in on the first turn, but eventually moved outside and settled down in third position while pressing the pace three-wide. On the stretch turn, the jockey asked Big Brown to run harder anticipating that he'd go for the lead, but the horse gave no response. The jockey continued to urge him, but the colt just wasn't interested. As the field approached the head of the stretch, Big Brown slowed down indifferently, and the jockey pulled up on the reins and quit. The ride was officially list as 'DNF' - Did Not Finish.

Big Brown and me: we both had a DNF on the same day when ever so much more was anticipated and for no good reason. It's about the only thing we have in common. That is, unlike my four-legged equine counterpart, subsequent to my DNF I will not be retired to stud at $1 million a pop (if you'll pardon the expression.) Rather, I'll be angling for completion of a summer series including the 600 in late August.

Humanity is awesome.

Go to Merritt Loop 600: Results & Photos


June 10, 2008