Monday, June 9, 2008


Let's start this saga by going back in time, a small stroll down memory lane -- if you'll indulge me.

Rewind one year:
The 2007 Ballard Crit wasn't my proudest moment. By early June, I was suffering from a bit of burnout. I'd been struggling to find focus and drive, and my legs were feeling a little flat. I'd just gotten my butt kicked at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic (where I crashed twice in the final crit), and I was about to head out to the crit-heavy Nature Valley Grand Prix. I was bitter about having to go to Minnesota to race a crit festival (where I would undoubtedly flounder and flop), instead of racing the overlapping Elkhorn Classic -- a northwest stage race I thought I could do well at. So there I was: Ballard, a trendy neighborhood surrounded by a thicket of refineries, rail yards, and warehouses. Don't get me wrong, I like Ballard -- it's got all the dingy, industrial mystique of, say, Detroit, but it's right in Seattle and loaded with fun bars and cool restaurants. Hooray for gentrification! However I was NOT psyched to be racing the Ballard Crit. To begin with, in line with Ballard's whole "urban decay" theme, the pavement is awful: massive seams in the concrete, some big ol' potholes, a healthy sprinkling of manhole covers and sewer grates, and a bumpy brick section. To top it all off, it was raining, which made the course downright treacherous, especially the bricks. Oh, and the manhole covers. And the all the corners. I'd had a pretty dismal year of crit racing up to that point, and the conditions in downtown Ballard weren't at all to my liking. To be honest I was never in the race at all; the gun went off and my thoughts were something along the lines of "SHIT SHIT SHIT, THIS IS NUTS, I'M GOING TO DIE, I'D BETTER GET TO THE BACK WHERE IT'S SAFE". I was tail gunning within two laps. I was yoyoing off the back after fifteen minutes, and the referee mercifully pulled me from the race after half an hour. Oh, and I forgot to mention the crowd -- there is one. It's big and rowdy, and loves to heckle poor bastards who get dropped, so my humiliation was rather thorough.

Fast forward one year:
I showed up at Ballard with a slight chip on my shoulder. I wanted to show everyone who watched me suck last year that I do actually know how to get the job done. I've had a lot more success at crits this year, and I haven't really struggled with motivation or focus. The weather was better, and the looming Nature Valley Grand Prix wasn't nearly as intimidating. For the first twenty minutes of the race I chilled out and waited for an easy opportunity to get to the front. Eventually the front of the field slowed down, I grabbed a good wheel, and shot past everyone. Once I was up there, I stayed up there. I marked moves. I chased. I attacked. It was fun. The race started off dry, but about halfway through it started to mist on us. There were a few crashes as people adjusted to the changing levels of traction, but fortunately I was ahead of them all. With about ten minutes to go, our team was looking great -- we had a four man lead-out assembled for Cooper (albeit shoddily assembled), and in my opinion it was as much ours as it was anyone else's. Here I am keeping things fast with like 4 to go (Thanks to On the second to last lap, on the back side of the course two guys crossed wheels towards the front of the peloton and took out a good chunk guys. I didn't crash, but I had to stop to avoid running over some poor schmuck who was busy painting the asphalt red with the skin from his butt. Cooper easily won the field sprint for third, but didn't win because in the confusion David Richter jumped the field and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.....the point is, we didn't win.

Fast forward two hours:
I was pleased with how I raced, but felt a little robbed because of the crash. After changing into civilian clothing, I met up with some teammates at a nicer "sit-down and order food" style bar. I ate someone else's onion rings and drank a beer, but the atmosphere wasn't quite right, so we paid our tab and went to the Lock and Keel, a much more "stand-up and shout while drinking beer straight out of the pitcher" establishment. I walked through the door with my friends, and stumbled into a strange situation: some guys on the Second Ascent team were trying to pressure another guy into drinking a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce for $20. By the time I got clued into what was going on, the ante had been upped. "Sam, $100 if you drink this bottle of Tabasco," one of them shouted. Now normally, $100 would be a FINE price for drinking a bottle of hot sauce, but I smelled opportunity. I eyed the bottle suspiciously, and countered "that's at least $200 worth of Tabasco." Lofty goals can be powerful motivators, and this was never truer than in the Lock & Keel that night. I felt a mixture of delight and disappointment, as the crew took my increased price as a challenge, and went about fleecing cash from everyone in the bar. Finally, when I felt like motivation was beginning to wain (and a few of the bigger contributors were beginning to actually question the "value" in spending $60 watching a man drink hot sauce), I said "that's enough." Final price: $184, a Taco Del Mar punchcard (with 7 punches!!!), and a bag of chips. I poured the bottle of tabasco into a pint glass, and downed the whole thing in two big gulps.
Lord in heaven it hurt. I suppose you could say the people got their money's worth; my discomfort was both obvious and prolonged. My lips, mouth, throat, and even eyes burned like the dickens, and my stomach felt -- well it's difficult to describe; my stomach didn't hurt exactly, it was more the sensation that I'd done something profoundly wrong to the interior of my body. I considered calling poison control. I considered vomiting. I tried vomiting. My attempt to purge the vile concoction was interrupted by an employee of the bar ["But I'm not puking because I'm drunk," I pleaded. "I don't care, you still can't puke in our flower pot" he replied] so I tried diluting the Tabasco with chips and more beer. This just added bloating to my list of many discomforts. Finally, when Alan said he was going home a little bit early, I chose to leave too. We stopped at the QFC on the way home, where I bought a some Tums, some Peptobysmol, and a nice big bottle of kefir (with live active Tabasco-devouring cultures!!). Once I got home, I was relieved to find very little under my Google search "Tabasco overdose", and the fact that the poison control website didn't even have an entry for Tabasco. I did however discover numerous youtube videos of people chugging Tabasco for FAR less than I did. Those schmucks.


J. Mayfield said...

Next up, dave's insanity sauce..

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