Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Worm Parts

I don't like to complain -- which probably comes as a big surprise to my loyal readers (both of them), since this seems to be what this blog is about, with me constantly whining about cars and cold weather and injuries and stupid things that I have done, often in ridiculously detailed subjunctive clauses (like this one) ...

Sorry. Where was I? Oh, yeah ... complaining.

It's been raining here in Tennessee the past week or so. A lot. It rained on us Saturday at Three-State Three-Mountain in Chattanooga, and that totally sucked. 3S3M is just about my favorite century in the southeast -- partly because it's a really nice course with two great and one horribly tough climb, but mostly because the folks in Chattanooga give cyclists the best support ever.

The Chattanooga Bicycle Club caps the ride at 2,500 entrants, and it usually fills up. At every rest stop, they have tons of volunteers giving you food and drink, and there's volunteers at almost every turn on the course to keep you from getting lost. At the dangerous turns on descents there are people warning you to slow down, and EMTs to cart you away if you don't.

The ride begins and ends in downtown Chattanooga, where there are people stopping traffic for you at every intersection as you leave in the morning and return in the afternoon. You literally do not have to put your foot down as they wave you past lines of motorists. As one crossing guard said to me the first year I did this ride, "Bicycles come first here in Chattanooga."

Usually, there's a bunch of my friends from the Harpeth Bicycle Club, and we get together for dinner Friday night. This year, we ate at Provino's, which is part of an old Atlanta chain that RandoGirl and I used to frequent when we lived there. We had to wait an hour to be seated, but it was worth it. Killer garlic rolls.

I was riding with RandoGirl this year, as I did last year. Her plan was to do the entire century. That had been her original plan last year, but she had two strains of flu in the early spring and wasn't able to train. I rode my Salsa singlespeed (with fenders, which came in handy as it rained in the morning that year) and pulled her on the metric.

It rained again this year, with the rain starting about the time that the ride started. About 12 miles in, we started up Suck Creek (the first of the three mountains). We were pretty wet, but the climbing felt good. And the rain picked up when we got to the top, so that the descent had everybody clamping down on their brakes, shivering with the cold, taking corners at five miles per hour, and not having any fun.

At the bottom, we watched a lot of people bail on the century and opt for the 40-mile route. A fellow randonneur -- Bob Hess from Knoxville -- joined us, and we decided to go on and see what the weather did. Maybe we would just do the metric.

Now, here's the thing: When we did the metric last year, the sun came out and the weather turned fine. While the weather forecast held no chance for a sunny afternoon this year, we hoped that the rain would at least ease up.

And RandoGirl had trained for this ride. So, at mile 40, when we had to decide whether to just do the metric or go on and do the century, she wanted to do the century. I told her, "We can't get any wetter, and the day should only get warmer." And we went on.

Of course, from then on the rain turned to a light drizzle and RandoGirl did just fine. Her back started spasming on the second mountain (Sand, which is tougher than Suck Creek), and she was in a lot of pain on Burkhalter Road (the last part of the climb up to mountain three -- Lookout Mountain), but she did it. It took just over eight hours, but she can now say that she has done 3S3M.

So, what am I complaining about?

Dead worms. This time of year, when we get this much rain, for some reason worms turn all lemming-esque and get out onto the wet roads. There, they get squished by 23c bicycle tires, and their parts spray up onto my bike's frame and into the fork, brakes, derailleurs, and other components.


It took me two hours to clean my Lynskey and RandoGirl's Bianchi. If you let the dead worms dry, they break off when you wipe the frame down, but then you can't get their guts out of the cable housings. If you wash them off while they're still wet, little parts tend to wash into other areas on your bike. I'm pretty sure that my rims are full of worm puree.

So, maybe next year we won't sign up early for 3S3M. Maybe we will wait until the Monday before, and only try to sign up then if there's absolutely no chance of rain. It will mean that we won't find a hotel room, and may not get to have dinner at Provino's with everybody, and won't be pampered by the City of Chattanooga, but it will keep me from scrubbing worm splatter off of everything Saturday night.

Ah, who am I kidding?


  1. Congrats! Especially to RandoGirl! Glad you both persevered and earned the right to proudly wear your 3S3M jersey. Here's hoping for sunny days ahead...

  2. It was great riding with you and Carol in the RAAMinator down to Chattanooga. Once Fredia and I got past the descent down Suck Creek, the rain tapered off and we had a great ride. It was a shame to see so many people who bailed out, but inspiring to witness plenty of Harpeth Bike Club members (especially RandoWife Carol) finish the entire century in good form.