Race Report: Sunny San Deigo

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This race report begins Friday night, in Leconte Hall.

We walked out of lab in utter bewilderment. It was over. I high-fived my lab partner and seriously considered sitting down right then and there and shedding tears of joy. The mere fact that we had made it out of the Physics 111 Lab (an hour and forty-five minutes late, mind you) with some shred of sanity remaining was at the very least a small miracle. There had been fear. There had been loathing. There had been almost-tears, of joy and otherwise.

The idea of finishing two labs in four days was somewhat of unthinkable, but it had to be done. Almost an entire week of programming-filled sleepless nights and probably failed problem sets culminated in an hour and a half of intense post-lab-closing time interrogation (‘say what you mean!’ ‘Use scientific language!’ and ‘treat these questions like they actually have meaning!’). Only as the janitors entered the room and began to empty the garbage bins and the GSI retreated to reading his kindle were we able to scrape together a working LabView Program. The grace of the Physics gods was upon us, if only just barely. But we walked out of there owning that lab in the face, and dang, it felt good.

At 7:45 PM I checked my phone and there were five missed calls. I was supposed to pick up Alex and Marc over an hour ago. Crap. Balls. Crapballs.

After calling them back and apologizing profusely, I booked it home as fast as I could, threw my stuff into the car, jumped in, and turned the key.

Nothing happened.

I cursed. Very loudly. In every language I could.

There were no jumper cables to be found in the back of my car. The Stanford football players that were pulling up next to me in identical Chrysler vans where no help. “Uhhhh, these are rentals. Sorry. Ask the truck drivers,” they replied in that characteristic football-player voice. I asked the truck drivers, but they had no cables either. I ran into my house and announced very loudly that I needed jumper cables. No one had any. It looked like it was gonna be triple-A, or else no way. I made the call, and waited.

About a half hour later, a guy at the service company called my cellphone. He was talking to someone else on his cellphone the same time he was helping me, so I couldn’t hear him very well. Nevertheless I still tried to give him the location of my car, and he told me to go on hold. As if sent by heaven, my housemate Ricky walked in and said he had cables. When the guy came back on the phone I told him to never mind, and that I had someone to help me. “Good,” the voice on the other end said snottily, “Cause I don’t have anyone to help you.” I slammed down the phone.

So, in the middle of the beginning of a torrential downpour, Ricky heroically jumped my car, I picked up Alex and Marc and we left Berkeley, sometime just after 9:30 at night.

Several hours, several conversations about solar cells, and almost the entire length of California later, we were in Del Mar, sleeping a sweet hour and a half at Marc’s parents’ place before rising again to make the final trek to the race. Holding Mexico on our horizon, we followed a handwritten sign up seemingly endless washboard road through rain-shrouded alien landscape of sagebrush rainbows and twisted read-armed manzanita. We made it, with not a minute to spare.

Everyone knows how the next few hours went. It was a rainy and as miserable as you could ever imagine. I surprisingly wasn’t too tired at first, but when I discovered that I had little to no braking power (disc brakes would have been nice) and no small chain ring. There was one moment, as Claire and I were running up the slickrock, the sky storming, I yelled: “This is epic!” I couldn’t believe that just the night before, my entire life existed in LabView. Those few hours ago, “life or death” meant finishing or not finishing the Lab. Now, “life or death” meant, well, just that. I was finally saying what I meant. And although Leconte seemed like a million miles away, I knew my GSI would be proud.

I caught Liz on one of the fireroad climbs and we made a deal to ride the rest of the race together, since at that point we both had adopted the “Screw this” mindset and it didn’t really matter, points-wise, which one of us finished first. We let off steam by complaining about how the whole thing sucked, and then I dorkily tried to talk to Liz about Astronomy. We ended up finishing a pretty much the same time and high-fived it across the line. Awesome.

The next several hours were spent huddling inside my sleeping bag in my car until Stephen came and banged on the window and told me I had to drive down for the Super D. About five seconds after he left, I feel into half-sleep again, and apparently missed the time we where supposed to go down there. Luckily, Alex decided not to race and could drive the car down for me. No, no getting out of the Super D for me.

Climbing up to the Super D start, I realized it was taking me a good 20 meters to come to a complete stop on my bike. Add to that the fact I was a little out of my right mind, as Sabrina can attest (I think I spent a good five minutes randomly complaining loudly about how I don’t understand Rabi Oscillations) and you have somewhat of a recipe for disaster. At the top my brake cables got adjusted a little bit I think, but it didn’t make much of a difference since they loosened again a few minutes later.

After watching all the other starters dance the Can-Can in their ridiculous raingear, it was time at last for Women’s B/C. Forgoing our plans to skip daintily to our bike at the Lemond start, we sprinted madly. What followed was fifteen minutes of mud-coated terror. At one point, as I was sliding on my ass down a steep slope, I wondered if I would actually be going faster if I had stayed on my bike. Survey says: Maybe not. Afterwards, we bathed in mud puddles because dousing ourselves in muddy water was actually making us cleaner. It’s true, just ask Mason.

My biggest victory of the weekend, however, occurred later that night. I am proud to say that I landed a spot on the couch at Charlie’s parents’ house. In the history of my Calcycling Career, I have never once gotten a spot on the couch for the entire night. It turns out the trick is to fall asleep at 7:30 PM and unwittingly steal Nitish’s sleeping bag. Sorry, Nitish.

We made it to the race the next day again just in the nick of time (freeways are confusing things). The short track was an insane test of skill. I totally hucked it off the end of the rock face on every single lap. It’s true. Just ask the semi-inebriated San Diego guys who cheered me on (them: “ride through the mud puddle!!!” me: “why not!?! [splash]” ) I would also like to come out and say that I apologize to anyone my uncle heckled. He was the guy screaming, “GO Bulldog! Go, bulldog GO!” during the short track. He means well, I promise.

And then there was the downhill debut. As Sabrina and I pushed our bikes up the rainy trail of misery to the top, the air slowly begin quitting her tire. Though it was not that big of an issue really, since Hanns said we weren’t allowed to ride the course without fullface helmets. It was going to be a footrace. As women’s B/C riders, we where of course the last ones left at the top, and I was the last one to come down. Hanns said go and so began the sprint.

As if heaven-sent Rob and Jordan showed up about ¼ of the way down the course bearing full-face helmets. Everyone else refused to take one, but I saw the helmet as my one-way out of the ridiculous footrace. Rob gave me his helmet and I spent a few seconds figuring out how to put it on. Though it was a bit hard for me to jump on my bike with any kind of finesse (baggies—meaning in this case wet jeans—is not a look I am used to rocking). The freedom of having no brakes definitely made me faster, and I crossed the finish line absolutely exhilarated. Turns out the Downhill was the only event I won ‘cause I’m a C in gravity. I think my next move is to go pro. Let the word out, I’m taking sponsors.

Everyone knows what happens next…we huddled like penguins waiting for awards, lost the conference by a mere 50 points, but won all-out in the fun category. What nobody got to hear is how afterwards we went to a Mexican restaurant in El Cajon, down the street from the Arby’s my mom worked at when she was sixteen. Not to mention how I ate a burrito the size of my head, how North Carolina-gal Menaka tried sopes for the first time, how Stephen J accidentally threw away his car keys, or how twenty minutes later Alex and I realized we left our bikes unlocked in a parking lot at dusk in downtown El Cajon for an hour. Comedy of Errors, much?

Thanks for a great weekend everyone. And according to the calculations I did in my head as I feel asleep on my Uncle’s couch on Sunday night (most comfortable couch in the world), the amount of fun we had definitely makes the misery factor insignificant.

As for shoutouts, I would like to say props to Menaka, for being a humble champion; to Claire, for racing in jeans and running shoes; to Alex for trying to catch the Men’s A field after missing the start; to Wes, for riding most of the short track with no seat; to Sabrina for racing downhill with a flat tire; to the San Diego guys, who have to drive that far every godforsaken weekend, and to everyone who suffered immensely so that immense fun could be had. Go Bears!

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