Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bless His Dear Heart

You know it immediately when you're the recipient of a backhanded compliment. Like when you're having a bad hair day, and someone says, "Did you get a new haircut?" Or, when you do nothing different than your normal, everyday routine and someone says, "Wow, don't you look good today?" Thanks. Now what does that say about yesterday, or all the days before that?

Another personal slight comes in the form of veiled pity. Like when someone says, "bless his dear heart" while describing a dufus neighbor's attempt at wrestling an overstuffed garbage bag down the driveway, only to have it tear open and spew everything out three feet from the curb. Haha, bless his dear heart.

Only slightly less obnoxious is the guy who can't help but comment on the obvious. Like when you bang your head on the corner of an open drawer and your colleague says, "Oh man, I bet that hurt."

Something like the last one happened to me at the Heartland Park Topeka Grand Prix cyclcocross race this past weekend.

The Heartland Park Grand Prix venue is held on and around a "dirt velodrome" race track on the outskirts of Topeka. The course worked its way through technical sections in and outside the velodrome with two sets of barriers, one with a small fly-over with a ramp, and there was one small but very steep hill that followed a choppy technical section on the backside of the course. It was also a night race. Nothing like racing under the lights on Saturday night.

Anyway, there were 19 starters in the 40-49 masters race. My buddy Shim was there. And another Nebraskan, John Rokke, was in the field. I started in the back row, but by the end of the first lap, I had worked myself into the lead group of six, which included Shim and John Rokke. I sat in with them for the majority of the second lap. That was, until disaster struck: just before the steep hill, I bounced the chain off my front ring. Without power, I was forced to dismount, lug my bike up the hill and then go about resetting the chain.

That's when I first heard the voice from a bystander nearby: "Oh man, that's too bad you dropped your chain."

Yes, that was too bad, especially because after remounting, I had to burn a match to catch back on to the lead group, who were now in the process of trying to reel in a solo breakaway. But I did catch them, and when I did, I intended to sit-in for a breather. That was, until disaster struck for the second time. Again, just before the steep hill, I bounced the chain off my front ring once more. So I lugged the bike up the hill and reset the chain.

The same bystander took couldn't but comment once more, "Oh man, that's too bad you dropped your chain again."


I remounted, and furiously burned another match to catch back onto the chase group. By the time I had arrived, the leader was 10 seconds up the road, and another was attempting to bridge up to him. I didn't wait. I immediately counter-attacked my attack. Shim blocked while I worked on bringing back guy #2. By the time I did, I was content to sit on and catch my breath.

That's when disaster struck for the third time. Yep, another dropped chain -- this time on secluded section of the course. Whew! I wasn't sure how I would have taken hearing that guy tell me how bad it was that I dropped my chain again.

I remounted as the chase group came by and swept me up. We remained that way until midway through the bell lap. When the guy up front sat up on a flat section with a tailwind, I punched it hard. I figured I'd either succeed in creating a buffer, in the event that I had another mechanical, or I'd go out in a flame and let Shim reap the benefits of another awesome lead out. A chaser jumped on my wheel & Shim on his. In a short while, the guy behind me sounded like a horse in labor. We carried speed through the technical section just before the steep hill. And that's when disaster struck again: I heard the chain's unmistakable frame-slap a moment before I lost power. The moment of dread was upon me.

The dread was not that I had just dropped my chain for the fourth time in a race.

Nor was the dread a result of realizing that a chance at a podium had just slipped by.

The moment I dreaded was waiting for me at the top of that damn hill. Sure enough, as I worked that chain back on for the final time, that guy just couldn't help himself repeat once more:

"Oh Man, that's too bad you dropped your chain"

Looking back on it now, I'm sure he really meant what he said. It was indeed bad that I dropped a chain in a race, let alone four times. But c'mon. Offering pity once is understandable; twice is pushing it. But anything beyond that, bless his dear heart, was just speaking the obvious.


  1. hmmm. Did we put a chain catcher on your bike? If not, it sounds like you need one. They're pretty darn cheap and easy to install. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's some Instructables on how to make your own for even cheaper.

    Either way, for you to be in the top 7-ish with all those fast guys and drop your chain 4 times is an amazing feat of strength.

    You would've been scary fast had you only dropped your chain twice.

  2. Bless my dear heart, the jump stop was sitting on my work bench at home while I was dropping my chain in Topeka.

  3. You know its too bad you dropped your chain!

  4. Hey guy! It's a pity your friends reminded you that you dropped your chain....especially since you had a chain stopper in Omaha--bless your heart!

  5. hey brady, Do you run 1 x 9 or 1x10 ? just wondering....

  6. If you were anywhere near me when I dropped my chain, Shim, you too could have said that to my face when it happened. Bam!

    Hey Murphini-guy, I've learned from my neglect: the N Gear Jump Stop has been reinstalled for the Lincoln CX races this weekend.

    And to you Rafal, I'm running Munson's old 9 spd Tiagra brifter & 105 rear der. I'm amazed at the mileage squeezed out of those components, especially since they've been used in cx races, gravel rides & all-around winter commuting.

  7. I was near you, and as I remember I did say it, but in case you didn't hear me let me say it again, "you know its too bad you dropped your chain".

  8. Well done for catching on so many times. Wonder how well you had gone had you not dropped your chain... Too bad! :-)

    Well written post, I got a good giggle out of this one.

  9. Good thing you always have a great excuse for losing.