Sunday, October 11, 2015

New Mexico, not just once but twice in a row

They call them ristra, dried chili peppers on a string

It's been a quite busy fall for me, with very little time at home and so many different hotel beds that I pretty much have lost count. These past two weeks, since returning from World's in Richmond, I have driven about 2,000 miles, most of that in our neighboring state New Mexico. I had been assigned to two mountain bike races, one in Farmington and the other in Angel Fire. While the latter is a "regular" venue for me, I had never been to Farmington, in the north-western corner of the state, except on the way up to Rico, CO. The town is host to the longest continuously running mountain bike race in the US, and thus most likely in the world, as the sport was invented here on this side of the pond just a little more than 35 years ago.
Badlands a a few miles south of Cuba, NM, on NM 550
So it was road trippin' time. The nice thing is that I am paid mileage for such trips, and of course I am being put up in swank accommodations such as the Best Western Farmington and I receive a small stipend for working the race—when taking into account the dozens of e-mails and the long hours at the venue this stipend amounts to a little more than minimum wage. But let's not forget: I get to go to cool places to work with interesting people and help put on a successful event. Not a bad gig at all, I'd say.
Three Rivers Brewing in Farmington offers much-needed social services
Let's be frank: Working both races was challenging. The Farmington Road Apple Rally is being organized by the Parks & Rec Department of the City of Farmington, and a last-minute change in personnel put the race directorship into the hands of a non-cyclist city employee who needed much hand-holding. But we pulled this one off, and the RD was thankful for everything that I had brought to the table—a lot of which went far beyond the usual responsibilities of a Chief Referee.
The Chili Express—one more weekend of bike transports to the top before the ski season starts
On the way back from Farmington I stopped over for the night in the tiny hamlet of Mountainair, about 60 miles south of Edgewood and Moriarty, on the eastern flanks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I hadn't seen my old friends Wayne and Lorane in years, ever since they had left Lubbock and moved to the mountains. Wayne and I go all the way back to 1980, and it was a special pleasure to see his second-born son, Trent, who happened to stop by. I remember when they brought him home from the hospital, a tiny bundle of humanity. And now he is a strappin' young man who runs ultra-endurance foot races in the mountains. It was a wonderful evening.
A moment of peace and aspen at the Dual Slalom
Three days after returning from this trip I packed the BMW once again to head for Angel Fire to chief the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Conference Mountain Bike Championships, which were organized by Adams State University, an Alamosa, CO-based school. I had been in contact with the RD, Marshal, and we both deemed it better that I arrive at the venue on Thursday night so that we could pow-wow on Friday before the two-day competition started early on Saturday. And what a good decision that turned out to be, as neither the Chief Judge nor the one-person timing company arrived in AF until about 10 p.m. on Friday—and the conference director, with rider roster information, arrived even later that night. Yes, registration started at 7 a.m. on Saturday, and the first XC race got off at 9 a.m. It's needless to say that registration was a total catastrophe, not because of Marshal's shortcomings but rather a combination of rule changes that had never been communicated, ill-prepared outside personnel, a crappy AF-provided printer, three of four extra volunteers who never showed up after having committed to be there, some people with toxic attitudes, and a bevvy of other small but important pieces in the puzzle. The start lists for the 9 a.m. XC start were finally delivered at about 11 a.m., after most of the racing had been completed—full of mistakes. Somehow I remember some other race that had similar issues, don't I? Oh well, thanks to all those years of clusterfuck experience we went to plan B and things worked out. They always do, but why does it have to be such a struggle?
A downhiller gets ready to explode out of the start gate
That afternoon's dual slalom competition was another exercise in patience and hoping that we wouldn't run out of daylight (we didn't) because of delays—not because we had course holds as no riders had any serious crashes but rather because the timing company had never timed a dual slalom before. Nothing like being the guinea pig.
Looking upon Wheeler Peak from the top of the World Cup DH run
Sunday was much, much better, even if there were once again no start lists for the short track competition. If I hear another time the excuse "it's just a collegiate race" I will probably strangle somebody. Marshal, himself just barely graduated, and his wife, Kristin, were as professional as they come, but some other people who had various roles this weekend (and no, none of the as usual top-notch mountain employees) were, well, on the level of typical lala-land college students, even if they were grad students or a tiny bit beyond. I felt very sorry for RD Marshal as he and his school did not look as good as they should have—but most likely nobody in the college crowd noticed.
The Ft. Lewis A women pose before the DH start
Ride like a butterfly...
Selfie time before the start
After Saturday's 13-hour day it was a great pleasure to have a few drinks at the Sunset Grill with the crack mountain guys, Hogan, Matt, and Patrick; we were joined by Sarah, my direct liaison to much of the operative issues. I have worked with these folks before, and it is humbling how much trust they have in me and my decisions regarding the race. To be told "please come back" and "you know that you're always welcome here" means the world to me as I see them (and those who work for them) as the very best mountain employees I have worked with anywhere. Thanks, gang!
AF Events and Sponsorship Manager Sarah fills in as part of the timing crew
Catching a ride down the mountain with the Ski Patrol
And now it is Sunday night and I am finishing this blog entry in my room here in the Angel Fire Lodge. I am so glad that I did not have to drive home tonight but that I was given the room for an extra night. Tomorrow I will be well rested for the six-and-a-half hours back home, with a day-and-a-half in the Hub City to unpack and wash my clothes and get ready for my for-fun trip to New York City on Wednesday morning. I finally get to burn off a few airline miles and am looking forward to some extensive sightseeing and a few good jazz concerts. And then, a week later, comes Collegiate Nationals, for which I will be the Chief. Let's hope that this weekend's issues won't repeat themselves. More hotel beds are coming, that's for sure.


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