Monday, June 11, 2007

Smokin' - SERC #6, Jackson GA

by Tasha

2.5 weeks after graduation and I'm putting my B.Sc to work with a job in the local coffeeshop. And biking. Brother and I were on the road at 530am for the sixth race in the SERC (Southeastern Regional Championship) series. I woke up as we were going through downtown ATL and saw the rising sun in a apocalyptic-looking gray haze. Not clouds. Freakin' smoke, drifting north from the huge wildfires in the south Georgia swamps. The swamps dried out (the state is already in a 100-year drought, and it isn't even June yet; scientists say that we need several tropical storms to break the drought cycle and extinguish the fires.) and now the peat is burning. The smoke regularly drifts all the way into the north GA mountains where I live.

Jackson is a typically south GA looking place. Pines and red clay. The course was at a nature center, on land that was probably farmed 50 or 60 years ago judging from the age of the forest and the steep terraces that we rode up and down repeatedly. I volunteered to be a rabbit for the kids' race and almost missed my own warmup thanks to one of the little shrimps who required shepherding (he was walking his bike up and down the hills...we ended up walking out together while he told me ALL about dogs and Star Wars).

Started the race at 930 in dense smoke. Race SMRT Cowie. S-M-R-T smart. Grab second wheel, stay there, try not to breathe too hard. The smoke was fog-thick for the first two of three laps and I inhaled so much of it that my snot was black. And it was dusty. But my Zeal Zests did remarkably well in the nasty conditions. The polarized lenses weren't too dark, and they kept dusty smoky crap out of my eyes.

Incidentally, I decided that I needed high performance eyewear for graduation too, so I wore my PINK PINK PINK Juice Zeals perched on my head when I picked up my diploma from the Vice Chancellor. (By the way the Zeal office and warehouse are built from recycled styrofoam and concrete blocks, and they do a bunch of other minimal packaging and major recycling things. This is super cool. Check their website at for more info.)

The first three women gapped the field at the start. I was super sneaky. Paula and I got away from Kym on the last lap, and when she slipped on a steep climb I kept going. Carefully, so she wouldn't think I was breaking away and try to chase. Once I was out of her sight I took off. (Note to self: this trick will never ever work again with Paula and Kym so don't try it next weekend.) And then nearly crashed into my dumb brother crossing the finish line. (Tristan, the youngest in the pro/semipro class at 18, took 3rd.) But I managed a nice little finish salute anyway. My first ever.

And then I couldn't figure out how to open the bottle of champagne on the podium, so Kym had to help me because everyone else ran away when I started shaking the bottle. (I know how to open beer bottles, not champagne bottles.) Then I sprayed the crowd. And drank the remainder. Warm champagne is the best way to finish a race. Fun!


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