By Michael Wissell
So you decided to do a week- long bike race.
I can’t tell you what you have to do to win the race. I imagine that it involves a lot of “training” and “hard work”. I can, however, tell you about a couple of things that can make your week at the Trans-Sylvania Epic even more awesome (and perhaps take away a bit of the sting of losing 30 minutes a day to Jeremiah Bishop).
First things first: bring a fan. Preferably two fans. It gets hot at night in the bunks, and the last thing you want after a four hour hoof across the soggy wilderness is your thighs sticking together when you are trying to sleep. The second fan is for your gear. The race is hard enough. You can at least start every day with a dry helmet and shoes.
It is important to note that you should not use one fan for both purposes. Wafting the smell of your swampwater-filled foot-terrariums around the cabin will make you significantly less popular.
Your cabin-mates will let you know.
Treats. Last year, my wife secretly packed homemade cookies for me. I also brought some Trader Joes peanut butter cups. You will find that the provided food is no substitute for the morale-repairing experience of sharing candy with other constantly-hungry bike racers. It also works wonders as an icebreaker in a room full of people from different backgrounds and countries. If love is the universal language, cookies are its Rosetta Stone. Bring something good, and good stuff will happen to you all week.
They also make you train harder.
Bring two of everything. You may not need it, but in the back of your mind, you will be thankful that you have it. Crashes, fatigue-induced absent-mindedness, and old-fashioned bad luck can conspire to pull the rug out from under all that hard training and careful planning. I am not suggesting you go out and buy a second bike, but maybe ask a friend or teammate if they can loan you theirs for the week.
Bring that goofy commuter helmet you use for riding around town. That old pair of shoes, those ratty gloves, maybe even those kinda-worn tires from last season. You will likely not need any of it, but I promise—just swapping out a part or replacing a lost item is infinitely easier than running frantically around camp looking for someone that happens to have the same size shoes as you.
Especially if these are your shoes.
Books. Make sure you have something to read that isn’t bike related. You may not believe it, but your brain might actually want a few minutes off from BIKES BIKES BIKES sometime during the week. I don’t suggest any particularly heavy reading (maybe leave Being and Time at home) but a few magazines, an easy-ish novel, or that fancy new e-reader you got last Christmas should do the trick.
Related: Fishing gear.
Because I need something else to feel bad about.
Rope. I cannot overstate the importance of a nice coil of rope. It can be a laundry line, a bike stand, a shelf—pretty much whatever you need. Every year, I have brought some rope down, and every year Rimmey Cabin used almost all of it.
Like sailing flags on the HMS Bedraggled.
A headlamp. Your feet will be sad enough without slamming them into every obstacle between your bed and the toilet. You will also accumulate a fair amount of goodwill by not being the guy who wakes everyone up by turning on the bathroom light (which is wired to a fan that sounds like a small-engine plane trying to take off into the wind). Keep the light on a hook above your head when you sleep.
Also useful if, say, the bottom of your car falls off on Christmas Eve.
See you all in a few weeks!
Check out more dispatches as racers and regular riders alike prepare for the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race in central Pennsylvania.