Sunday, August 5, 2012

Marin Century and the Near Naked Man

Iron Mike and Young Daniel taking Bog Rock at the top of Lucas Valley Road
 This past Saturday brought the famous Marin Century.  I was super excited for the ride and not overly concerned about the mileage or the elevation.  The Tour de Cure was much faster and the ride to Aptos was much longer with more elevation.  So I was ready.  And to top it all off, the Marin Century is world renowned for its service.  There were well rest stops at all the major mile markers, stocked with fresh fruit, Gatorade, trail mix, PB&J, oreos and tons of other goodies.  I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-ride and packed four packages of Gu.  Otherwise, I was confident that the food, SAG vehicles and all of my other needs would be met.
Near Naked Man - Raising awareness for male cancers
The ride also was my opportunity to introduce the world, or at least this continent, the NearNakedMan (NNM).  NNM is a fancy kit that I wore as part of a philanthropy that I am supporting, http://malecancer.org/, The cause for the philanthropy is pretty simple.  It states that these make cancers are generally treatable and curable in men as long as they are diagnosed early in the process.  As you might imagine, many men are intimidated or even embarrassed to ask their doctors to check out their undercarriage.  So the goal is to raise awareness by minimizing the embarrassment of talking about the cancers.  The method doing so is by having its supporters (me) wear the most god-awful, flesh colored speed suit of a naked man, complete with abs and nipples, and a fig leaf covering the boy parts.  While the kit is not pornographic by any means, it is certainly off-color and possibly obscene.  And there is nothing sexy about a 225 pound guy in a flesh colored spandex skin suit.  Nonetheless, it succeeds in its goal of catching attention and creating something to talk about.
NNM, Young Daniel and Paul B enjoying the first rest stop in Petaluma
Accompanying me on the ride were several of my FOG Dweller buddies and a few friends of friends.  We were a strong crew of nine, with little intention for a hammer fest.  Most exciting was young Noah who, at 14 years old, was doing his first century.  Selfishly, I was thrilled for him to join us because his pace was certain to keep the group from flying through the course.  
One of many cow pastures that we passed.  We also went through a herd of sheep.

We did surprisingly little socializing at the start of the ride and proceeded straight to the course.  By the top of our first climb of the day, Big Rock on Lucas Valley Road, there were still a lot of people and plenty of bikes/bikers to pass.  Jeff B. and I took the initiative to hit the downhill a little hard to get out of the masses.  At the first rest stop, in Petaluma, I must say that I was really embarrassed to get off the bike and fully expose the NNM to the masses.  It was one thing to have someone make a comment about the silly suit as we passed each other on the bike.  But there was no hiding as I was surrounded by tons of people waiting in line for food.  I kept my sunglasses on as to not have to make eye contact with anyone in particular.  But the comments were unavoidable.  Most were extremely positive like “Whoa” and “Great kit, man”.  But others were more in shock and there was a significant amount of finger pointing and laughing.  The ice was broken when I was approached by a flamboyant gay guy who was hosting the food line as a representative for the AIDS Ride.  He can up to me and we bantered for a while which made the situation much more fun.  Then I bumped into a few acquaintances who are part of a very strong community of riders in San Francisco and Marin.  I got the token “Wow”s and we continued on.  But I also knew that my buddy Mark, with whom I rode to Aptos, was riding in that crew.  I innocently asked, ‘Is Mark with you guys?” and Mark chimed up from behind me.  Although we just rode together just two weeks ago, and we have hung out a few times since, Mark was horrified to talk with me, be in my presence or even acknowledge that he knew me.  I felt a bit uneasy to see how uncomfortable he felt seeing me in the kit.  No harm done and we have laughed about it after the fact, though.
Rest stop number 2 in Valley Ford


We picked up the pace heading west towards Tomales to our second rest stop at about mile 55.  It was at this stop that the NNM was in full form.  The entrance was about 100 feet from the parking area, so there was literally a red carpet walkway between the bike parking and the food.  NNM was on full display.  It was also at this stop that I had the most fun encounter of the day.  After being asked to pose for several pictures, both alone and with other riders, I was approached by a cute little racer chick with piercings and tattoos all over her.  She proclaimed, “We are going to take a picture together, and I’m gonna grab your nipple.”  Who was I to object so as she handed her camera to Young Daniel, I just shrugged and went with it.  We both laughed and we went our separate ways.  By the end of the day, she was not the last person to touch me without my solicitation to do so.
Jeff B, one of the speedster group that dropped me at mile 70

The third leg of the ride brought the vaunted Marshall Wall – an 750 foot climb over three miles that is an unwelcome sight after 71 miles behind us.  It was at this point that the speedsters of our group – Jeff, Young Daniel and Paul – left the rest of us for good.  For me personally, it was a time to downshift to low-low and just pedal without regard for speed.  I was still passing more people than I was being passed by.  But the climb gave me the opportunity to lower my heart rate and just spin for 20 minutes or so.  I may not be able to climb fast, but I can certainly climb slowly for a very long time.  After the Marshall descent, we stopped at the last rest stop of the day.  As I was pulling in, my racer chick was on her way out.  She feigned surprise as I walked past her and she said, “Sheesh.  You caught me by surprise.  I am just not use to being in the presence of a naked man.”  I responded that “Maybe you should try it more often.”  She just giggled and said, “Nope, men are really not my type.”  If the tats and the piercings were not clue enough, it was now clear that racer-chick was into other biker babes.  Too bad.  She would have made many of my single buddies very happy.
The fearless FOG leader, Scott, and his buddy Mark who drove in from Folsom

The last leg of the ride was the most fun.  The speedsters were way ahead of us (they chose not to stop at rest stop #3) and Mark, Scott and Noah stayed for an extra long rest after Marshall.  That left Iron Mike, Jeo and me to finish off the day.  There was about 20 miles of rollers left before we had to climb back up Big Rock and then another 5 miles to go after the climb and descent.  Mike took off early and left Jeo and me to chase.  I caught Mike just after the Cheese Factory and we dropped Jeo somewhere on Nicasio Road.  Mike and I got in a group of five and we just hammered through Nicasio and back onto Lucas Valley Road.  At that point, Mike started getting leg cramps, so I did all the work to pull him through.  I led Mike and me pretty hard, passing dozens of people for several miles.  What I thought was 3 miles turned into just under 10.  I was absolutely dying doing all of the work.  But I was also enjoying passing all those people.  And to think what must have been going through their heads as the NNM was reeling them all in, one at a time, and passing them all in the 90th through 100th miles of the course.  Hell yes!!  At the bottom on Big Rock, I declared myself done and let Mike pass.  I never did see him again that day.  I spun, again in granny gear, up Big Rock for the final few hundred feet of elevation.
Young Noah, age 14, mugging for the camera during his first century ride ever
I pulled into the finish line, 102.5 miles and almost 7,800 feet of climbing, to see Amy and the kids waiting for me at the line.  It felt great to be done and even better to get off the bike.  We made it through to the food lines and I collected tons of stuff for me and the kids to eat.  I downed two or three slices of pizza, half of a Chipotle burrito, some lasagna and also passed out brownies to the kids.  I caught up with the speedsters who had already changed and finished eating.  We cycled through the pictures and reminisced a bit before it was time to get home.  A marvelous end to a marvelous day. The NearNakedMan was an absolute hit.  But I don’ot think I will break him out for a ride any time soon.  For those of you that are so inclined, or if the pictures above gave you a chuckle, think about kicking down a few bucks for the cause.  Help raise awareness of male cancers and support another knucklehead to don the kit.  The philanthropy’s website is http://malecancer.org/ and you can make a donation in my name at http://www.justgiving.com/mbrasler .

The amazing paella dinner that was waiting for me upon my return home.  Happy birthday, Diana.

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