Friday, December 12, 2008

God Rest Us Merry Gentlemen

2008 AD has been a fantastic year's craic for Tango & Cash. We got new blazers, won some races, bombed some, rode the complete Ulster Way, put on a stone between us, and it looks like we will still be home for tea.

Merry Christmas to everyone we have raced with and against over the year, and for all those who have provided us with so many laughs.

Now it's time to take stock... and make lots of GRAVY with it, pour it over everything we can find, eat solidly from now until 2009, and pause only to drink port and draw on fine Cuban cigars.

Look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

(Photograph inspired by Electric 6)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bluestacks!! CCAR Race 29 November

It was cold and icy, but clear and still, for the final race of the CCAR series 2008, and it proved to be another superb outing – stunning scenery in Donegal’s Bluestack Mountains, a brilliant course, well-organised, a great reception of food and drink afterwards, and great banter amongst the competitors as usual.

Pissing Wand took the win on the day, with Tango & Cash romping to second, just ahead of Deliverance Brothers. Lucky for the rest of us, the McCabe Brothers’ navigating was not as reliable as it normally is (ahem!), and if they had not made any mistakes, they would have won the race by miles.

In terms of the 2008 series overall, Passing Wind took that title too, with Tango and Cash grabbing second just ahead of Uphill Struggle.

RACE REPORT - Do not proceed until you have consumed several cups of strong coffee.

We gathered at about 9:00am at the Bluestack Centre in Letterbarra, just outside Donegal town. The still slippery conditions at 10:45am dictated that the field would best be broken up by a quick run, rather than starting with fifty competitors taking off on bikes in a bunch, and the run did break things up just a bit. There was a fast bunch, a slow bunch, and then just us plodding along between the two, with about a hundred yard gap front and rear.

Our transitions were clockwork all day, and after the short run, we were onto bikes quickly and out the gate as the third team, just behind Pissing Wand and the McCabe Brothers, who were already lost by the time they had reached the front gate of the centre, haha!

Once the McCabes had worked out that they should have turned left out of the centre, they, along with Passing Wind, established an early lead of a few hundred yards. Deliverance Brothers caught up with us but we held with them and kept the leaders in sight to CP3, getting there just after Pissing Wand and just ahead of Deliverance Brothers.

The underground pipe-run was despatched without incident, and we made our way along the short single-track to Shirley and her ‘drink the piping-hot unseasoned famine-soup’ task. Davy was rubbish at this and I ended up downing both soups; we left for the angling club just behind Pissing Wand, and happened to see the McCabes (who had been in first place), heading off up the road in completely the wrong direction.

The next challenge was to get one of the bikes dismantled and strapped onto a kayak for the paddle up Lough Eske, which we managed pretty quickly and got to paddling just ahead of Passing Wind. The McCabes had by now realised the error of their ways, and were in the water about 50 yards behind. With no wind, the water was like glass and the scenery quite amazing across the water, the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

We managed to hold off the challenge of Pissing Wand in the boats for about the first km, but then a combination of being a bit fat, and the boat taking on water, meant that Billy and Gerry were able to ease past us with their slow measured strokes, and they had about a minute on us by the far shore, the McCabes having caught up with us as well.

Our transition back to the bike/run was top notch, and we were well up the road whilst Pissing Wand and the McCabes were still flaffing about with paddles and shoes and bike re-assembly.

When we reached the path up to the archery at CP5, Passing Wind had caught us and were about three steps ahead of us, but we nipped through the trees and managed to sneak in just in front of them. This was a manoeuvre that had us leaving the archery in first place, but little did we know at the time that it was ultimately to scupper our chance of a race win, given confusion over a right of passage through private property.

Having run round the road in a vain attempt to catch up with Davy on the bike, during the ten minutes or so of confusion as I tried to find him, Pissing Wand and then Deliverance Brothers zoomed past. Sean and Conor, to their credit, pretended to give a damn that I had lost Davy, bless them! The McCabes, as it turned out, were off on another wild goose-chase somewhere, but we didn’t learn that until much later, thinking them to be well ahead instead.

Still cursing our luck as we started into the long climb up to CP7, we could see Deliverance Brothers about 5 minutes ahead of us up the path, and Passing Wind just disappearing over the crest, about another 5 minutes in front. We ate into the deficit with Deliverance Brothers a little bit up to CP7, but could not catch them, until we came upon them trying to fix a puncture. We could see them ahead on the skyline, both off the bikes, wildly gesticulating, kicking things and throwing wheels and tyres around and generally cursing life; it turned out that their spare tubes did not fit their rims, so they were REALLY stuffed.

By the time we had reached the guys, we had wiped the big grins off our faces and replaced them with concerned and sincere sympathetic frowns. Barely stifling our glee at their misfortune, we gave the lads one of our spare tubes and then got the hell out of there as fast as we could, to minimise their chances of catching us.

Just after we left them, we were amazed to see the McCabes coming up behind us again, and they flew past us and disappeared, not to be seen again until the finish.

Somehow, despite being crippled by the cold and our efforts to date, we managed to get round the obstacle course at the football pitch, but the bunny hops felt more like high jump for us.

At this point, we concluded our debate as to whether to go for the two 1-hour bonuses or not. We reckoned Pissing Wand and the McCabes would definitely go for them and there was no way we were going to catch them. The other key factor was that I could barely walk with cold and general fatigue, meaning it would probably not be worth it anyway. So the die was cast. We decided to go for the two 30-minute bike bonuses, finish early, and hope that Passing Wind and the McCabes didn’t get the benefit of the mountain bonuses.

We made good time round the roads, picked up the first bonus, and as we were leaving it, Deliverance Brothers were just arriving, with their puncture now fixed. We pressed on hard, picked up the final bonus and were back at the centre at about 3:10, the first team back. We were deftly handled at the basketball task by Rachel, and were quickly clocked in by Joan, off for a cold shower and full of hot soup and goodies. Deliverance Brothers were in just a few minutes after us, and Pissing Wand and the McCabes followed not too long after. Once all the adjustments had been made for bonus points and archery etc, Passing Wind had taken the win, with us just nicking second place from Deliverance Brothers.

Highlight of the day was provided by Gerry McCabe in the award ceremony. Having been presented with chocolate Santas for the gallant, albeit fruitless, efforts of the McCabe Brothers on the day, Gerry proceeded to regale the remaining competitors with a hilarious impression of his new Santa-Nav side-kick! But you had to be there!

(c) Santa-Nav is a registered trademark of McCabe & McCabe, Inc. Patent pending.

A quick tribute to the 3 teams we battled hard against all through the race:

Billy & Gerry from Passing Wind basked in the glory of race and series wins

Fair play to Jonny & Gerry McCabe, who kept smiling despite a number of navigation errors

Deliverance Brothers still had plenty of gas left in the tank, as they prepared for another night on the sauce.

Tango & Cash slipped into something more comfortable and spent a relaxing evening with their wives.