The bike racers who show up for a rainy April race at Portland International Raceway are a hardy bunch. Not only does it require a fine coordination of life's obligations... it also necessitates a grit-the-teeth mentality that can be lost on those who opt out on the rainy days.
Tuesday, April 14th 2015 was one of those days. Looming large on Doppler apps across the city was the sign that precipitation was a certainty. Each participant mentally tallied the gear required to overcome the soul-crushing race efforts ahead, while simultaneously stealing themselves for the real danger of hypothermia.
Throughout Portland, in parked cars outside of multiple places of work, gear bags waited, brimming with all the prerequisite kit. And cycling through the minds of the racers who toiled at their day jobs was the fear of the efforts ahead, the fear of getting popped off the back, the fear of letting a teammate down when it was their turn to work, and the fear of not achieving a top level performance. Adrenaline spikes hit hardest in the desk chair.
Something else was going on. Something also less than ideal.
For geese had been busy. They had been wondering freely around the race venue all of that day, and the weekend prior, consuming whatever geese consume on their brief layover between warmer weather and... Canada? They were Canadian after all. Big, gray, hungry, Canadian geese. Thousands of them, dotting the grasslands that boarder this perfectly flat, perfectly smooth, 9 cornered gem of a race track the local racers refer to as PIR.
The Canadian geese do not seem to hold the pristine tarmac in particularly high a regard... as they shit all over it.
The amount of poop they deposit on the blacktop is unbelievable. It lays there, a tootsie roll on every square foot of track, like so many landmines. Yet with no real threat. Just a slick spot, ready to affix itself to a tire for a fleeting moment, with just enough staying power for 1/4th of a wheel's revolution. The inevitable next stop is the jersey and face of the following racer.
All the poo will vanish, however, by race end. It can't be helped. One can not dodge that much poo. In fact, it becomes one of the variables of the evening; how to slide one's bike through poo covered corners, as tires try to hold a line while simultaneously peppering any following racer with goose feces.
Some wear hats to mitigate spray. Some treat their glasses with chemicals to shed poo water faster as it builds in front of the eyes. But, many will simply plan for an evening of racing while never swallowing, lest goose doodoo be ingested.
Just leave the jaw slack, let the rain/poo water mix rinse in as breaths of oxygen are consumed, and drool out whatever is left. Not pretty. But effective.
The race went fine. Early season fitness was tested. Breaks went, and were pulled back, and then stuck. Sprints were contested. Won and lost. And, fun was had.
In the end it was the geese who were victorious. If it was truly their plan to be-speckle the racers with their excrement, then they were blowing up fist bumps from here to America's Hat. Their feces was worn home, washed mostly from kit, and found by some in the strangest of orifices even days later. Call it a bit of avian redemption. A comeuppance for having to dodge all of these spandex warriors on a perfectly wonderful, rain-soaked Tuesday evening.