Life is pedaling yourself to exhaustion at the Snowhill Road rides on Tuesday nights in the Little Econ and catching the sunset on the way to home…
I showed up around six p.m. to a packed parking lot…I remembered last week – there were six of us, and I’d managed to hang in behind three of them – they were riding hard that night and I was feeling good on the bike then, too. And, with the help of a shorter stem, I could pull up a lot easier – go figure.
…I strapped on my clip shoes and filled my water, found some gloves and buckled my helmet. This Tuesday night, I counted more than ten bikes and not a female in sight. I thought, wow, I can’t believe these excellent odds.
Actually, I remembered why after I’d toughed it out a while…Once the Cannondales took off, I jumped in front of two or three of them and knew I had to pace myself to the end…it sure was hot though – the temperature had cooled to eighty degrees? 50% humidity?
Of course, we hit the one trail I knew the least -a fast, technical rooted-out-route with one or two lines, tops. Them boys stayed on each other’s back tire best they could, and I pressed on like a soldier behind them. I pedaled in silence, listening their voices ahead of me predicting the trail out of sight. I’d hear, “Ooooh!” really loud and sense something – you have to pick your lines way in advance before a path starts to mysteriously develop.
The ones leading the pack pulled way ahead, even after the first obstacle we hit – a small, rocky creek crossing. The rider ahead of me messed up and had to bail out, so I nailed the line to the left and took off, finding a groove for the first mile or so of tight woods. We cruised along, until ol’ Steve pinched a flat, and we all stopped for him to fix it. [Author sidenote: Small talk between a group of guys wearing spandex is overkill. Say nothing.]
I looked down to my computer and gawked; distance lasts a lot longer when your legs are the motor. Once we got going again, I heard one of them behind me, “Man, I’m out of shape,” and I laughed on his level. This was life in the fast lane!
The ones up front were bigger, faster and stronger. They spent thousands in equipment and years on endurance. I’d lose them later riding out back over the bridges – they’ll ride up two feet of steps, between three feet of railing and over these bridges. It’s not quite a delay when you can clear all five of the walking bridges, whereas I had to dismount and walk across. Still, I kept pushing through to their little check points, and they wouldn’t wait long. After five miles and 45 minutes with the tire change, we had a power break and a few of them sucked down gel packs or granola bars. I drank water. Lots of water.
So, we were all waiting around; a few of them stayed running their mouths…
“What is this, waitup.com? Let’s go!” someone else said.
“We’re not getting any younger,” said another. Corny. There was a huge awkward pause and then we were off again.
There’s something sorta magical about pushing your body further than you ever thought it would go. I pedaled my body into submission, sweat pouring out, and they just kept us going and going. I had a flash back to the enduro days, when I was hanging on for dear life and if only I could stop and swallow some water.
Not everyone made the uncut fifteen-mile loop. We pinched two flats. A few guys bailed out because they ran out of water. I left some for the last leg, catching up to the fast guy who waited for me at the last drop-in.
“You’re doin’ good,” he told me. “I’m not quitting,” I said, catching up to him. “I know, that’s why I waited, ” and we rode it out to the finish. If I was the last one, it didn’t matter, I was alive.