“He knew how to handle pain. You had to lie down with pain, not draw back away from it. You let yourself sort of move around the outside edge of pain like with cold water until you finally got up your nerve to take yourself in hand. Then you took a deep breath and dove in and let yourself sink down it clear to the bottom. And after you had been down inside pain a while you found that like with cold water it was not nearly as cold as you had thought it was when your muscles were cringing themselves away from the outside edge of it as you moved around it trying to get up your nerve. He knew pain.”
― James Jones, From Here to Eternity
My second night lap was not as good as my first. I hadn’t slept and I was hopped up on all kinds of chemicals. I had laid in the tent listening to Timmy breathe while my heart was racing. It was early in the AM (I can’t remember the time exactly…1:30?) and I was anxious to hit the trail and work whatever this was out of my system.
I had more than enough lights this time around thanks to Gary and Dennis. The pressure was on since we were in a solid 5th place, but 4th place had taken a bad lap and we were currently in 4th place. We weren’t sure we could maintain it, but we wanted to try.
I flew through the night, catching and passing far more than I was passed. The lap was almost a memory when my stomach decided it had had enough abuse. I don’t know if it was the diet, the drugs, the hernia acting up or what, but the last 3 miles it was all I could do to keep pedaling, wheels on the trail, and not throw up.
The nausea came in waves, over and over, assaulting me! What had I done? I was so very very ill. What did this mean for my team? How slow was I going now, barely able to push the pedals?
The truth was- I was sick. But I also came in very close to my previous night lap time. Where the sickness was slowing me down, it was similar to riding behind light dude on the previous lap. It was just fascinating to observe how quickly I went from sailing to dying. Not my typical M. O.
I did something unheard of; I skipped the rock drop at the end. It was a shame, but I could barely think and didn’t want to risk injury, and thus insult. It was good to finally be done.
When I got back to camp it was obvious to those who were awake that I was ill. Tappin was woken up to prep for his lap (the order was Gary, Me, Troy, Tappin, Jake…repeat), and he was so kind to me- saying if I couldn’t do the next lap they would re-arrange the order to accommodate.
Dennis tried to help, but there wasn’t much to be done. I went back to the tent to try and sleep, and I probably did for an hour or so. When I woke up it was my turn to start getting ready for my next lap. I woke up Troy and begged him to move up the order and go in my place. Though he was probably as sick and tired as I was, he took up the next baton.
Can you see why I absolutely honor and appreciate these men? Whenever I think back on this experience, these are the things I will remember: my kids playing and getting filthy dirty, Dennis cooking, and the complete awesomeness of my teammates.
I spent the morning encouraging my team mates, walking to and from the toilet, and trying to get my stomach to function properly. I was hopeful for one more lap- which would happen if Jake came in before noon. And I got my wish. I got dressed and walked my sickly frame over to the start/finish. I waited and when Jake came in he looked genuinely surprised to see me!
I ran out and hopped on my bike for the final round. As long as nothing went catastrophically wrong we would maintain 5th place and be on the podium. I rode as hard as my body would let me. I still felt sick, but pushed myself. By this time I knew the course well and had only one thought: joy on the trail. This was my last time over this soil, the last chance to soak in the experience- the sun, the smells, the thrill. I was going to come home to snow, mud, and cold. The heat was to be cherished.
The final climb was a practice in endurance, and the final descent a training in relaxation. For the first time there was no one obstructing me. I didn’t have to ask to pass anyone. I could play my own tempo.
When I reached the crowd the first person I saw was Gary, standing on a rock outcropping and cheering me on. “Left! Left!” he called, encouraging me to ride the rock drop. There was no need. I wouldn’t dream of bypassing it this time. As I slowed for the obstacle I recognized the rest of my team, and some of my family and friends. It was a great feeling! The only shadow on the experience was the fact I had zipped my jersey down to my belly button (like I do when it’s hot- and it was HOT), so I had a few moments of self-consciousness.
The finish was remarkably anti-climactic. Most of the teams had already finished, and there was no one waiting for another lap. Back at camp, we relaxed, ate some more, and congratulated ourselves on a solid podium finish. We started to pack up and headed over for the awards ceremony.
It was a challenge to stand in the crowd- hot, sick, and tired- awaiting awards. My back and legs were suffering and I couldn’t hold still. But eventually our turn arrived. When Todd (the owner of Epic Rides) announced our team, and our names, I about cried when he pronounced my name perfectly (a genuine feat, and a complete honor), and then went on to expound on how I was instrumental in the Grand Junction Off-road event.
You see, I tend to think that I’m non-existent, right? I’m only real to my children, and maybe my family. But for anyone else I just imagine that I’m invisible, forgettable. So I’m always surprised when people even remember my name. I could cry.
Okay- enough said. This has been the play-by-play. I’m going to write up another analysis for the Healthy Mesa County blog. If you want the more thoughtful/spiritual/emotional experience, you may read that when it is published.
Now enjoy the very few pictures. Obviously, I didn’t stop to take any whilst racing…