This was the hardest race I've ever survived--twice. Last night (while I had ice packs on my legs and face) I tried to think of something I've done that's harder, that took more will to finish and the only thing that came to mind was a 1/2 Iron Man distance triathlon I did in Boulder (the last triathlon I did before swearing them off for 7 or so years). Yes, I did this last year. But yesterday seemed...more challenging all the way around.
I pulled my bike out from the garage yesterday morning with a flat front tire. “Uh-oh.” I suspected the worst. I had new, one-week old wheels and tubes in preparation for this racing weekend. I blame Cherry Creek Resevoir for this special little present. At the base of Golden Gate, my fears were justified. I got another flat and then exploded my 3rd new tube of the day by over-inflating it with a cartridge (I’m sure someone thought I had shot Kris with a pistol, Sons of Anarchy style). Luckily Dane, from Golden Bike Shop came by for assistance.
The really funny part of this tire debacle: as Kris and I were pulled over, heckling each other all the while, two older gentlemen went past. When they thought they were out of ear-shot, one said to the other, “You know, I suppose it’s a real blessing that my wife never got into cycling.” I yelled after them, “I’m not his wife! I don’t even like him! He’s just my boss!” [Editor’s note: my husband did this last year "with me" (for the first 2 miles). I saw him 8 hours later. Kris should have known.]
The second timed portion was evil (see Strava report below). Kris delighted himself with what he called “distracting (me) from the pain”.
Kris: “What kind of cat do you have?”
Kris: “What was your 1st grade teacher’s name?”
Kris: “Did Aaron go to church before he met you or after?”
Me: “I hate you.”
Shortly after the end of that section, we had a choice. We could turn left and descend into a 60 mile Heaven of down-hill, shade, pancakes, joy, music, angels and butterflies. OR. We could turn right for the 90 mile version we had both signed up for. In other words, "to Hell".
Kris: “Oh, thank the Lord. We are definitely turning…”
Me: “...Right. I have to go right.”
The look on Kris’s face at this point was really quite mixed. One part sad, one part disappointed, one part incredulous, two parts hate.
Kris: “WHY? I thought we had an understanding.”
Me: “We did. We do. You should go left and I will go right.”
It was at this point that I saw my good friend Dane standing near by. I asked him if he had a spare cartridge as I gestured to Kris and said, “Because WE are SEPARATING.” Poor Dane. Over the next 1.5 minutes of Kris and I mildly arguing about this decision, I think he was worried he’d be witnessing something that would require police assistance. I’m not sure why Kris didn't just turn left. I really don’t know. I can only chalk it up to pity or worse yet, some innate, distorted form of chivalry. Regardless, we didn't talk for the next 10 miles.
Here’s how the last 30 miles went:
I went a bit insane. I whimpered (when Kris was up ahead, of course). I sang. I couldn’t eat. I just refused to put on more sunscreen even though it was 492 degrees. I dunked my feet in a pond because (I declared aloud) “they were spicy”. And mostly? We had conversations like this:
Kris: “You know, I suppose I should consider this less of a riiiiide and more of one of those “team building-camps” for companies.”
Me: “You mean like the ones where we climb rope ladders and you fall backwards and I’m supposed to catch you?”
Kris: “Yeah. Just like that.”
Me: “Yep, just like that. Only I won’t catch you. I’ll actually push you off the side, throw my water bottle at you and only call the authorities once you stop moving.”
Kris: “You’re fired.”
Me: “Too late. I QUIT 45 MILES AGO.”
But in the end, I’m (somewhat) happy we did this ride/race. It was insanely challenging. It was brutal. It was hot and the last timed section took away a very large part of my soul. But. I was proud I didn’t turn left. And as much as I am loathe to admit, I was thankful that Kris didn't either. Because as many times as we insulted each other (and he fired me or I quit), I truly love our cycling community. Every part of it. The hard-core racers, the long-haul trucker-tourists, the volunteers at the aide stations and even Marty Quinn (the co-promoter for the Golden Gran Fondo). And yesterday was a perfect example of this. The very embodiment of 303Cycling.com.
*Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go saw my road bike in half and throw it off a cliff.