I get to the top of those God damn stairs and again go to leap on my my bike.
Chain bounced off again!
I quickly start to fumble with the chain trying to get in back on. But between the glasses and my oxygen depredated state you might as well ask a monkey to do calculus. Once I finally get the chain back on and undoubtedly another dozen guys have passed me in the process, I see B just behind the first row of the crowd looking sorry and concerned for my pitiful state.
In one simultaneous motion I yell, "Brison!" and throw my useless sunglasses at him. They get tossed into the pit of his elbow like I was a quarterback hitting the numbers on a wide receiver. Almost like I knew what I was doing. That felt good. But the feeling was fleeting...
Once I had remounted my machine and continued to whined my way through the woods. Darting in and out of the strobing sun light like some sort of rave party that had forgotten the X-tabs and glow sticks. I finally start to head down hill. Only this time instead of dappled sun light through the trees I've traded it for three inches of fine powdered dust. The kind that doesn't let you know whats hidden underneath. The kind that makes your lungs hurt like that crap shake you use to smoke back in college when you had nothing else left. Fuck, I can still feel it in the back of my sinuses and throat.
I'm bouncing around holding onto the bars with every fiber of my being. Just trying to concentrate on what's twenty yards ahead and what's coming around the next bend.
This ones in the light and at least there isn't any more of that dust. All I can hear is the wheezing sound again. Only this time it isn't from me. It's the guy who's passing me. Great...
I look up as he passed and notice a camper sitting on the ground with blackberries sprouting out of the side like its the best kind of fertilizer. I see an old mountain bike. The kind with the solid triangle/handle bar combination. The thought of, I wonder if it's got air in the tires? passes through my head.
I'm just grasping now. Trying to come up with any form of escape. Anything to get my mind and body out of this pain that I'm inflicting on it at this very moment. Why am I doing this again? Oh yeah, it's fun...
Or at least at that moment it's bullshit. This is anything but fun.
I have no go.
I have bonked in the most spectacular of fashions. It's my own damn fault...
Let's go through the list.
1. I didn't hydrated.
2. I didn't eat enough.
3. I didn't warm up.
4. I didn't preview the whole course.
I hadn't prepared like I normally do and I was paying the price.
I pathetically hop off the bike to do the triple barriers and I hear a voice. It's a small girl yelling, "You are one in a million!!!" It made me smile. Once I was through the barriers I jumped back on and I felt better. Not super man mind you. Not a, I'm going to tear every one's legs off, kind of better. But still up beat.
I make my way through the chicane with ground that was bumpy enough to rattle fillings loose and get back on to the gravel road where all this suffering started. Only this time instead of feeling like I was going to roll slowly and steadily to a stop I knew I would finish.
Even if I came in last fucking place. I was going to finish.
Just as this thought was welling up inside my brain. Like a spark of hope in a very dark and desperate night. I saw someone pass. I will stay with him until the end . I pushed hard to latch on. The final moments seemed like forever. As we made the turn to get on the asphalt. All I could do was lower myself into the drops and hang on. We went around the corner and up a rise into the light that was shining down on the final two corners. I dug. He saw me coming up the outside. I pushed a little more. Simultaneously accelerating and bunny hopping a speed bump. I lunged for the line.
Not one of those half-assed lunges you do when you just want to make sure that your tire goes across first. No, this was a lunge to save my life. This was a lunge to prove to myself that I'm not a quitter. That I can still make it through something hard and wrenching and be okay. All I could see was the nose of my saddle and the small white strip of tape that was the finish line.
I was done.
My lungs were on fire. The wheezing was back. Only this time I wasn't the only one. There was a large group of us, heads down, chests heaving in an orchestral sound that along with a freewheel clicking sounds and that awful sound of bikes crashing should be on the soundtrack of cyclocross. My sweat still dripping on the stem and this time my gloves as well as I try and catch my breathe that has passed me by a long time ago.
And I was done... Until next weekend.
Thanks for reading.
Rubber side down,