I was sitting on the side of the road with a bottle in my hand, drinking it like it was a strong cocktail, feeling the shadow of riders on my back, definitely nauseous and at the same time contemplating the beautiful landscape, and not giving shit about anything in the whole world.
Saturday’s RGR followed the expected trajectory of being front loaded, complete with the daunting realization that we were cracking with over 50 miles yet to ride. There was no way out; once in the gravel section, the only option is to keep pedaling. There’s no rescue, no shelter from the sun, and no water. It was beautiful and unforgiving. At elevation and riding through sand, we all suffered to breath. Asthma flared as those triggers combined with the stress of riding some really technical dirt/sand/rock roads. We were slow, so slow. But we kept moving, knowing that this feeling was not unexpected. Mile 60. We just have to get to mile 60 and then we’ll be okay. We passed hunters dressed in camouflage, sitting with their guns off the side of the road. To tired to think about what they were doing, I just stared hollowly and kept pedaling. I had a job to do; Priscilla was new to this, I had invited her, and I would help her get through this section. Assuming this job might have been as much for my own well-being as hers, but no matter, it gave me purpose and kept me moving. The climbs seemed endless and descents were unforgiving, but we made it mile 60. From here, the roads were paved but climbing wasn’t over as we hoped. We grew impatient, but we were resolved to finish and confident that we could. We kept climbing. Someone gave me pizza (what?!), and I kept drinking water, trying not to think about my aching back and calf muscle that felt on the verge on cramping. Then, at long last, we descended for real and rolled into the finish just before dark. I don’t know how to express my admiration for everyone’s efforts and poise. I have no idea what team ‘won,’ but from what I heard, only half the teams finished. As I go back to my regular life today, I’m sad it over, but also happy to be done.
It is not my fair weather alternative to spin class or working out in a gym. It’s not just exercise. I ride because I love it. I strive to improve, explore, and push myself further. I’m not alone in this. I ride with strong and beautiful women who never cease to amaze and motivate me. We are cyclists and we love what we do. So what if we’re women? When I’m on my bike, I’m a cyclist and I don’t need an alias.