It was in this deep forested section that it was clear that no matter what the next portion might include I was calling it day after the first loop. For the first time of the season, I was ready to lay down arms. Full surrender. Of course, I had a lot of miles to cover yet, but the decision was made. It wasn’t just the 6,000 vertical feet per loop, or just the week of too little sleep or too little riding, or just the crashes, or just the rear hub, but combined, it was just too much.
From that point on, I forgot about mileage, speed, difficulty and even, occasionally, my barking rear hub. I just rode along at a moderate pace and looked forward to being at the end. I would like to report that these were the most enjoyable miles since I let go of everything else, or that I had a mystical awakening in that part of the ride, but I don’t think that is part of the process of giving in to the inevitable. I rode my bike, was thankful for the periods of time I could coast without my hub sucking the chain into the wheel, and just passed the time. It was still hard going uphill and there were still tricky descents; just now, there were many fewer of them until my day was over.
The original plan had been to ride 100 miles with PW, enjoy the post-ride BBQ and then spend the night at his house regaling his wife and daughters with tales of our exploits. Instead, I decided that with a much earlier than anticipated finish, I would get in the car and head across the state back home. Even though it was 300 miles away, being home seemed like the balm for what was ailing me. As a result, riding into the finish area was anti-climatic. I didn’t know anyone who was hanging around and I knew that PW was miles into his second loop. I grabbed a bite to eat, some drink for the road and picked up my finisher swag (which they gave to everyone finishing at least one loop – no Leadville ignominy). After that, I made my way down to my car and discovered PW’s and my vehicle parked on the horse trailer clean-out area. I can’t fathom how I ignored it so completely in the pre-dawn, but it wasn’t possible to ignore in the afternoon sun. It was a fitting end for a long day.
Conclusion. A couple of days before the race, when I told my brother that I was doing this ride, he shook his head slightly and asked if PW was doing it with me. I said that he was and that he had talked me into it. His response, “You are easy to talk into things.” I grinned when he said that because it was exactly right. I think my reaction was the opposite of what he intended, but if we were hard to talk into things, where would that leave us? Sitting on the couch is where it would leave us. Pain, difficulty, fun, challenge, adventure, excitement, accomplishment, joy, satisfaction and yes, some misery. But it’s either that or just shaking my head and watching other people do those things. I would much rather be talked into going.
They say we enter this world alone and we exit it alone, but that we gather together in-between for comfort and shared experiences. They also say that misery loves company. And that home is where the heart is. A long day on the mountain bike reinforced all of these ideas, which is ultimately why I like being talked into things.