| Okay, so I didn't win, but it was a victory of some sort. My elapsed time was 2hours 46 minutes, 49 seconds for 28 miles. In comparison, on flat roads I could do that distance in about 1 hour 5 minutes.
There were 645 riders that rode to the top (I was 86th of 105 for my group, and a little better overall, about 480 out of 645). I rode conservatively. I'd never climbed half that high or half that long, so I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to get a photo of me with a total stranger on the summit so there's my stranger (she told me her name was Christine). She's excited: I told her she was just voted Miss America.||
||Then I had to ride DOWN the mountain (yikes!). The car that brought up my camera and warm clothes (it was 40 degrees and windy at the top) wouldn't take them down, so I strapped on a backpack and rode off the mountain. I had to stop many times to balance the weight in the backpack and adjust the brakes to get more stopping power. It was very windy above the timberline, which took over ten miles to reach. No trees to block the wind, and then some stretches where it rained on the descent. I had to ride on the edge of the road on a few sections. I said I was going to ride up like a cripple and descend like an old lady and that's exactly what I did. I'd never ridden a bicycle off a 2000 foot cliff but I didn't miss that feeling of accomplishment. I was passed left and right, up and down, anyway I could be passed above the timberline. I kept murmuring to myself,"Come on timberline--come on." It was scary. |
At Echo lake I was passed by a woman (oh no, a WOMAN!) but we'd just gone below the timberline and the roads got straighter and the wind wasn't trying to blow me off the mountain. She took the lead and we dueled down the lower slopes.
We don't have any technical descents here in Virginia (the Blue Ridge Parkway isn't very technical) so I'm nervous on fast corners, but I followed her line and on the straights, for some reason, even though I was larger, top heavy, and carrying a back-pack, I kept coasting up to her. We caught another guy and on a straight, and I flew past them both. Then I struck a large hole or something at about 40 miles an hour and my front wheel came off the road and I nearly crashed. I was vibrating like a baby on an unbalanced washing machine. I was too tired and too excited to stay for the post-race party, so I headed out for Indiana (again).
Just outside of Denver, I stopped at a rest area to eat my Subway sandwich. I needed a shower so I took off everything but my bicycle shorts and stood underneath the lawn sprinklers with shampoo as a family watched me scrub myself clean. They seemed concerned, like they wanted to call the police because they knew there was something illegal about what I was doing, but they just couldn't pin it down. When I left, to their displeasure, their children decided they wanted to try it too, and ran under the sprinklers. I think I've started something. I could hear the cries of,"No! Come back here!" from them as I drove away. Not much else to tell.
| I drove 400 miles, got a motel, and tried to call Ha to tell her I'd survived but couldn't reach her. I tried to call my mother, no answer, then a few others, no answer. Suddenly it all meant nothing. With emotions still heightened from the race, I silently cried myself to sleep. Not heaving and gnashing of teeth, but gentle tears of loneliness. After that I was sad.|
My mother had gone up Mt. Evans back in the 1960's and was so scared that she laid on the floor in the car. She often told us how scary those mountains were. When she realized I'd ridden up (and down) on a bicycle she was soooo impressed. It was a rare moment when she understood what I'd accomplished and didn't interrupt every other word with stories of her hair and her tomatoes. She told everyone in her quilting group. There were lots of pricks in her company that day.
My favorite uncle, Bushy came to visit and he talked, and talked, and talked. He talked for over three hours without taking a breath. I'd wanted to be especially nice to him this time because I wanted to make amends in my heart and let him know I loved him, but he talked so unceasingly I was falling asleep. He finally noticed I was tired and decided to leave. I walked out to his car with him, we said our goodbyes, and my beloved Uncle Bushy drove away for the last time.
On the way back to Virginia I stopped by the New River Gorge (right and below) and shot these two photos...my hair was pretty long. That's it.