Montana and Alice had been keeping a steady half-day distance behind me for almost a week after I somehow managed to accrue small buffers over time. Their pressure was solid, never waiving, and kept me searching for cell service more than food. I hadn’t seen Montana in days, and Alice since day one, but I knew well they are both very strong and sly, almost menacing.
Late into yesterday’s evening, with three storms converging from the east and fifty miles of desert to reach supplies and beds, we had taken refuge in the eve of a church. Getting wrapped up in the beginning of monsoon season in the desert is not something either of us wanted to add to the evening’s tasks, so with compass in hand, wet fingers in the air, we worked trajectories for the meteorological risk assessment analysis. The conclusion, grab a couple hours sleep and be pedaling at 3:00am for the push to Grants.
We slept until 5:30.
They were 17 miles away.
My legs still pounding after the time trial to Pie Town, a belly stuffed full of bacon burger, apple pie, coffee, and chocolate ice cream. I quickly followed David searching the food bins at the Toaster House for anything to garnish tomorrow’s lunch: another bacon burger and apple pie in my bag. Grabbing a package of crackers, exchanging thank yous, hand shakes, and smiles after the last couple days of battling this dragon together, I bolted out the door to try and push my lead a few miles more as David chose to get some R and R before the next day’s one hundred and eighty mile push.
Switching on the light, the blood wrung from my leg like rope burn as the first pedal stroke plunged me into the darkness. Up and over the top of the hill, the rattle of the cattle guard tolled the end of civilization, as well as the impending suffer fest just ahead. I looked up at the sky, and with more stars than night, I began the search for a rhythm in my cadence.
This is not going to be fun. Putting my head down and plowing out another twenty or thirty, just to wake up on the ground looking at a hundred and fifty more before resupply of any kind? I’m packed well for this second to last day, with no issues in simply leaving at any time without warning. There is just over three hundred miles left to cover until the border, and unless something catastrophic happened, no matter what, I’ll finish day after tomorrow. Friday, without a doubt, it will be all over, I’ll be out of these clothes and eating food from a plate. I don’t have to do this.
What am I thinking?
The loud snap of clipless engagement announced the stomp back into the pedal, and the cool air began to move over me again.
As the kinetic energy of three pedal strokes began to fade, I’m standing, looking again to the sky. I’m done racing. The cacophony of anxiety, pressure, pain, fear, elation, every emotion you can imagine, all of it, I’m done.
Moments later, back at the Toaster House, I explained that I was going to wait for them, to thank them for their unintended gift, driving me beyond what I believe was attainable. Every day they insured I left it all out there, some to the point my legs gave out forcing to bivy literally at the day’s last pedal stroke. It was awesome. I had no idea of what I was capable of, and they showed me, and for that I will for ever be grateful. My plan was to ask them to ride with me to the end, for a three way single speed tie for first place, and with Max and David, there would be five of us to celebrate our grand success in a sweeping ninth place group finish.
That’s when David handed me a cold can of High Life. Seems the fridge had two cases of beer in it, and the freezer was stuffed full of frozen pizza.
We had already won.