I cringed when I set my alarm on my cell phone last night after the long trip back from Bend, Oregon and the Cascade Cycling Classic. The phone displayed a message indicating "3 hours and 22 minutes until alarm". I was home after a delayed flight back into DCA and had to scavenge some sleep before work. If my car hadn't broke down a few weeks earlier, it might have said 4 hours - but now my extravagant bike/metro/walk/run commuting lifestyle had begun. Back to reality... again.
I'm tired. It's just after 8am and I am on my third cup of coffee. I just finished a morning meeting but can't shake the images of the Cascades and the lava fields still fresh on my mind. On paper, it doesn't look like I had a very good race - and if we're looking at the results... that's pretty much true, but I experienced some of the best bike riding to date.
Two days ago I was dropped on the final stage of the CCC, the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race. I raced for maybe 25 miles when everything went dark in the 83 mile conclusion to the 6-day race. My heartrate was maxed, my breathing strained, and my ability to turn the pedals over had suddenly became a struggle with no fight left in me. I had just came back from an attack - I don't know why I had attacked... I never have a very good reason except I love doing it.
The night before I attacked randomly with 5 laps to go in the Downtown Bend criterium and scored myself $200. I had spent most of that evenings race accumulating cheering sections for "Mustachio!... 99!... STACHE'!...Rugg!..." while surfing around the back of the race, that I felt compelled to give them a little more to cheer for. It was a short-lived attack, doomed from the get-go with Kelly's train poised to run right over me for their lead-out. It was a short-lived attack that made the whole trip worth it. I was with high-fives from kids telling me I was there favorite! ...Me? ...Someone's favorite? People wanted to take their picture with me. And yes, I was asked for my autograph. Their is no bigger award than knowing that somebody is cheering you on.
I was going through the feed zone for the second time during the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, and I knew that my race was coming to an end. I rode myself silly for days, probably doing a lot more than I should have, thinking I would still be able to pull off some final hour miracle. But the miles had taken their toll and my legs weren't up for the impossible. I had put so much pressure to do something awesome to impress others, and there I was, riding alone, off the back, dropped... riding for noone but myself. At first I thought I'd just finish the lap. Then I thought, one more lap for training. And then I started riding hard. And then I wanted to make it back to the valley road where you had to look behind you to see the Cascades, and had I not been dropped - would have missed the incredible view.
And then I wanted to finish. It was just me and my bike for almost 60 miles. The final lap I saw only a few course marshalls picking up discarded bottles and the occasional field mouse. I mostly thought about how lucky I was and how crazy this year has been for me. It had been a long time since I got to spend time riding alone, and I remembered how much I loved just having that time to think about anything and everything. I came across the finish line 38 minutes down from the winner and I had fell in love with riding my bike all over again. If I never go pro, at least I got some high fives along the way.
PS - The mustache is gone. For now.