Friday, December 31, 2010
We'd climbed the serpentine wall once all ready that day. We'd dallied and waited for the rest of the group the first time. Now, it was man and machine versus altitude, grade, and grind. Click. Everyone that has thrown a leg over a bike and turned a pedal stroke in anger knows that sound. Its the sound of pain about to come your way, the simple, painful, sound of a mere stroke of the silken gear lever. Your hands never seem to understand the fear your legs feel when they caress the gears. Every little movement they make increases the hurt shooting through your body and exiting the pedals.
Click. Dammit, there he goes again. We've hit the gravel. 10,000 feet above sea level is a memory and 11,000 has come and gone. 12,000 is looming. The air is thin for a couple of Iowa Boys. Oxygen depletion makes me think I can hold his wheel. Somehow, I stay on it. The seconds tick by like hours. I don't know if I dare peak to see how hard we're riding. I fall of the pace for a scant second and a gap opens. I find a little more and dig deeper from somewhere else. The road relentlessly turns skyward on us. We're not on singletrack, but the roughness of the road leaves us searching far and wide for smooth lines. He finds one, I take another. We're both breathless from the effort. My legs scream, I can't get any more air. I'm out.
I manage to call out that I'm done. The pace doesn't let up, yet I don't fall off. We just stop accelerating the pace for a moment. My adversary, my friend, my challenger, he's given me mercy. I'm thankful. I wouldn't call it recovery, but reprieve is mine. I pull tight on his wheel. I move along side. We climb in silence, each appreciative of the effort it requires to maintain the pace. Slowly, I pull to take my turn at the front.
Click. Its my turn to repay the pain. I struggle and surge feeling the effort sapping my legs. We struggle against the elevation and grade. It seems like we've been attacking each for hours, when in reality its merely minutes. I feel a small surge in power.
Click. I hit it again. The screws turning ever so slightly tighter. He's still there. Still holding my wheel. I don't have anything left. My head is swimming. There isn't enough oxygen. We've used everything and we're running on deficit. I see the end. The road flattens ever so slightly. I press harder than ever on the pedals. I'm not sure where I'm drawing strength from.
Finally. He calls out that he's done. The end is in sight. We've equally taken out each other. We reach the finish with equal footing. The most vivid ride of the entire year took less than 30 minutes. I put everything I had out there and when I was done it was all I needed. That was it. That was the ride. Thanks.