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Monday, July 19, 2010

Cobb Hill Brevet

I was torn about whether to do this brevet or not. Part of me wanted to do the brevet and face what I knew would be the difficulties of extreme heat and humidity and a challenging course. Part of me wanted to just skip it and say I had done enough tough, long rides for the year and just needed to be ready to face the 1000K in the fall. I grow weary of the heat that drains my body until I feel desiccated like a mummy. When I hear that Bill will be out of town and Dave will not be able to make it, however, the final decision is made. Just as I accompanied Dave on his Texas 300K when he missed the Kentucky 300K, I will accompany Steve on this 300K despite his protestations that he does not mind riding alone. Some rides are just very difficult to face alone and this would be one of them with the heat predicted heat and the distance. I also knew that he wanted to share Cobb Hill. Part of the fun of a ride can be sharing the hills and the scenery. I was curious about this hill. Thus far I had not met a hill I couldn't scramble up, however painfully, though Fire Tower and Pottershop both took more than one attempt prior to success. Would this be one of the first? I then remember not making a hill on the Horsey Hundred, but that was on my fixed gear. So perhaps memory is playing me false and there are more sleeping somewhere in my unconscious.

I decide to accept the kind offer to stay in Shelbyville with Susan and Steve due to the 6:00 a.m. start and because I have been sleeping more soundly and did not feel I would be a disturbance haunting the night. I hate it when I am wakeful and can't read or get out of bed. I wonder if Susan will change her mind and accompany us knowing that she is not looking forward to her 17 mile long run in the heat, but she decides to keep with her training schedule for the Iron Man.

I fall asleep easily, and near morning I am awakening by thunder that literally rattles the window frames. I can dimly view glimpses of streaks of lightening through the blinds like the neon lights when you are staying in a motel in a city. I wonder if this is going to be one of those days like the one in Texas when Bill, Steve, Dave, and I got caught right in the middle of a violent lightening storm. I know brevets are not canceled for most weather conditions. It was scary until we found shelter that day, but somehow exhilarating at the same time. Maybe we never really appreciate the gift of life until we see it threatened.

Steve and I head out together toward the ride start. I am relieved at this as I know I would have trouble finding the ride start in the dark on my own and it is also nice to have company. There are more riders than I anticipate and all of us share that same buzz of excitement that seems to fill the air at the start of a brevet.

We head out into a light rain that will last through most of the morning. It is the kind of rain that I enjoy riding in, not hard enough to impair your vision and not cold enough to be uncomfortable. In fact, it probably improved the weather conditions. Steve points out the clouds and I realize I have never seen anything quite like them before. They are flat and shades of gray, mostly dark gray, but they are enfolding upwards in the middle, almost like an upside down tornado would look except you can't see up through the eye. We meet up with Chris Quirey at the first store who assures us it will stop raining in four minutes and six seconds (if I remember correctly). We decide to head on and not take our chances. I notice how the purple chicory mixes so nicely with the white Queen Ann's Lace that line some of the roads we travel, and how the water stands in tiny droplets like jewels. I notice how everything seems clean and fresher from the rain.

A little before the store I think that my left calf is going to cramp. This is strange as it is early in the ride, I rarely cramp during a ride, and if I do cramp, it is normally in the thighs. It lasts the entire ride, sometimes causing pain to extend to my knee, and I decide I must have pulled a muscle somehow. It never causes me to have to quit, but it is uncomfortable and remains so a couple of days after the ride.

When we near the first control, I realize that I had been calculating the miles incorrectly in the my mind. Somehow I was thinking that the first control fell at 100 miles rather than 66. Suddenly I have gained 34 miles. I giggle a bit at my foolish miscalculation. Sometimes I worry because I feel as if I may have early Alzheimer's, but then I decide that if I do there is no need to worry because it won't change it. It is almost a foreshadowing of what is to come when I once again am reminded that life should be enjoyed as it is short.

We move onwards and as we near Cobb Hill I see a sign that tickles me: "Halls Cemetery Road." It is green and lush here, but the hills and miles are beginning to take their toll. Steve offers to take a picture and I take him up on that offer. We trudge onwards towards the turn around control. I have waited too long to continue this narrative, as I forget much about the rest of the ride into the control other than a short, steep climb that left my heart racing and wishing I had climbed in an easier gear and the long, slow, painful climb up Cobb and Patsy Hills. I am proud of myself for making it up the hills, but I worry about the way back. The speed of my descent after cresting tells me they will be something. Steve confirms that he thinks they are worse on the way back than on the way out.

As we near the turn around, we come upon Steve Royse and Tim Carrol fixing a flat. Steve I have known for years, but Tim I have known only through the Big Dogs site. Steve and I head onwards when I have my own flat. Steve asks if I want to fix it myself or if I would like for him to do so. Since he is so much faster, I ask him to fix it. I am amazed at how the sweat just begins to stream down my face and body when we stop. I guess the wind created by riding evaporates some of it, but it is hard to believe a body contains this much fluid and still moves. At the control, Tim catches us. Evidently Royse has worked his way through all of his tubes and there is nothing more he can do to help him. When Royse later arrives, he says he is calling his wife to pick him up. I give him my folding tire. I also give him a tube and feel terrible later when I hear it had a leak. Luckily Johnny had a patch kit and he was able to finish.

As we leave the control, we come upon another rider who has run out of water and is shriveling in the punishing heat. Tim gives him water and he says he can make it the four miles into town. I stop and adjust my camelbak. However nice it might feel to have ice cold water running down my rear end in the heat, it will feel nicer to have something to drink along the course.

We come to Cobb and Patsy Hill. I have already decided that if I feel as if I am getting too hot, I will walk. I use the goosebumps on my arm as a further indicator, and end up walking two hills. At the top of one Tim gives me some wild flowers he has picked as he reached the top before us. Even now, dried, they retain some of their brilliant color mix of purple, green, and yellow. Then I stuck them in my handlebar bag.

Steve begins to really suffer from the heat, cramping up. He tells me to go on, but I really don't feel like pressing the pace. There are a few times that we sit and rest along the side of the road as we do in Tokyo. Store stops become longer and longer.

When we are within a few miles of the last store, we are riding along and a car comes behind us madly blowing his horn. I am trying to figure out why as there are no cars in the other lane, the other lane is visible, and the driver's progress is not at all impeded by our being on the road. I wonder if it is like the brevet where there was an accident and this driver is going to give us the bad news. Instead he sweeps by. Steve calls him an asshole and the next thing I know the man squeals his tires and pulls into a short gravel patch alongside the road and begins yelling at us to get over there. We ignore him and ride by and he squeals out. Steve suggests we get off the road, so we pull in a drive and dismount. The man pulls up, stops his car, and whips out a gun and points it at Steve asking if he said something. There is a young, dark haired girl in the car as well, but she refuses to make eye contact. Some words are exchanged and eventually he moves on, but for a short period of time I thought that Steve and I were going to be killed. I thought about those things that you think but never say to the people you care about and who care about you. I think about my family and my friends and I hope they know that I loved them.

Things calm down and the man drives off and we wait for the police. Steve has photographed the license plate and will make a report, but my experience with the legal system makes me feel it is probably an exercise in futility. The officer arrives and Steve gives him the information. We ride on only to find the store is now closed, but we stop to have a soft drink before the final lap.

Sometime during all of this, Steve talks with Susan and finds out there were terrible winds at their home, they have lost a tree themselves, and a neighbor has lost a tree that is across the driveway blocking my car in. My phone then goes off. I can't reach it in time to answer it, but I see it is my husband. When I try to return the call, he doesn't answer his cell phone and our home phone is busy. I try my daughter's cell phone and get her voice mail. Maybe because of what we had been through or maybe because my husband never calls me during rides, I became convinced that either my husband or my daughter are hurt. Selfish as it is, I would rather they lose me than vice versa. I begin to panic. I just need to lay eyes on them.

It turns out that everyone is okay. I reach a friend by phone who is kind enough to get dressed and go check. Steve gets my car around the tree. We are not shot and our bodies hidden somewhere and either never found or found months later. We completed the brevet. But I hope to never have that kind of excitement again.