The day of the 100 mile bike race is a day I will not soon forget. I had a bad feeling about this part of the race that had started weeks before. One of those gut feelings I could not shake, but regardless, I knew that I was going to try and I would just get as far as my grit and determination would take me, which I figured would be around 62 miles or the entrance to Hell’s Gate. What happened was not at all what I expected.
The morning of the race there were cyclists everywhere you looked. I was a little nervous to be riding around so many people. My friends had told me to watch for water bottles laying on the ground. I had hollering “slowing” and “stopping” down pat. Someone prayed which I didn’t catch until they were saying amen. The national anthem played, a helicopter flew over and then the cannon was fired. The race started and after about 15 minutes or so we started inching forward.
It wasn’t long until we were peddling up a bridge and on our way out of town. People lined the streets waving and hollering. This is a huge event for the community. A girl that I raced with yesterday told me that when she was little she watched the race on TV every year and each year she would say, “See that. I’m going to do that one day.” Today was the day. She was in her 40s and today she would be checking this race off her bucket list.
My nerves had finally settled. I had gotten in the zone and was riding along at a decent pace. I remember looking at my watch and seeing that we had already gone 15 miles and I was not the least bit tired. It was going to be fine. Then it happened.
I was drafting off my husband, Jeff, who was drafting off a friend of ours, Ashley. All the sudden I saw both of Ashley’s hands almost touching the ground. I remember being confused wondering what the heck was she doing and then I heard my husband yell. I saw his back tire go up in the air and his head going towards the ground. Then I realized what was happening and I grabbed my brakes trying hard to stop. I think I yelled “Oh No!”, but I’m not sure if the words ever came out. I saw my tire run over my husband’s leg and as I was upside down flying through the air I saw him and our friend, Ashley, laying on the ground.
I landed on my left side with a thud knocking the wind out of me. It was on the same arm and hip I had injured the day before. I rolled to my back and started analyzing how bad I had hurt myself by how bad it throbbed. I wiggled my fingers and made a fist which didn’t hurt so I figured I was in good shape there, but I still had not looked. The next thing I saw was about 5 or 6 people standing over me asking if I was okay. A man standing behind me that I could not see asked if he could pray for me. I laughed. “Yes. Please do!” If you know me well, then you know I would never turn down someone asking to pray for me even if I’m not hurt.
As he was praying I started thinking about Sister Madonna Buder, also known as The Iron Nun. I had just finished reading her book a few days before. Her book starts out describing a pretty bad spill she took on her bike. I wondered if she were in my condition if she would get back up and finish this thing. Just as I decided that was exactly what she would do, I heard the man praying ask God to guide the medics to do the right thing. I hollered, “I don’t need a medic.” I heard a couple of snickers and then some Amens. Hopefully I did not hurt the man’s feelings, because that really was not my intention. My intention was to get up off the ground and get back on my bike and finish this race. Maybe if I’d been more specific and asked him to pray for that I would have finished.
I finally did get up and looked at my arm. I wasn’t bleeding that I could see and I didn’t have any bones poking out. Of course the goose egg I put on my arm the day before was now steadily growing.
Every little bump sent lightning bolts of pain shooting through my arm. I thought if I could just make it to the aid station I could get an Ace bandage wrapped around my arm to keep the goose egg from bouncing around I would be good as new. After all, I was making pretty good time peddling up the hill to the aid station. So I thought. Then I started bawling my eyes out. I knew it was over, but I was not ready to give in just yet.
Jeff talked me into letting the medics take a quick look at me. They sat me on a stretcher and gave me some Gatorade. I held an ice pack on my arm while they got the gauze and an Ace bandage ready. Once they got me all wrapped up I saw how bad Jeff’s spill was. His helmet had a big dent in it and was cracked. He had scrapes along the side of his forehead. His shorts were ripped and he had part of his ass hanging out. There were tire marks where I ran over his leg. He told me he thought he could finish and he would stay with me if I got back in, but if I dropped he wanted to stay back with me. At this point I was still determined that I was getting back in the race, but I didn’t want him to sacrifice a good time holding back for me. Jeff went to get our bikes and I told the medic to tell him to get back in the race so once he was out of there I can get back in there. He just shook his head and laughed.
By the time Jeff got back, I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I was not going to be getting back in there. Jeff explained to me that when I thought I was flying up the hill, I was really only doing 8 miles an hour and I was weaving all over the road. I knew I would not only be putting myself in danger, but putting others in danger as well if I were to try to finish. I finally gave in and they called in the SAG wagon.
We loaded my bike in the trailer and I crawled up in the truck to wait. This is when I met Victoria. She was sitting in the truck holding the derailer off of a bike in her hand and looking at it. I asked her if her bike fell apart. She explained that her husband’s bike had fallen apart and she really wanted him to finish so she took the cleats off her shoes and put them on his and gave him her bike. She went on to say that she knew she did the right thing and it was crappy of her to start regretting her decision because she really wanted to ride through the air base. I looked down at her shoes. They looked about the same size as mine and she looked about my height.
“Put on my shoes,” I told her. She looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Seriously, if they fit you’re going to ride my bike. How tall are you?” She was 5’3″ just like I thought. We both jumped out of the truck and I hollered at Jeff to unload my bike. Victoria was going to ride my bike. If I couldn’t finish this, there was absolutely no reason why she shouldn’t finish.
And she did.
While we were waiting on Victoria and our other friends to finish, we walked around looking at what the vendors had to offer. Jeff bought a new helmet. I bought a new jersey. As we were walking I looked down and saw a medal that someone had dropped. We walked to the tent were they medals were and handed it to one of the men. I knew I shouldn’t keep it even though every ounce of me wanted to. I had not earned it and it wouldn’t be right.
I finally decided on having the brisket nachos and a Powerade. We had just finished up eating when Victoria sent me a text. They had finished. While we walked to the truck, she told me all about meeting up with her husband and his surprise at seeing her. They both got to ride through the air base together. I was so happy for them. Riding through the Sheppard Air Force Base was not on the 100 mile route so it was not something that I had missed out on.
Once we got back to the truck to exchange bikes, Victoria handed me a medal. She told me she asked them for an extra to give to me. I felt the tears well up, but I managed to hold them back. I knew this medal I had earned.