June 3, 2008
Sometimes strokes of bad luck can be bittersweet because the good times are right around the corner. It started out rough and ended rough, but in between was ethereal. I arrived in France two days before the start of the Tour de l'Aude; my bags arrived three days later. The first four days were plagued with less than desirable circumstances and poorly timed flats. By day five I was clutching lanterne rouge with utter determination. It goes like this: On a Friday I got hammered, through the weekend I got a beating, on Monday I was sliced, the Tuesday and Wednesday blur together, on Thursday I was flying, then Friday I got drop kicked, on Saturday Slim Shady is back, and on Sunday I'm faced first slobbering on the pavement.
I remember being saddened on day six because there were just a few days left of the parade on two wheels. I still had the energy to think and feel; I hadn't turned into a mindless bobble head yet. Just a few hours later I was clawing my way to finish inside the time cut, which I managed by a matter of one minute over a three hour race. I'd say this was my tipping point: when I traded mind and body control for delirium-laden survival mode in my desperate yearning to finish the race.
It has been six days since the epilogue of this suicide mission, and it is the first day that I feel mentally, physically and emotionally grounded. My strained eyes have been doing all the talking as I sit or prop myself against a wall in attempt to stand. The bandages on my face have given me an excuse to refrain from talking, which has been a blessing because all that comes out is crazed and idiotic mumble jumble. I'm trying to keep my head from swaying side to side, but my neck feels like a worn out spring. My legs are giant tree stumps like two high school sweethearts have etched their initials into. My back is that last burning ember of coal in your stove.
I'm just being overly dramatic. Although on the final results my name is listed with a DNF beside it, my need to finish the race was mummified. Though I didn't cross the white line in Limoux on day 10, I successfully made it to the final stage, but crashed on my face, and looked like a ridiculous mummy for 24 hours of stressful travel back to Colorado. My second family, Chellie and Tim have graciously put up with my dazed zombi-ness since I've been home. Doc Chellie has been cleaning my wounds and making the bandages aesthetically pleasing. I'm not the pathetic mummy anymore... now I'm a bandit.
Racing in Europe was everything I had imagined, from the Pyrenees to the taste of France's pavement. If I had a moment to breathe, my breath was taken away by the snaking bike-path-width roads that wound through quaint little villages. Glance to our left and see the little old lady peering out her kitchen window. Father and son cheer "allez les filles! Allez la gruppetto!" as we rattle over cobbles. Sit within the colourful peloton as we cruise along lush green meadows dotted with orange poppies. Seconds later and we are purple-lined as the narrow road kicks up to 17% switchbacks. At times I felt myself careening into a deep, dark hole, until a new energy appeared out of nowhere. Like being caught in a ravenous storm, I felt every pinpricking high and low in ten days of out-of-body exertion. I'm happy to have the scars that tell the story.