"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Hills were Alive...

...with the sound of cycling cleats awkwardly clopping and scraping their way up the baking asphalt. Baking enough for late April in Napa County, at least. This notoriously hard climb, Oakville "18%" Grade, had cooked our collective geese and decked our halls. I asked the two serious-looking, club-kit-clad women trudging ahead of me if I could "draft" and the one in front of me said 'sure, hop on my wheel.'  Ha ha ha. Cyclist humor. Even funnier was that this climb was "timed" to give us the sensation of what it's like to ride in the real "Tour of California," just like Lance and Levi except for the walking part.  The celebrity male pro, George Hincapie (who is famous for previously being on Lance's team and has a line of cycling clothing), having led off our ride from Davis, CA at 7:30 a.m., scooted up Oakville Grade probably a mere three hours or so before my attempt for the summit. I like to think that maybe he at least he had to stand in the saddle and grunt or swear a little bit.  It is supposed to be the toughest climb in the Napa Valley. 
As we reached the crest of the hill I saw the "Climb Finish" sign, and the sensors that you're supposed to ride over to register your climbing time and get your "King of the Mountains" points for being so fast. I quickly climbed back on my bike and surged forward across the sensors, shaving off a good 20 seconds from my hike, and letting out a joyful Whoop! A rider I'd seen periodically earlier in the ride sat with several others by the side of the road next to their bikes, trying to recover. She must have missed something because she muttered "wow...good job..." and sunk lower into what appeared to be a dark afternoon of the soul. Maybe she was congratulating me on my cheerful countenance. 

Once we were over Oakville, the next climb up Trinity Road was long and winding but completely in the shade. Shout out to the guy who was having a bit of trouble dragging his a** up the lovely shady road and tacked back and forth, back and forth, right into my considerably more direct path. Thanks for making me stop for a minute after you forced me to ride off into the shoulder - it was just the little rest I needed.
On the downhill side of Trinity Road I had to stop again (deliberately, of my own free will) to let my wheels cool off. I hate it when the brakes start to make that melting noise. I guess the idea is not to have to use them quite so much, but my already keen self-preservation instinct has been reinforced occasionally by the results of others' apparent lack of any. Still, descending is a skill to develop, just like knitting or Sudoku puzzles.

And suddenly, 113 miles and nine and a half hours after leaving Davis, I flew down the blissfully flat streets of Santa Rosa to the finish line.  I was almost too tired to eat my "free" burrito post-ride dinner. All that chewing.  My friend Lisa loaded my bike into her truck and was patient with my surly mumbling throughout the rest of the evening as she drove me back to Sacramento. Special thanks to Heather of the a.m. crew, too, for being patient with the anxious muttering and rocking and rummaging through bags. It's just better for everyone if I stay on my bike. The befores-and-afters are the really hard parts.

1 comment:

George said...

Truly a great effort and accomplishment Em! Well done and impressive -- 18%, that is something the Ford and I have not even been up!