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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Saturday for the History Books:

The starting line was a balmy 35 degrees and when you’re dressed head to toe in spandex it might as well be standing in the artic circle. Now hop in the saddle going 17-22 mph and you might as well go for a swim in Siberia in the dead of winter. That might be slightly dramatic but one thing for sure was that it was really effing cold to be dressed in very little and going very fast. Thus began the Harvest Century ride just outside Portland, Oregon last Saturday.

The ride coursed through the country of the most breath-taking farmlands and snapshot moments of fall. Recently plowed fields, pumpkins patches, smooth roads with minimal rolling hills and the bluest sky painted the landscape. Pastures, tattered and weather-warn barns, sweeping turns and hillsides were simply awe-inspiring. The first 40 miles were probably the best 40 miles I’ve ever ridden. Fast, flat and gorgeous. At the first rest stop my couldn’t feel my toes but by the time we pulled into the lunch rest stop I had warmed up but my hip flexors were screaming at me thanks to my clips in use for the second time.

Little did I know that the next 15 miles were going to be the closest thing to an excruciating painful death I could imagine (mild exaggeration). Brook and Jen had taken off at the first climb which I was glad to hang back. The first climb was pretty killer, and by that I mean I granny geared the whole thing up and thought I was going to puke. After cresting at the top I look about 100 yards and there is another hill that I only assumed had an end but you can’t tell because it kind of turns and you can’t really see the top. For the first time in my riding “career” I dismounted and just stared. It was serious pep talk time. The pep talk went something like this: “You’re still 35 miles from the finish. How much longer you going to stand here?” Lots of cussing and swearing ensued and then I realized I was standing in the middle of Oregon, by myself and no way out except that hill. So I went for it. Painfully and slowly.

After reaching the top I thought for sure it would have to even out. For sure this is the countryside where cattle graze, crops grow and children run through fields of wheat. I was wrong. The course then turned to a seemingly endless climb of switchbacks only to culminate with an epic hill that rivals the STP Puyallup hill. I dismounted my bike about ½ up with no more gusto in me. A man rides by and says, “When the going gets tough, the tough gear down.” As if that thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Oh, these fancy little buttons here, that's what they do? Gear down? Thank you kind sir for totally rubbing it in my face that I was a complete and total althetic failure.

I walked the bike to the top and thought sure, this had to be it of the hills. I crested over the top of the hill, clipped back in and took off. I’d never been so happy to ride a down hill than at that moment. It was long, smooth and gradual. A good 2 miles of speed, worth every moment of the uphill to feel like you’re flying (while also being clipped into a frame with 2 wheels, but whatevs). But such as in real life, whenever there are awesome downhills, often times the up hills aren’t too far behind.

More rolling hills continued but I also received great encouragement from complete strangers. At one point a man caught up to me and told me the only reason why he could keep pedaling was because he saw me doing it. He said, “You are my inspiration.” I wanted to cry because I felt so alone out there but to know that someone else was inspired really warmed my heart. Just proves that others are watching and your actions really do matter.

The end of the ride was glorious. After the 15 miles of rolling hills I really just wanted to be done but there was another 20 to go. But much like the first half, the last quarter miles were simply beautiful. I was in my own mind, seeing the autumnal beauty of the country side, trying to capture mental snapshots of my surrounding because I knew no picture could do it justice. I crossed the finish line so grateful to be done. I rode straight to the car to pack up and headed back to the staging area to hunt down Brook and Jen. I feasted on pumpkin pie, worth every tasty calorie. I felt a slightly validated when I told them that at any given point I wanted to cry, puke or die. To which they responded, “Oh, we passed a girl puking on the side of the road.” Thank heavens it wasn’t only me, I was just able to keep it down.

It is now just past 4:00 pm. I have ridden the most challenging 75 miles I’ve ever ridden and I’m in pretty heaping amounts of pain. My hip flexors are just screaming at me. My rear hurts, my hamstrings hurt and I’ve teaked my right shoulder just enough to not be able to lift it even 45 degrees from my side. More or less: I’ve felt better.

Here’s the kicker: I have tickets to the UW vs. Arizona game on the 40 yard line about 50 rows up and kick off is at 7:00 pm. Now I have to shower, get cleaned up, fill the tank and get from Portland to Husky Stadium in less than 3 hours. So I head back to the hotel, shower, and get on the road, clocking a good 85 mph a good percentage of the way. Seat warmers at full blast and catching up on phone calls to pass the time thinking that this is going to be a very expensive trip if I get pulled over going 85 mps WHILE talking on the cell phone. But, so be it, I’m a Husky and I’ve got to get to that game.

Make it to the stadium just before half time and take my seat next to my boss between him and one of his clients. Husky are ahead but after half time, Arizona comes back with a vengeance running the same outside passing plays and just clobbering the Dawgs.

Until, a miracle happened. The Huskies scored a touchdown but were still down by a touchdown. Time was running out and we still need to come up with 5 points to tie and 8 to point them in field goal tying (not victory) rage. After the first touch down I turned to my boss and whispered, “I have a really good feeling about this.” I really did and I’m generally not a very superstitious person but I just had a feeling.

Then this happened:

The Huskies intercepted the ball of the Arizona player’s foot to return it for a TOUCHDOWN. The stadium goes apeshit, erupting in cheers of excitement and disbelief. Adrenaline was the only thing keeping me on my feet cheering in disbelief. The Huskies now needed the 2 point conversion. Equally miraculous, they nailed the 2 point conversion! In 5 minutes, the Huskies had scored 13 points to beat Arizona. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Locker downed the ball with 28 seconds to go sealing their victory. We exited the stadium amoug swarms of elated fans and I hobbled back to my car quite certain my hip flexor muscle was detached from where it is suppose to be attached to but so elated that I didn’t care.

In the past 24 hours I had driven to Portland, rode 75 of the toughest most beautiful miles, drove back home just in time to witness one of the most amazing football comebacks in Husky history. I was exhausted, I was spent, I was so so lucky.

And it wasn’t even Sunday yet. It only got better. Stay tuned.


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