Saguaro Cacti and a Gong Show
"Just keep spinning," I tell myself this as I'm passed, yet again, by another girl. I keep wondering why I just don't have that extra energy and drive that I normally have during a race. Maybe it's because I competed in a 24 hour race a few weeks before the Cactus Cup? Or perhaps it's because I was continually coughing up yellow stuff? Either way, I tell myself just to finish no matter what. I all can really do is give it my best. And that's how I finished second to last place in the forty mile race of the Cactus Cup.
The trip down to Phoenix started off great as Des, the executive director for the Amy D. Foundation, and I piled all our gear into the team car. The six hour drive flew by as the conversation between us flowed effortlessly. Before we knew it, saguaro and desert landscapes surrounded us.
We were lucky to have a friend's parents offer to host us during the weekend. Jere and Ellen ended up being some of the most interesting and gracious hosts, despite my show of unexpected mutant strength in completely breaking the shower head off in the guest bathroom....
As soon as I walked into the house, my eyes went straight to a collection of gongs. Large, round and brass in appearance, the instruments were beautiful. Like a child, my first impulse was to go and touch one, or even better, to take the mallet I noticed lying off to the side and hit one. Trusting my better adult judgement, I kept my hands to myself and gently inquired about them. Jere, a man who struck me as one of the most calm individuals I have ever met, began to explain about the instruments and even promised a performance later in the evening. Trying to contain my overwhelming energy and enthusiasm, I responded simply with "That would be lovely."
And indeed, the performance was lovely. At first, it sounded like we were sitting next to the ocean. The waves crashed near us, and Des, Ellen and I were all transported to somewhere else entirely. Next, the sound changed and I could hear, what I assumed, was one of the gongs. A single gong was struck and the sound encompassed the entire room. Next another, and the combination of sound was magical. Before we knew it, we were immersed in an euphony of noise. I have never experienced any music like this before. It was a reminder to me that so much beauty exist in our word. I fell asleep that night relaxed, without the nervous tension that I normally feel before a race.
I woke the next morning, Friday, with a cough that started as a tickle. I didn't think too much about it as I focused on my main goal; the short track race that evening. Having never competed in short track before, I was excited to experience this form of racing. I was also ecstatic about riding my new Scott Spark RC, a bike that handles better than others I have ridden; a bike that is made for cross country racing. My new bike is even more impressive with the light and durable Stan's No Tubes Crest wheelset.
The short track race proved to be an experience like no other. The thick dust tossed up as racers ripped through the short course added to the difficulty of the experience. We took off after sunset, so I needed lights on my handlebar and helmet. I'm grateful to have some of the best lights on the market, provided by the company Light and Motion. Unfortunately, there were times when all I could see ahead of me was a cloud of dust and dirt. I was so thankful for the bright kit that Pearl Izumi made for the Foundation. Not only are the clothes extremely comfortable to ride in, but I never have to worry about not being seen. At least my fellow riders and the spectators could see me coming!
In the end, I coughed my way through the race and ended up tenth place. Erin Huck won with Rose Grant coming in second. I love that I get to toe the start line with such amazing athletes. They give me something to aspire to.
The next morning, I gave the forty mile race my best. I knew, after crossing the finish line, that I was done for the weekend. I began running a fever, and according to Des, looked deathly pale. The coughing fits were not due to exertion and dust, no it was the bronchitis/flu that had been plaguing my local community. Instead of racing the Enduro course on Sunday, I threw in my hat. I spent the following week on the couch, and I have no regrets.
My performance at the Cactus Cup did not live up to my expectations, but in the end it didn't matter. My expectations were far exceeded in the people I met, and the lessons I learned. The best outcome from the entire weekend was found in the smile of a young girl. Maddie is a seven year old with a love for learning, and an ability to converse on an adult level. I enjoyed our conversations and was amazed by Maddie's abilities. I am so thankful for the time that Des and I got to spend with Maddie. In the end, the Amy D. Foundation gave Maddie some socks and Des even bought her a new bike! To me, Maddie represents the future of women's cycling, and when I see her smile and enthusiasm, I see a bright future.
Up next, the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, AZ. I'm currently feeling better, am back to training, and am excited for the summer season. Here's to keeping the rubber side down while continually learning and exploring in the world of cycling.