It’s a normal Monday afternoon, which means I'm likely home reading or listening to a favorite podcast, and I get a text from Des. "Want to race the Firecracker 50 with Dan?" Des is the executive director of the Amy D.Foundation, and Dan is the brother of Amy, the founder of the foundation, and a really great guy. I look at the calendar, realizing the race is on July 4th, the next Wednesday. It’s short notice, but I have an open schedule, and consider it an honor to get to pair up with Dan. I quickly reply with a "Heck yeah!”
The trip immediately takes a negative turn for me when I receive a phone call from my father informing me of his mother’s passing. I arrive at Dan's house a little out of spirits, but am comforted by the kindness of both Dan and his father, Ed. Tuesday night before the race is a fun filled night of drinks and friends. The plan is to just have fun with this race. The Firecracker 50 consists of two 25 mile loops, and Dan and I will each ride a loop. I go to bed Tuesday night excited about the race.
For some reason, perhaps due to the whiskey, I sleep very little Tuesday night. When I do sleep, I have a dream that Dan gets sick and I have to ride the entire 50 alone. I awake the next morning to Des sitting at the foot of my bed. "Change of plans."
She continues to tell me that Dan was up all night with food poisoning. It takes a while for the news to register, but then I sit up quickly and say, “I dreamed this! No worries, I’ll rally the troops, enter the pro field and race the entire 50!” As I’m telling her this, I have a deep sinking feeling that, as much as I love a long day on a bike, I’m not mentally prepared for the entire 50 mile extravaganza. Des just smiles and says, “I’ve called Garrett.”
Ah yes, Garrett Alexander. Who else could we call at 6:00 in the morning to race an epic high country beast? I immediately call Garrett back to see if he is in. He tells me he worked until midnight, might have had too much to drink, ( that makes two of us), and that he is set up single speed; but he’s in and he’ll see us in Breckenridge.
Des, Ed, Chester (Des’ little chihuahua), and I pile into the truck and arrive to Breckenridge with time to spare. The plan is to let me ride the first lap and have Garrett race the second. It’s a beautiful crisp summer morning and, despite my lack of sleep, I feel energetic and really happy. It’s almost go time and I begin to look for my chamois and jersey only to realize that I left it. I quickly tell Des. Her response is classic; “I guess you’re riding in what you’re wearing!” Ed calls Dan to see if he’s feeling up to making the drive. If Garrett takes the first lap, I can ride the second in the kit that Dan brings me. Problem solved.
Except Garrett informs Des that he slept in. (I can’t blame him, I would have done the same). He WON’T make it on time for the first lap! I begin to mentally prepare myself for a ride without my Amy D Jersey and really comfortable Pearl Izumi chamois, when Des pops up and says she thinks she’s got one in an extra bag! Thanks to Des, I’m saved again. She’s not only my friend, but she’s always on the ball and I’m glad to have her support. I quickly change, jump on my bike and begin warming up.
I feel surprisingly good during the race. I’m not used to such a big field, but I don’t mind passing folks. As I approach one of the steepest hills I look up to see a line of cyclist that extends as far as I can see. Some people are walking, some riding, and I begin aggressively passing as many folks as I can. I realize that with this many cyclist in front of me it might be better to just sit in the pack, calm down, and enjoy the beautiful views. Immediately I start talking to the folks around me as we trudge up the mountain together.
After the epic climb we begin a decent on single track through tight trees. It’s at this point, maybe 15 miles in, that I think of my grandma. She was an amazing woman who raised fifteen children! Smart as they come, she excelled in music and blessed those around her with a beautiful, warm smile. Realizing that I would never see her again, tears began to well up in my eyes. This was an inopportune time for crying as I swerved between tightly packed trees. Barely averting one, I remind myself to pull it together and finish the race. I decide to finish for her.
I cross the finish line to a huge smile on Garrett’s face. He quickly takes off and puts down an extremely impressive lap time, especially since he is set up single speed! Thanks to him, we were number 11 out of 66 coed teams.
I have a good time hanging out most of the day chatting with folks about the Amy D Foundation, and talking with Ed. The more I talk with Ed, the more I like him. He tells me about Amy, her cycling and skiing accomplishments, and her infectious smile. I’m sad that I never knew her, but am proud to be racing in her memory. Ed’s daughter’s legacy lives on through the Foundation, just as my grandma’s legacy lives on through her fifteen children.
Often it’s not about the race results, it’s about the people I meet, the people I love, and the good times shared with friends.
Up next, a big adventure race on the Colorado Trail. I’ve been preparing, dreaming and training for this adventure all summer. Here’s to the future!