I started out the morning stressed. It was chilly. I brought my arm booties and my leg warmers but I knew the weather was forecasted to be gorgeous. So it was either be warm for the first few minutes and then be the hunchback on the bike for the rest of my 8 hour day...or suck it up and be cold.
I sucked it up.
And I am glad I did. It was chilly, but I warmed up quickly. There was tons of bikes. So I went slow and easy. We skipped the first rest stop, so that we could lose most the crowd. So imagine my surprise when rest stop number 2 was Belville, TX. We were already at the lunch stop.
Continental had a tent with wraps and goodies. We sat under the shade of the tree. We had only gone 27 miles so we were feeling pretty good. We still had 4 more rest stops to go.
LaGrange was a beautiful sight. We rolled in at about 4pm. After that it was quite the whirlwind. We found our amazing friend Norma, who volunteered to go with us, carry our gear, set up our sleeping area and be our rock. After showers and dinner, Norma and I went to check out the fairgrounds.
It was like a mini city. There were tents everywhere. The Mattress Firm tent had brought in mattresses with the box frames for all their riders. We were in awe. The sun was setting so we walked toward the finish line and watched the last riders roll in...by hand. They had the wheelchair bikes that you pedal by hand. The riders had faces grimaced in pain but full of pride. We cheered at the top of our lungs. It was a magical moment as the sun slowly hid behind the horizon.
Morning arrived and I woke up with extreme anxiety. I envisioned going through the Bastrop State Park and flying down a hill over 30 mph with the hundreds of crazy riders. An accident just waiting to happen. I knew, if I crashed, or anyone crashed in front of me...I was done. It didn't help that the guy next to us described hills called "The Widowmaker" and "Killer" hill. Sigh.
I moved so slowly. People had been up since 3:45am to find a place in line. The race does not start until 7am and I am no hurry to start. We let all the people rush ahead...so most the crowd is long gone. Once we get rolling, I start to relax, and I start to have fun.
The park is gorgeous. The smell of pine saturated my senses. I was flying. Hill after hill...I did not walk one. Next thing I knew, I was out of the park. Alive and happy. Definitely not a bad as I worked it up in my head.
As I sat under the tent in Bastrop, enjoying my cantelope, I turned to the 3 guys sitting next me and prepared myself to share a common bond. I asked them, "Was it just me, or was that park not nearly so tough as everyone said it would be?"
I swear the music came to a screeching halt and they looked at me like I had 2 heads.
They replied, "Uh no, that was the worst park ever...we had to walk at least 4 hills!!!" They groaned in pain.
I lowered my head and did not say another word. But inside, I was doing the happy dance.
Austin was only 30 miles away. I put my head down and hammered. I just wanted it to be over with at that point. My shoulders hurt but my legs were strong. Victory was so close I could taste it. And when I finally the turned the corner and saw the Capitol...it took everything I had to hold back the tears.
It was an breathtaking moment, and one I will never forget.
After the finish, I turned around to wait for my friend and co-worker to cross the finish line. His body gave him fits on the last stretch. It was a proud moment to watch him cross after all the training, trials and tribulations up until this point.
A rare beautiful fleeting moment that will live a lifetime in my heart.