That Was Fun. Sort of.
The bike race was hard and long, thanks to wicked headwinds. 30 knots or more, with gusts high enough to blow an outhouse over. (No, I wasn't in it. No one was-- thank goodness.) The Canadian highway forecast for Haines Junction to Pleasant Camp the morning of the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay called for south winds 50km with gusts to 70km and rain showers. They weren't kidding. It was the kind of the ride where you appreciated your fellow cyclists and stuck together no matter what, and when it was over you feel like superwoman for surviving; the kind of day where you think, "this is nuts" for hours, and then when it's over, you are all smiles and full of only good stories.
Pedaling through the pass it was a challenge to eat or drink, since I needed two hands to keep the bike steady. The pack I was in slowed down to make sure we didn't leave anyone behind. It was a group of strong riders, some of whom would go on to win or place in the solos and twos, yet the winds were so brutal, cross winds and head winds, that our speedometers were peaking at 10 and 12 mph, and often in the single digits until we dropped down to the border and slammed for home. (No easy feat, either, but after the pass it felt kinder.)
The highlight for Chip and I was riding with our daughter Eliza and son-in-law Justin. It made me very happy to be able to do something I love with family. I used to march with my mom and run with my dad, but I can't run anymore with my daughters (all super runners and athletes) since my accident, and never could surf or snowboard with my son-- but I can still ride a bike, and that means a lot. More perhaps, than it should. But there you have it.
There were lowlights too- a crash (Eliza, cut hand, a few bruises and back on the bike-- but hey, no one was medevaced to Harborview), and a flat tire (Me, 26 miles from the finish, which meant I was on my own until Justin caught up at the construction at 14 mile.)
Here's something though, about cycling and life. I liked slowing down and waiting for the group up in the pass, being mindful of others' suffering, and also depending on them to be consistent and trustworthy. The wind forced a lot of us to be less competitive than usual, and I enjoyed that. The weather put relationships in perspective. We were all consenting adults riding our bikes for miles and miles in wild weather because..... it's fun! The riders who dropped out had the good sense to realize this too-- and not risk life or limb. I also had a blast after the flat tire was switched (we brought extra wheels), barreling into the wind on my own as fast as I could. It was nice to feel strong and be in good shape. And best of all, it was great to see Justin for the final pull into town. (You should have heard us after the truck portage through the construction, howling from leg cramps as we climbed back on the bikes.)
On Monday, I talked with a friend who had volunteered at the border checkpoint, and she said the race had been epic for volunteers as well-- the first riders were hours behind the usual schedule. It was a long windy cold day for them too, and they didn't even get to ride at all. Then this morning (of course it's beautiful, warm, sunny, and nearly flat calm), Gregg Bigsby who organizes the Fishermen's barbecue at the end of the race, came by, and said his volunteers and the Fair's cooked and served food until after ten. (The crew staying at our house was beat and did not want to be outside anymore, so we ordered pizza.) His band played later too-- and then he had to to go to work in the wee hours of Sunday morning for the first salmon gillnet opening of the season. Gregg said they are catching fish, lots of them, and they are big. "It's going to be a good year," he said before heading back out. I feel like it already is.
(Now I have to get back to work on my new book so I can roll a second coat of paint on the porch floor later today.)