A few weeks ago, one of my young climbing partners (he’s twenty-four-years-old, complete with two adorable dimples and the cockiest grin this side of the Mississippi) told me I should invite our friend Jaclyn to a bike race. Jaclyn’s early-twenties heart had recently been ripped out of her chest by a mutual friend, and I agreed that riding a bike would be a wise recovery move. My climbing partner saw it a little differently. “Chase,” he said, “I think it would be good for her to hangout with you. Because you’re old and hot.” These might not be his exact words, but he did flash his youthful dimples at me. I rolled my eyes in an attempt to stifle a girly giggle and mask the evidence of blushing.
Poor Jaclyn. When I told her she needed to register ASAP for the 12 Hours of Fury, I don’t think she quite understood what she was getting herself into. My guess is that Jaclyn felt surprised in the similar way that a person would feel after clicking on a music video expecting to see Mylie Cyrus, but getting Ron Jeremy, the Hedgehog, on a wrecking ball instead. (Wow. I think I just compared myself to an iconic middle aged porn star. Moving on…)
Bender (my dumb little dog) and I pulled into Jaclyn’s driveway at 5 AM the morning of the race. I was a little more scattered than usual. Here’s my excuse: I’d been sick for three weeks, and was still pounding NyQuil every night to stifle a horrible cough. A more sane person probably wouldn’t have raced. Last night’s triple dose of NyQuil, I’m pretty sure, hadn’t worn off yet.
Bender and I stormed into Jaclyn’s serene house before she was ready. While she was getting dressed, I loaded her gear into the car and Bender marked every tree in the neighborhood. He was wearing a puffy jacket because he wines when he’s cold. I’d fitted it so that it stayed clear of his little wiener while he peed. I was proud of my handy work with the jacket, because usually when he wears human clothes he pees all over them.
Jaclyn loaded her bike into the van. I loaded Bender into the van. Still in a little bit of a NyQuil daze, I put the van in reverse and said, “I think we are doing okay on time.” Then, as if on command, the sliding door to my van flew open.
Jaclyn attempted to open her door so that she could re-shut the sliding door, but her door wouldn’t open. “That’s weird,” I said, and climbed out of the driver’s side. I slammed the sliding door shut and locked it.
Just before pulling onto the interstate, the door flew open again. Jaclyn still couldn’t get her door open, so I climbed out and slammed the sliding door. It wouldn’t latch. I slammed it again, and this time put my hip into. From inside the van, Bender jumped over both bikes and let out a small yip. The door still didn’t latch. I opened the door again, told Bender to stay, and slammed it shut while putting my ass into it this time. From a squat, Bender hurled himself at the door and yipped as it slammed shut. He bounced backwards onto the bikes and the door popped open. I slammed the door again, putting my ass into it even harder this time. Bender hurled himself at the door and yipped. The door popped open. Bender landed on the bikes. I slammed the door again. Bender jumped at the door again. Jaclyn sat in the passenger seat, not sure if she should laugh.
Finally, I decided we needed to duct tape the door, but the roll of tape in the van only had one small strip left. I slapped the duct tape on the door and hoped for the best. It was just enough tape. We made it to the race, on time, without loosing bikes or dog on the interstate.
The race itself was fairly uneventful. We road in circles at the McDowell Mountain race track in Phoenix for 12 hours. Both Jaclyn’s and my bike rode smoothly (she did get a flat tire at sunset, but handled it like a champ). We kept track of our laps on the sliding door of the van.
Around 3 PM, Jaclyn curled up in the back of the van and cried a little bit. In between laps, I hugged her, and told her the back of the van was a good place to cry. After every breakup in my twenties, I spent several hours (if not days) sobbing in the back the van. At twenty-three, I parked the van in Joshua Tree and cried for a month. At twenty-five, the van and I were in Red Rocks, outside of Las Vegas, and I cried for a week in the back of the van. At twenty-six I cried my way down the West Coast, curling up in the back of the van every night.
In between laps, Jaclyn and I also talked about wearing matching nail polish for the next race. We both said a lot of SHIT THAT MOUNTAIN BIKER GIRLS SAY.
I started coughing uncontrollably around 6 PM and decided to slow my pace down and settle for ten laps (at the rate I was going eleven or twelve would have been possible). Some friends from Flagstaff were parked across from Jaclyn and me, and they claim that in between every lap, I lounged in a chair and ate chips. I remember racing pretty hard until around 5 or 6 PM, but I also remember stopping every few laps to binge on rice chips and bitch to Jaclyn about having my period. Oh, and to ask her if I looked fat in my shammies, because that’s also what GIRLS WHO MOUNTAIN BIKE SAY.
Simply typing the word period, I’m afraid, opens the door for a feminist rant. So here it is: why do so few women race? There were only five us riding solo (compared to 34 men riding solo). I rode more laps than the lady who won last year, and second place rode as many as last year’s first place (this is awesome in my opinion!), and yet our category was pretty much overlooked. During awards, the announcer had to call us to the podium twice, because no one was listening. Jaclyn barely had a chance to take a photo of us, and the person handing out the awards asked me, “what category is this?” as I jumped off the podium. I understand that it was ten o’clock at night, and everyone was tired, but it still reaffirms for me that mountain biking is a dude-dominated sport–at least in Arizona.
Here’s a link to the results: http://4peaksracing.racetecresults.com/results.aspx?CId=16494&RId=72.
After awards, Jaclyn and I curled up in the van together to sleep. But neither of us slept. Jaclyn was cold, and even though I chugged the rest of my bottle of NyQuil before climbing into my sleeping bag, I couldn’t stop coughing. I ended up sitting up right in the passenger’s seat most of the night. This helped stifle the cough a little, but my legs were so sore from riding a hundred miles that not being able to stretch them out hurt. Unable to sleep, I spent most of the night reading about races I wanted to register for in the spring.
Did I mention that Jaclyn didn’t train at all for this race? And that this was only her second race ever? Despite her awkward initiation to the van (a door that wouldn’t latch, a biking partner that wouldn’t stop coughing or talking about her period, and several hours spent crying in the backseat) she’s promised to do more races with me in the spring.
Oh, and by the way Jaclyn, your butt looks great in those shammies. Wink.