Getting Left Behind

With perfect weather and stunning views ahead of us, my team and I woke up in a mountain cabin early Saturday morning to consume our breakfast and drink as much coffee as we could stomach before it was time to kit up. The cool, brisk morning was quickly heating up as we walked less than a mile uphill in loose gravel to get to the pavement road ahead. We ditched our street shoes by the stop sign, put on our cycling shoes, clipped in and rode out. 

The morning started with zero traffic, endless landscapes and every animal you can find in the country. The pace gets faster as we warm up, we start getting closer to the rolling terrain that steadily increases, and the ride starts getting a little tougher. As we start winding through the woods, my chain drops and I yell to let the group know - only one person stops to wait and the rest keep going. As I fumble around to fix it, I’m anxious that I’m losing the group and I make a simple task much harder on myself. Once I fix it, my teammate Laura and I, start riding and come to a fork in the road. No one has waited on us and we have zero signal. Right here and now is when I learn to always put the damn route on my Garmin. Rookie mistake. We decide to head left and up we go. Hoping to hell this is the correct route, my brain knows that this will be an additional climb if it isn’t. On one hand, I have nature surrounding me, so I can’t help but enjoy it. On the other hand, my legs are screaming at me and I know I have a long ride ahead. I begin to remember that my thoughts are merely an exaggeration of the mind game that is happening in my head. I get out of the saddle, put down my head, and climb. I know my legs can do this. It’s silent until Laura yells, “12%” as she reads her Garmin. I don’t respond - I can’t. When I ride, I’m so concentrated on what I’m doing that I’m completely silent. We get to the top to find everyone waiting with a few apologies after I explain what happened and we keep going. 

Not long after that, every one of us runs out of water so we decide to detour 6 miles to find a gas station. We get what we need and head back to the route only to find a small biker bar across the highway from where we decided to detour. Laughing it off, we continue to ride with only rolling hills, a beautiful river and long stretches of road ahead of us. The last climb on the day is at the very end of the route, the group is strung out and we are all exhausted. A 21% grade is the very last of it as we approach the home stretch. It’s brutal, it hurts and I feel like I could walk faster than I’m riding at this point, but once I get to the top it’s all worth it. At this point we have ridden through Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. 

We regroup at the top and instead of putting my street shoes back on like the rest of the group, I stick them in my back pocket and start riding down the loose gravel hoping like hell my CX skills treat me right. They do. I ride as much of it as I can before the ‘ole road bike won’t cut it anymore. The last bit of the walk to the cabin is filled with small chat about the gorgeous routes we encountered. After rolling our bikes into the open living room, we all take a seat on the outside balcony overlooking the beautiful mountains we just rode. We proceed to pour a few drinks, take out a few snacks and talk about tomorrows ride. 

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