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The Lunch Hour Race

Bettina Freese

I had an hour to ride last weekend, not counting the ride to and from class, so I headed up Town Mountain Road on a lunch break to touch the Blue Ridge Parkway real quick before shooting back down.

It was my only ride all week. Not even a run hit my agenda. But when you see a two-hour window, what do you do? You race up Town Mountain so that you want to puke.

You know, I really hadn’t planned on making it such a sprint, but once those guys tried to pass me, I guess my ego just got the better of me. I think other riders are an excellent source of motivation. I was cranking along enjoying the sunshine and waving at the cyclists coming down the fun bits when I passed a small group of recreational riders. I knew this because they were really friendly, encouraging, and nice when I said good morning. Anyway, suddenly I heard heavy breathing behind me and new I was getting ready to be passed. It’s always this moment in which I begin summarizing all my rides, berating myself for not being stronger and then act as enthusiastic as possible about being ridden into the ground.

“Oh, no, you’re killing me, sneaking up on me like this!” I say, laughing.

One guy is concerned with my lack of water. I truly appreciate the fact that he said that because it would be stupid to ride without it. I was only out for a little more than an hour, and really, why think about drinking? It’s only a distraction, and of course more weight. In fact, I was just learning in yoga class that the body can only perform one function at a time. It cannot sweat and hydrate simultaneously. At least not well. That means it’s probably better to drink water all at once, rather than constantly sipping. My girlfriend thinks I drink less water than anyone she knows. She walks around all day with a cup and straw of water, taking little sips. I think it’s really just an oral fixation. Besides, I would be annoyed at having to carry something when I don’t even carry a purse. I drink a whole glass of water and move on. I do this several times throughout the day. When on long rides, I stop for a bunch of water and try to stand around for a bit while it seeps into my pores and then ride again.

I did not explain all of this to him. We did not have a long talk about hydration practices.

“Just out for a quickie,” I shout. “I drank before I left!:

They pull ahead and I hear the cachunk of gears being dropped. This caused me to reconsider my big ring, which I was pushing when they frigging passed me. I mean, GEEZ. That’s really all I’ve got. But now this. It caused me to reach for my own levers, looking for something simpler. That’s when I realize that I really don’t want to gear down. I just want to keep my pace. I want to make it back to class on time. That means I will have to pass them. The thing is, boys don’t like being passed by girls. I have such a hard time doing it, because I don’t want to cause a chase. I don’t want them to think they HAVE to pass me now. But this just happened on a downhill not too long ago, and I let the guy stay ahead for fear of offending his ego. I was so relieved when my girlfriend pulled around and ahead of him so that I could just follow. So instead I decide to verbalize.

“You guys can’t do that!” I chided. “You can’t pass me and then drop gears!”

Inside I am absolutely thrilled that I have the opportunity to say this, because I can’t count the times I’ve screamed it at my windshield to drivers in front of me. Now they turn to me with baffled faces and make room for me to come through. I know we are now teetering on the verge of explosive male hormones. What this means, is that I’m going to have to start powering up the hill without looking back. I have to totally outrun them so that we don’t continue up the mountain taking turns passing each other and having to make small talk.

I stand up in the pedals and start cranking. The steep s-curves are ahead of me, but I know that I can’t cry now. My middle ring is nearly as large as my big ring, so changing gears really isn’t going to accomplish much anyway. I stand up for as long as I can until the blood is ringing in my ears and I can’t hear them breathing. Then I go even harder. I finally make it to the Parkway before I head back down. They arrive a few minutes later and only one of them is speaking to me now. I’m grateful for at least that and race back into town with enough time to shower. Just think. My only ride could have been a boring stroll up Town Mountain.

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