Then, without warning, it was time to pick Beat and Liehann up from the airport. Car packing, lunch, five-hour drive to Southwestern Utah, grocery buying, venue searching, race check-in, camp establishment, tossing open bags of food and bike parts around a Subaru Outback and calling this mess our "pit." We ate stale bagels with sliced cheese for dinner, and just like that it was time for sleep.
"I will ride easy," I thought, "and see what happens." I vowed to spend some time hanging out with Keith and Leslie, but the outside goal was 14 laps.
Beat and I started out riding together and largely stuck together for the entire race. He was riding a singlespeed and would ride away on the dusty climb, but then I'd catch him on the Jem Trail descent, often in the exact same spot. We made up our own hike-a-bike sections when the energy surges required to power over the Slabs of Despair became too much to muster, and joked about how much more we enjoyed the walking at this point. I lamented my relative lack of bike conditioning — a former iron butt that's gone soft and sore, and painful pins-and-needles sensations in my arm from death-gripping the handlebars. I started to become upset about the pain in my arms, only because my legs felt fine and my energy levels were good. I was climbing well and not even all that tired, especially since we started making 30-minute stops in Keith and Leslie's warm trailer once night fell. They cooked baked potatoes, coffee, and quesadillas, and we chatted about their road trip across the American West and all the miserable parts of the course that we hated while defending what a fun race Frog Hollow is — in other words, wasting clock time and soaking up lots of fun energy before we returned to our sad pit at the cold, dark, utterly disorganized Subaru.
My left side was stiff and incredibly sore, blood was gushing out of what looked like a deep gash on the inside of my right knee, and I was demoralized by my stupid crash. I'm just so tired of nursing blunt force injuries. People give me all sorts of well-meaning advice about how I can improve my balance, increase my skills, become less of a hopeless klutz. But sometimes I wonder why we have to fight so hard against our own natures. I am daydreamy and my mind and body aren't always on the same wavelength. Grace and coordination are not talents of mine, but I do try to work on my skills, honestly. Still, I'm a crasher. I'll probably always be a crasher. This is becoming more problematic as I get older.
I effectively walked the last three miles of lap ten, because I wanted no more beatings from the Slabs of Despair. By the time I reached the timing tent, my right leg looked like something out of a cheap horror flick, so I went to the medical truck. The EMT who mopped me up probed the gash and said I would need stitches, but it was 3 a.m. and the nearest hospital was in St. George, 40 minutes away. When I elected to opt out of the E.R. trip, she warned me that pedaling would cause the wound to continually reopen and fill with dust, complicating the possibility of infection right next to my joint. Not worth the risk, no doubt. I was out. Lap ten. 130 miles. And I hadn't even figured out the reasoning behind all of it yet.
But it was fun. The 25 Hours of Frog Hollow is always fun, and I'm grateful that I had the chance spend that time with my friends and still get in a really long, mostly enjoyable ride. Now, three days later, I'm still more sore than I have been in a long while, including after the PTL. My elbow is still stiff and the range of motion seems low, but there's no swelling, so I'm not too worried about that. My sister, who is a nurse, helped assess my wound and it still appears to be free of infection; thanks to past crashes, I've become an expert on keeping a deep wound clean.
I concede that it's been a rough year of racing for me. Neither of my Alaska races went as well as I'd hoped, I had shin splints during my first 50-miler in May, the Bryce 100 was an altitude-induced sick march, I DNF'd the Laurel Highlands 70 one week later, then fell on my face at the San Lorenzo 50K and coped with a knee injury for the better part of six weeks. Then came the PTL, the race that wounded my spirit. With the exception of what will likely be a couple more training 50Ks next month, Frog Hollow was the last race of 2013. Not my lucky year.
But I have much to ponder in the coming weeks as 2014 plans begin to take shape. And in the meantime, I'll keep dreaming about adventure.