Hours later, I returned to the finish to find my teammate, Henry York. He had come up on a whim at the last minute after ‘Not feeling any symptoms in the last few minutes’ and deciding a 140-mile gravel race was just what his body needed to recover from a cold.
When he crossed the line, he found a tree, collapsed underneath it, and then jammed some CheezeIts. This immediately put his stomach into cardiac arrest and forced him to prostrate himself on the ground, moaning incoherently. We left him. Henry has been on dates in Ecuador at night in the red light district during a civil war – what’s the worst that could happen in downtown Steamboat?
An hour later, I found him sitting, staring blankly into the distance under a rando’s tent, ashen.
I rushed back to my illegal park job, loaded him up, and drove him back to our Airbnb while listening to his daring fueling gambit of consuming only liquid calories for the first four hours of the race and enduring his judgment when he discovered I own a gravel bike AND a cyclocross bike, which is apparently a capital offense in some states.
The afternoon melted into the early evening, and I had said goodbye to the boys. I couldn’t get a hug out of any of them because that makes everyone uncomfortable, including me, but I know how this game works, and there’s no telling if I’ll ever see them again, if ever.
They’re in their mid to late 20s now and have figured out that there might be a lot more to life than pedaling a bike fast, something I still don’t understand. Chaz showed me a video of river surfing he does down in Salida.
“More fun than training,” he said.
“Everything is more fun than training,” I lied.
I was off, over Rabbit Ears, the Subaru carrying me back home to my family, yearning for the miles to pass. I gripped the steering wheel while some songs hit, and an Alan Watt’s line hammered my brain stem:
“Someday, I’ll get the Golden Goody at the end of the line. There is that feeling that there is this great Golden Goody. But that Golden Goody isn’t at the end of the line. You’re in it.
The purpose of life is not in the future. If you think it is, you’ll go on and on looking for it there, but the future fades out just as the past fades out.
The Golden Goody was never there, and you may feel vaguely cheated because you felt you had something coming that never arrived. But you’ve been sitting in the Golden Goody the entire time.”
I put together a result. I met people. I got to ride my bike in the high country in the height of June. I felt healthy. I wasn’t driving home to an empty closet apartment; I was racing to arrive before my kid’s bedtime.
I’m in the gold.