Thursday, May 28, 2009

She Left Her Spleen In Muscatine

If Saturday was a day for coughing and sputtering and nearly puking up one's ego, Sunday was the day for leaving it on the pavement entirely for others to run over time and time again until there was nothing left of it but a pool of dried blood.

The Melon City Criterium started out sweet as honey dew and ended in organ donation.

Our plan from the beginning was simple:
Make Maria Win.

Given that field of competion from all over the United States, it would have been a tall task in its own right, but somehow I felt strangely (overly) confident that we could pull it off. Things felt electric in the start when Maria lined up first, me directly behind her. When a rider looked around at the substantial field, freaked, pulled out and went to the back of the pack, I slid alongside Maria with Keri, Sara and Em directly behind.

I looked at Maria before the start, said:
Win it. I will kill myself for you to win this. But if I am gonna die, you better win.

She laughed.
Shrugged her shoulders.
I laughed.
We were off.

It was fast. Physical. I have bruises all alongside my left side and butt from people ramming in to me from the first 500 yards. I took an elbow to the ribs and a handlebar to the ass. I saw Maria having problems with her clips and all I could think about was hanging on.

Our strategy was trying to keep Maria in a solid position in the lead group. We were to settle in and see what the group dictated. Once we were all together we would begin attacking, try to spread the field. It (sort of) worked for the first two laps. I was hanging on in the lead group, and from my periphery I could not see any of my other teammates, although I knew they had to be close behind.

Things fell apart fast. On the third climb I got boxed in on the far left of the climb and the person in front of me dropped a chain. I yelled, Maria took off on the far right with Keri immediately behind her. By the time I recovered, the lead group was shattered, a new one formed and I was not in it, nor could I catch it.

I was entirely gassed.

I tried to regain my composure and jumped in the draft of a second group. We rounded the third turn off the climb and began the descent. I looked down and was going 32 mph. I was so out of breath I couldn't feel the majority of my fingers or toes.

On the descent I quickly saw there had been a crash: first a PRC was Maria, multiple others, she sat on the side of the road, bikes literally strewn in the trees. When I passed at that speed I saw nothing but the bright blues of Maria's eyes, looking blankly at nothing as blood poured down her face.

Keri was there, as were others, and I couldn't tell if Keri was also down, injured, or helping but there was no way I could stop as there were still bikes on every side of me. I kept on. I yelled to Ben around the corner to help (and sent him running in the wrong and my kid in tow). I jumped the speed bump at the bottom of the descent, narrowly missing someone in front of me as she lost control of her front wheel and nearly ate it. Around another corner I yelled to Kelli and Terry to summon help.

I climbed the hill with adreneline. By the time I made it to the bottom of the hill again, an official, a motorcyle and others were there to help. Then an ambulance. Emily was there with Maria. Keri.

I wanted to quit. I probably should have quit. I didn't. In the remaining laps, it became a game of sheer survival. Each climb became progressively more difficult, and I became less able to regain my composure post climb during the descent.
I tried working together with other women, but mostly I wound up pulling them back into a secondary groups then not being able to hang on to the back when they sped off. At the end they reciprocated my short paltry efforts by shelling me on the last climb.

I strung together a series of tactical mistakes that killed me, finishing feeling a complete lack of fitness and confidence....not to mention, questioning the value of leaving my ego and possibly my body, out there on the pavement, my little boy cheering loudly just around the bend.

Maria would later go to the hospital to be sewn together and learn that her belly had filled with blood. She left her spleen in Muscatine. It sounds like an old country song, but unfortuately, she's still there...and the songs plays out in her life: away from work, and her husband, and her kids...painfully alone.

In Maria's short season she has now watched her dear friend run off the road and literally run over by a wayward farmer. She rallied from that, created a movement, sought change. She now lies three hours away, anticipating little more than the day she can untether herself from her intraveneous pain medication, so she can go home...see her kids.

I have no doubt about her ability to rally from this, just as she rallied on behalf of our friend Doug. I just wonder how.
I believe in the pit of my guts, that those of us who ride; we do so because of the simplistic action of a repeated pedal stroke...the sanity it creates.

But in moments like these, you begin to wonder; if in the quest for these seconds of sanity....insanity draws us in, grabs ahold...and won't let go ...sometimes until it's too late.

No comments:

Post a Comment