Viviendo un sueño

I was laying in bed…but it still felt like I was on the bike, like a madman.  I had never felt quite like that…I probably should have at least had a beer to calm me down.  With the memories of Jimmy John’s tuna unwhich still fresh in my mind…I drifted off to sleep.

I dreamt I was riding my bike behind 600 other people because we had lined up with the wrong crowd of people.  The adrenaline shot through my veins when I learned what we had done.  The crowd of half pint riders were already filling the streets…all I wanted to do was tag along with the 200 mile riders to see how far I could go.

The group that we could settle into just couldn’t be found…so we rolled alone…together.    Casey… you know…from Team Virtus, he joined me for the fun part.  Splashing through water crossings…quite spectacular.  He said I was pushing his pace…but he pushed mine.  I remember wishing he would take it easy for just one climb…but he wouldn’t.  I let him ride ahead…talking to my friend Emily for a while.

We rolled into the checkpoint after just a few hours feeling great.  My wife was there…she told me that she had dry socks for me…how did she know I needed socks?  Someone surely tipped her off.  I shoved some food down the hatch while I changed socks and away I went to try and catch Casey once again…killing some elevation.

After just a few miles out of check point 1, I was trying to tuck in behind Casey so he could block some wind…it was tough.  I did the best I could to hang on…but alas Casey rode off into the horizon, without me.  Where did my legs go?  Training rides were windy…hill repeats and spin class were on my list of things done!  Kansas wind was unreal, even in this dream.

At the second checkpoint…things weren’t looking good.  Much of the last leg was ridden without food or water. You see, I dropped my reserve water bottle while bouncing along something Kansas calls “b” maintenance roads.  In Missouri they are called trails.  100 miles into it and I felt like it was time to call it.  Obviously out of my mind, I decided to try to recover by eating everything in site and relaxing for a while.  I felt a bit like a side show…everyone staring in from the outside…not knowing what kind of pain I was really in.  Janie was there throwing every possible yummy food at my disposal.  It’s great to have Moms around when we race.  Jessica was there too…she is my new favorite support member.  She handles my food/hydration..and is a damn pro.  She also offered encouraging words at a time when I needed them most.

Jim was maimed, out of the race but still able to fix the bikes of anyone in need…except Adam.

After what seems like an eternity, but not long enough, another Virtusan…bad bad Robby Brown decides he’s crazy too, and we roll out onto a nice stretch of pavement.

Let me tell you something folks, 45 miles an hour down hill on gravel is something to experience…even if only in a dream.

Once we turn into the wind again…I wonder what we were thinking.  Are we really this dumb.  We could be at the finish celebratioonnn, drinking beer, having laughs.  I did want to finish this dream…see it to the end.

My legs were screaming…mood in the toilet.  Made a conscious decision to look around and try to be happy.  I ended up seeing some beautiful things around me.  Rolling hills, rocks gardens, a vastness so uh…vast, it was unlike anything I had yet to experience.

We met up with a guy from KC, Scott.  What a good dude.  He let us draft him for much of the 3rd leg.  We tried to do our part, but it was uneven for sure.  I think Scott would have it no other way…he was just that guy.

As we rolled into the 3rd and final checkpoint…we had a plan.  Change clothes, eat..roll out.

We were slower than what we wanted.  We had forgotten about our headlights and I was really hungry.

This stretch of the dream wasn’t too bad.  Our spirits were up…we were only 50 miles from the end.  Dreams don’t usually host finish line but this one does.

Along the way we witnessed something truly inspirational. I thought about all the people already back in town partying and missing out on this glorious sunset.  As it got darker I tried to turn my on my bike like but nothing happened.  Surely just a loose connection right.  Wrong!  I panicked as I figured out one of the worst things that could happen has happened.  My light had been taken out by the ride.  It worked just days earlier when I tested out a new extended battery.  What was I going to do?  My helmet light was just a little spot light and barely had enough lumens to get by.  About this time another rider sporting a really nice ti warbird with carbon everything possible entered the pack.  His name was Irvin…an older gentleman from Canada.  He stuck with us because he too was having light issues.

As I stayed in Robby’s slip stream, I realized how awesome it was to ride without much light.  Oblivious to obstacles or “bad” lines along the way, I rode much faster than I think I would have on my own with a light.

We came to a town…Suzie Q’s bar seemed the only thing happening at this time of night, it was nearly 11pm.  The patron hooted and hollered as we sped through the dimly lit streets.

The closer to Emporia we got, the further it seemed we were.  The roads were good…no hills to speak of, and pretty fast.  As the miles clicked over 200  I saw a flash of light off my right side as I spun across a creek crossing. Then a faint moan was heard over baby got back in my headphones.  I looked back to see a tree illuminated behind me.  This wasn’t good.  I rushed to the needs of our fellow rider to learn it was Scott…the guy who was responsible for me even still being there.  He had caught a wheel on the crossing and catapulted over it landing on his head and shoulders, knees and toes.  His Marine Corps jersey torn, helmet bashed…he mounted his unharmed steed despite the zero pressure he could apply to his right arm.

As we made a wrong turn into someone’s driveway, I heard the all too familiar sound.  It was Irvin; he had been watching where we were going and went down in some loose gravel, cutting his elbow and leg.  He was back up quickly but notified the group that he had broken his handlebars.

A mile to go…let’s bring it home fellas.

We rolled through ESU campus; it felt bizarre to be in bright city streets.  It felt as though we had been gone for days or weeks.  But we were at the same place we had started, just 18 hours earlier.

As we get closer to the finish…I realized that there were still people there, lots of them.  Cowbells clanging, cheering, clapping…it all seemed like a dream.

I wake up to Jessica telling me it was getting late…9am, WHAT THA …..  I could have slept all day.  There we were in Emporia Kansas, the day after Dirty Kanza 200.  Wait…did that really just happen?

Here are some pictures I took along the way, and a few from other people.  I hardly ever stopped to take them, so the content was only revealed after the race.  I don’t remember the order they were taken except the ones at the finish.

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What a view!

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It was truly amazing how far you could see out there.

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I like the clouds in this one.

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The grass is green on both sides

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greener than green

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The only shade around

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I had to stop up here and pee so I thought it would be a good pic.

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You can spot Irvin in the background bleeding profusely.  Photo by Eric Benjamin, thanks for being there till the end to capture the moment.

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Robby is in transition. Photo by someone else, Sarah Brown maybe?

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My amazing wife…hanging out till the early morn to see her hubby cross the finish line. Can’t explain how much her support meant to me.  I think Luke took this one.

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I don’t care what you think of my choice beverage, Angry Orchard is delicious, and even more so out of my finishers glass.

On a more serious note…I hope everyone else had a good time.  Whether you finished or not…it’s all about learning.  If you learn something about yourself, then you win.

I learned that my wife is more amazing than I could ever imagine.  This finish I owe to the whole crew, Janie, Jim, Jessica, another J name.  You all were really awesome.  Even collaborating our pit area with Team Virtus and Orange Lederhosen had a huge impact.  I learned that sometimes..just looking up is all you need when you feel like keeping you’re head down.

Sometimes it really does feel like I’m living a dream.

Aaron

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