Saturday, December 12, 2009

When I Was Young, It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful, a Miracle. Oh It Was Beautiful, Magical.

The day after Christmas in 1991 I was given a pair of hiking boots, a Patagonia windbreaker, a Cannondale and my walking papers. My boyfriend broke up with me the day after Christmas because he didn't want me to always think of Christmas as the day we broke up. I could see that these gifts were supposed to be my consolation prizes. But the guy said to me before he would hand over the bike, and this is rich, he said that he didn't want me to have the bike unless I was going to use it. And he meant it. Who says, "I'd like to give you this sweater as a Christmas gift but only if you swear will really, really wear it." What-ever.

I was so bound and determined that Mr Mister was going to find out about my riding the crap out of that bike, that I committed to it. I had visions of me being the next Julie Furtado and Mr just shaking his head, saying, "I didn't think she had it in her. I was so, so wrong." I had no other goal in life but this, to make him eat his words.

I began to pray. My Grandmother Jenkins told me she used to pray for her talents to be magnified. I had a basic concept of what I thought this meant. So when I wasn't laying on the floor crying to God and begging that Mr's junk would fall off for leaving me for someone else, I prayed that my cycling would be magnified. I began to ride. I lived in the foothills at the time but began on the street. The first time out riding, I was pushing my bike up a hill that I couldn't go up. Instead of telling myself this would never, ever work and I should just give up, which is kind of my Modus Operandi, I thought, "This will get easier. This is how it begins." And I just calmly talked myself into investing the time that it would take to get better.

One day my ex's mother came over to my house. She sat down in the living room to talk with my grandmother, my mother and I and she gave me a picture of Jesus. She said that she knew that things were hard for me right now, but that Jesus could be my husband. I had no idea what she was talking about. Nuns married Jesus. We were Mormon. So I got back on my bike. Those times when I felt alone and wanted to sit in my room, listen to Gladys Knight and smoke endless cigarettes, I got on my bike. When I had to go to work, I would ride my bike. When I had to go to school at UVU, I rode there. I started to venture off -road. I lost weight and gained muscle. Two of my best guy friends, Eric and Jim, began to ride with me and we had an insane amount of fun. We went everywhere on our bikes. One day Jim said, "Let's go to Will's Pit Stop and get a drink." So we headed down Quail. I was in cut off jean shorts and a wide Axl Rose bandanna like all the tools wear now. I remember because as we pulled in, I saw the old familiar gray Volvo in the lot. It was too late to warn Jim. He was already ahead of me and parking his bike. Mister and his girlfriend were coming out of the store. And I happened to be heading right for them. They greeted me with warm hugs, stopped to chat and Kristen was kind enough to show me her ring. I noticed it was the exact style Mr told me that he had always wanted to give to his fiance. I pretended to be really, really happy for them. I must have said goodbye. I'm sure I went in and got a drink. I must have ridden home with Jim. Though I can't recall any of that part. But I remember what her hand looked like with that ring on it.

I began to ride with a team and pick up local races. I had an emergency appendectomy and was told not to get on my bike for 6 weeks. I got on my bike after 4. I split some stitches but I was addicted. After glancing outside my bedroom window one afternoon, and seeing my uncle tooling around in the street on my bike, I found her, Little Nel, a new place to live other than the garage. I put her up over my bed. We were always together. She was my replacement husband.

My singles ward and the ward my ex was in were sister wards and this being the 90's they planned a joint activity trip to Moab. We were all going down to go ride Slickrock. This was my chance, I thought. I knew I hadn't been racing in anything that would be covered in Mtn Bike Action and as such the chance of my ex actually knowing anything about my cycling was pretty slim, so I placed all of my hope on the chance that he may have friends still in the ward that might miraculously spread the word about this to him. If I could kill everyone on this ride, it might possibly make it back to him. It was a long shot, but I had nothing else. I had to do it. I had to beat them all. The guy organizing the joint activity was a friend's brother and he was a serious rider. She told me he and a group of others were meeting at the first gate around like 9 in the morning. They were the contenders. The casual riders were leaving later, around 11. I was with a couple of friends and we got to the first gate at Slickrock to wait for the contender group. I went over the little cow catcher grate at the first gate and my chain right broke. No problem, right? Easy to fix. I unzipped my seat pack. No chain tool. I ask my group, no chain tools. No one. I ask riders going by, I ask riders in the parking lot. I ask the group of contenders when they show up to ride. No chain tool. No. One. Has. A. Chain. Tool. I have to go to Bill 'em and Rob 'em.

Bill and Rob own the best, most expensive and for a while the only, Bike Shop in Moab. Remember, again, early 90's. So what I am suddenly faced with is the knowledge that I have to ride into town and hope that I can be back in time to catch up and ride with the non-contenders at 11. So I coast down the hill and push my bike all the way to Rob and Bills shop. I walk in and explain I need a chain tool, and I don't have any money. Now, at the time I really had no idea what I was doing. Asking a couple of overweight middle aged guys to pretty please help me, a 19 year old long haired blond. If I had, I may have asked for a lot more. I thought I was asking for a miracle since I had not a dime on me. As it was, they fixed it for me, asked for nothing in exchange and sent me on my way in a fairly professional manner. (I later took them some beer, I think. Maybe that was another time...) I rode back through town, up the hill and back up to Slickrock. I found out I had missed the second group. A couple of people in the parking lot from my ward had seen them leave about a half hour before I got there. I decided to see if I could catch up with them. After an almost three hour trip into town, I finally embarked on my ride.
The first time I rode Slickrock was with Mister. And we stopped a lot because I was tired or I would hit my front break and go over the handle bars or because we wanted to make-out. It took us, I want to say, four hours-ish. And I remember spending some extra time on two sections that he struggled with. One was a hop-skip over a log onto a little ledge and the other was a big flat steep hill with a top lip that was like a curb. It went straight up. He never did get the log part but after a few tries he managed to get up the hill. I remember afterwards going back to the tent and my legs felt like they had a fever in them. They were hot to the touch and were almost swollen. I was in so much pain.

This time around I was alone, recalling everything again. The log part, the little place where we laid down to rest, the overhang where we sat and smooched a bit. I met up with the non-contender group and said hi to them on my way by. I met stragglers from both wards along the way. I met up with the hill. I killed it my first run. I went on and caught up with the contenders, only to find they seemed to be having some issues with the terrain. They were struggling, those boys. I stayed with them but it was clear, somehow I was better than they were. I passed them and went on to the end. I just kept going and going. I finished up with Slickrock, I want to say, around two hours..? When I finished I thought about what I had just accomplished. I had just pushed Nel into town, I had just ridden miles and miles back up hill only to go on to meet and beat everyone on that ride from both wards. Something in me clicked, and I set it down. I set down my bike and I set down the whole desire I had to prove anything to my ex. I didn't get over him then, but I got over me not getting over him. I rode some after that but it just wasn't the same. I didn't have anyone to ride for. No one to prove anything to. I had proved I could do it. I knew I could have beaten Mister and his arrogant little riding buddies and I would have done it handily. It was all over. Eventually I cut and dyed my hair and became angry and started drinking. I grew calloused over and one day when I was in bad spot for rent I sold Little Nel to some business man. It killed me to do it.

A couple marriages and kids happened over time and now I am here in the present day and Julia and I are talking about getting into shape. This brings up all kinds of things for me, because the last time I did so it was because I was heart broken and angry and frustrated and sad. I was taking out my frustrations about not being in control and not being good enough for someone and for loving someone that didn't believe in me. Now I will be getting in shape so I do not have to post a picture of myself in a bikini on Facebook. So I am trying to tell myself I will be doing it to prove that I am not too old, that I can do whatever it is I set my mind to and that I can remember how to ride a bike. It's just like,'s own self. At the end of this fitness challenge that runs from Jan to the end of May, I want to go to Slickrock and ride it. And I hope to go up that super hard hill again, and go over the place where I passed the contenders. And I hope to do it better and faster and stronger than ever before because I am older and wiser and I will have brought a chain tool. We'll have to see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.