Saturday, August 25, 2012

It Happens Fast

It happens fast. One minute you're locked into the rhythm of the stage race, the rhythm of racing and recovering, of meetings and massages, of eating and eating and endless eating. The next minute -- bam -- you're driving back to Boise so you can watch the race on TV.

It can be a tough pill to swallow.

Yesterday morning I awoke in a lavish hotel room in Beaver Creek, Colorado. I stayed quiet for nearly two hours and stared at the ceiling, ruminating; after all, my roommate Serge was still in the race. I was not. I'd be a very poor teammate indeed to deny him any extra sleep. Finally Serge's alarm started bleating, and we both arose and packed our bags. Serge placed his outside the door for the soigneurs to bring to the van, and trundled off to the dining hall for breakfast, whereas I brought my bags down to one of our team cars. The car was loaded with the bikes and bags of racers who'd abandoned, bikes and bags, no longer needed, bound for Boise. Bikes, and bags, and racers. I said my goodbyes -- this is the end of my season after all -- who knows when I'll see my teammates again, or our staff. I wished the mood were celebratory; it was almost morose. It's odd: I certainly didn't want to leave, and nobody wanted to see me go, but driving back to Boise was the only thing I could tolerate.

I had to get out of there.

On my way to the highway, I stopped for a(nother) coffee with Daniel and Emiliano. We waxed philosophical about racing bicycles, about getting dropped, and about the close of a season, the last paragraph in an exciting chapter, the other bookend. After another round of goodbyes, I flicked on the radio, found the on-ramp for I-70, and headed west.

Somehow, the cosmos united me with a fantastic radio station, and a stunningly gorgeous stretch of road to send me off. Here's a slice:

A poem, read to me by Garrison Keillor.


They used to say we're living on borrowed
time but even when young I wondered
who loaned it to us? In 1948 one grandpa
died stretched tight in a misty oxygen tent,
his four sons gathered, his papery hand
grasping mine. Only a week before, we were fishing.
Now the four sons have all run out of borrowed time
while I'm alive wondering whom I owe
for this indisputable gift of existence.
Of course time is running out. It always
has been a creek heading east, the freight
of water with its surprising heaviness
following the slant of the land, its destiny.
What is lovelier than a creek or riverine thicket?
Say it is an unknown benefactor who gave us
birds and Mozart, the mystery of trees and water
and all living things borrowing time.
Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?

A song my math-dork friends would adore.

A winding highway through a misty canyon.


Eli said...

Sam, you are and always will be my favorite bike racer. Enjoy some downtime--then start working on next year.

Mary Topping said...

Hey, it must be so hard to just stop something you put so much preparation into beginning.I'm pretty sure that photo is from Glenwood Canyon; it never ceases to amaze me. Take care, Sam.