Saturday, January 5, 2008

Turkey, Rooster, Feathers, House, LudiMonster

Today would have been an ideal day to hop in an ice bath.

On my schedule was a 10 mile bike time trial. Excellent! Actually, doing tests like this are fun, in a weird-masochistic-like-way (the same part of me that looks forward to taking the icy plunge). I get the opportunity to go as fast as I can. It reminds me of being a little kid, and running crazy circles around anything that I could (which eventually led me to break my elbow after a tumble down the stairs on my birthday. I was a monster!) So Coach threw this on the schedule, but assured me that I shouldn't be too concerned.

Was he kidding?

Actually, not. He wanted to make sure that I had a great recovery week (this past week), and he knows me well enough to know that if he puts "testing" on my schedule, I will NOT overdo stuff earlier in the week. (I've still got a bit of the "train-as-much-as-possible" Demon in me from my horrendous days before Memo. A hard habit to break, but I'm learning the true significance of quantity vs. quality. In the end - go for quality).

Last night I went to bed, tremendously excited at today's bike prospect. I hate to confess this, but I had a hard time sleeping. I just get so amped up at the thought of getting to go fast, go all out - that I think about it, get excited, and then can't fall asleep. I'm not always like this, but it happens occasionally: that something gets me so worked up, I loose sleep. It used to be this way when I was younger - when our family went to Valley Fair, when Christmas Eve rolled around (Karyna and I were nightmares for our parents!), and before ski meets in high school. When it comes time for sleep, I'll usually lay wide awake in bed, visualizing the next day's adventures. Not so great if your body needs the rest... but just happens to be how I work.

Would I be the only other one out there testing?

Glad that you asked. The answer is "no".

When she heard about my bike TT, Ludi's eyes lit up, she gave me a big grin and exclaimed, "Let me know if you want me to test with you. I'll do the Time Trial with you..."

How could I refuse?

So we decided to meet near our houses and drive up to my Time Trial Road - a nice bit of highway off the intersection of Hwy 87 and Hwy 89 in Milton. On the way, we were zipping past Beryhill Elementary School, when all of a sudden, I found myself stomping on the breaks.

What would cause me to stop like that? Turtles, of course. Other little furry creatures, running as quick as they can to get out of my way - naturally. Instead, I saw a line of Turkeys crossing the road. I waited patiently for every last Turkey to cross, and was eventually on my way. Silly birds! They didn't seem to want to move at first - but I was in a hurry. Ludi and I wanted to meet up with "The Group" who were heading out on the Blackwater Trailhead at 8:30 am. It was 7:15, and we wanted to make sure we got in the TT and were able to meet up with other friends/bikers. After inching forward, lightly tapping on the horn, and seeing a few feathers fly in protest, we were back and moving on our way. Our little caravan made its way onto 87/89, and soon hit our turnoff. We headed North about 400 meters on Hwy 89 and parked.

The morning itself was beautiful - low 40s temperature, clouds skirting across the sky, and the January Florida colors were finally in full bloom. Reds, yellows, oranges, and many different shades of green splashed across the forest. The smokey hue left over from previous night's home fires lay low across several houses, and the bright early dawn sun shone weakly from the East.

The wind was a different story, though. Not a playful wind, not a calm wind, not the perfect zephyr that one dreams about during a bike Time Trial. No, this was a fierce cross/headwind. The kind that hits you relentlessly from any and every angle. The kind that saps your energy, leaving you bare, quaking, and exhausted from your efforts. The kind that shows no mercy for you or your pain, and instead, blows ever so much harder, leaving you weak and defenseless.

Ludi and I glanced up at the flags, flapping in the breeze, but said nothing.

We quickly threw on our gear, got our bikes set up, and were on our way warming up.

Now came to the weird part.

I consider Ludi to be one of my best friends ever, as well as a phenomenal training partner. I push beyond my limits with her; I find new depths of myself when we train together; and I really respect and her.

And in spite of all the time we've spent together, training and (some) racing - we've never competed head-to-head (except for once, but that was before we met). It's always been about helping the other reach her potential, while challenging ourselves in the process. I don't believe at all that "racing" Ludi would change the dynamics of our friendship or training, but it's something we've never tried.

During the warm-up, we discussed how we wanted to do the "Time Trial". I had a few different ideas in my mind: One person starting 2 min in front of the other (that way, HOPEFULLY, no one would get caught and we would truly be out on our own for the duration of the test). Ludi also mentioned that when she trained with Donna Kay-Ness (holy cow!) - they would TT together all the time. DKN would give Ludi a :30 head start, and then try to catch her by the turn around point.

THAT sounded scary to me. I don't know which is worse: being hunted, or being the hunter. Probably being hunted. Yikes! We quickly squashed that idea.

Finally, Ludi suggested that we simply start off together. If one falls back, they can draft OR they can choose to do their own thing. Easy. End of story. I quickly agreed.

Then, with a wicked grin and a twinkle in her eye, she commented, "That way, we will go faster, no?"

It was SUCH an innocent remark, but hit home. What the hell had I just agreed to? I was surely about to pay with my legs. Great.

After zeroing our watches and odometers, we set off.

It was incredible. I jumped out quickly, hammering away for the first 3 miles. Slowly, I saw Ludi's shadow creeping towards me - but I was pushing as hard, and as consistently as I could. She stayed next to me or on my shoulder until the turn around. We didn't speak much, but gave small grunts of encouragement. I knew that she didn't want me to slow down, and I sure as hell wanted her next to me.

And that was the true essence of our Time Trial.

We pushed each other. We didn't compete, per se. I didn't go into the piece with the intention of "beating her". I simply wanted to throw down the best time possible, and push my friend in any way that I could. And she obviously wanted the same.

At the turnaround point (5 miles and then we doubled back to the start), I turned a bit more slowly (I have GOT to work on my cornering) - and Ludi ended up a few bike lengths ahead of me. I put my head down, doubled my efforts, and gradually moved up. It took about 1.75 miles to hit her shoulder, at which point I felt myself slipping back again. I gave Ludi a gasp of, "Good Job! You can do it!" and fell back half a beat. Talking was damn near impossible, but I knew she could do it.

And then she did something that I wasn't expecting.

Rather than respond with her usual, "good job - you're doing great!" She yelled (angrily, I might add), "Don't talk! Shut the hell up and bike!!!" Or something of the sort.

I was a bit shocked - but knew instantly that she didn't yell out of malice. She wanted me to push myself, didn't want me to waste ANY energy, wanted me to keep my focus. She knew that I needed to focus on the road ahead, NOT on her. So she got mad, and she let me know it. And I was grateful. I put my head down, gripped my aero bars, slid myself forward 1/4 of an inch up the seat, and mashed my gears as hard as I could. Inch by inch, I began to catch up.

Another mile later, we were cruising side-by-side.

I felt the pace increase, and I noted that we had 2 miles left to go.

The wind was fierce - a direct headwind. It was blowing at a high rate - but it didn't matter. Whenever Ludi pushed harder, I responded, and vice verse.

No quarter was given, and none taken.

We were two triathletes, two friends, to people journeying down the same road. With each pedal stroke, with each tenth of a mile clicked off, we doubled our effort, pushed beyond our limits, and discovered ourselves on this incredible journey. Time herself stood still, colors faded, even the wind seemed to die down, and it was just the two of us and our bikes. 2 miles became the last mile.

Breath. Focus. Push.

I was beyond key words. I was beyond pain. I was in a different dimension all together, oddly detached from my body, yet aware - almost hyper aware - of my surroundings. I could feel my heart beating rapidly against my chest, feel my lungs expand and contract, feel the cold wind whip past my face. I could hear Ludi's breath, as her exhales matched my own.

No quarter was given. None was taken.

Our front wheels were parallel to each other. Heads bent at the same angle, shoulders matched, and legs pedaling in unison. 1/2 mile to go. No words, only breath. And pain. And awareness.

I knew it would be over in less than 2 minutes, but it felt like forever. We pushed, we moved, and we went beyond our limits.

And then we hit the line - at exactly the same time.

No quarter was given. None was taken.

Breathe. Gasp. Breathe.

I looked back at Ludi, and her expression, her pain mirrored my own. She had snot all over her face, and could barely gasp for air. I was in the same state, could feel the slick wetness under my nose, had a difficult time getting enough oxygen into my deprived system. My legs were shaking, uncontrollably. It would have been better to still be doing the piece - when I was going, I was "beyond" pain. Now, well NOW, I was fully aware of every single sensation, every amount of pain. Every jolt, every jab, each and every pin-prick-like sensation in each striation of my muscle. My vision blurred, and I didn't trust myself to stay in aero. I wated to free my legs from the confines of the clips, rip my burning feet out of my shoes, but needed to keep my balance. My legs felt as though they had been left somewhere back around the 6 mile mark when Ludi yelled at me.

But it was a good thing she did.

And then the crazy woman in me came out. She took control, she breathed for me, she pedaled my bike, and wiped my nose. And then she started laughing. A crazy, maniacal laugh. And Ludi, or the "LudiMonster" responded with her own, maniacal laugh.

Here we were, two women bundled up in warm clothes, sitting atop of sleek bikes, soft pedaling at 8 mph and laughing our heads off (between coughing fits).

Gradually we coasted to a stop next to our cars, and began packing up.

We talked about the piece, about the words exchanged. Ludi looked horrified but amused at what she said, and I assured her it was for the best, that it truly helped me. We realized that what we had done was special, that the battle we faced was more against our own selves, rather than against each other. I was grateful for Ludi, because she brought out the best of me - yet she didn't lower her standard or slow down. It would have been easy to wait for me at the turnaround, but she didn't. It's a rule that we share - and I am grateful to her for that. I feel like I earned every single bit of that piece, that I fought tooth and nail for every effing inch that I took back. And I grew, I learned, I thrived in the process.

It would have been easy to give up. But I didn't.

It would have been even easier to not do the piece in the first place. But she didn't.

Again - I am grateful to Ludi. Thank you my friend!

Afterwards, we threw our bikes in the car, and set off for the trail head. It was 8:45, and we didn't think we would make the main group. We tried to meet everyone about a mile or two down the trail, but to no avail. We soon hit the parking lot, bolted out of our cars, and re-set-up our bikes and were off, chasing after The Group.

Ludi had an idea of where they were headed, so we figured if we worked "hard enough" we might - just might - be able to catch up with them. About 5 minutes into our ride, we squashed the idea. My legs weren't working too well, and neither were hers. We laughed and agreed that if we saw everyone else - great. If not, they would surely understand.

Instead, Ludi and I headed up Munson Highway and onto Indian Ford Road. The back country of Santa Rosa County is beautiful, albeit a little rural. We kept seeing the oddest assortment of things. Perhaps it was the time trial effort; I could feel a dull ache in my head, and Ludi swore that she would need to take her migraine medication later on. We had pushed so hard that it felt like we were seeing things.

And then we saw a flock of roosters cross the road. Not chickens - that would have been "normal". Roosters. We looked at eath other, and continued on.

A few miles later, we were chatting about her Christmas trip to Mexico, when we came upon an explosion of feathers. We slowed, hoping to NOT see whatever animal the feathers belonged to. I looked at Ludi, and she laughed nervously. "A happy coyote got to the chicken!"

We both laughed, scratched our heads, and continued on.

What was next?

This bird theme was a little too much. After my Duck! encounter, I wanted to avoid my "feathered friends" as much as possible.

And then the final "kicker" - on the way back from OLF Harold (Outlying Landing Field in Harold - where helicopter flight students practice hovering and helo maneuvers), Ludi and I were coasting down a small hill, and we came across a house. A house on wheels, taking up nearly the entire space of road. The kind that you would see on the interstate with its own escort and flashing lights. Oddly enough, this house-on-wheels DID have an escort. Ludi and I squeezed together single-file, and stayed as close to the edge as possible.

I've never been passed by a house. And today I was.

What was next?

Thankfully, that was all.

It was an interesting day, to say the least. A great Time Trial with a fantastic friend, shared on a beautiful (albeit windy) morning. And we saw lots of nature to boot - turkeys, roosters, feathers... And a house.

Next time I do a Time Trial, I may have to reconsider where I bike afterwards. I may just "play it safe" and hop on the trainer. At home, infront of the tv. And if I see any flying ducks, turkeys, feathers, roosters, or houses-on-wheels, I'll know that I should probably get off asap and take something for my hallucinations. At least that's what Ludi would say. And more likely than not, she'll be in the same position as me - in terms of the funny visions after a hard butt-busting effort.

And oh yeah, I met the "LudiMonster." I've seen her before at races, but never had the pleasure of her company. It was marvelous - and I did my best to respond with any remaining strength possible. She came out, yelled as loud as she could, and pushed me to a new limit. It was wonderful. And we refused to yield - not to each other - but to our own inner selves. It would have been easy to back down, but we would not let each other do so. Simply fantastic!

No quarter was given, none taken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finally I had a chance to read your awesome article.!!@@##%%#
Marit, you are awesome with words...the way you described our TT was just perfect...all the feelings and emotions are so accurate real life...
THANKS MY FRIEND...I LOVE YOU AnD I COULD NOT had pushed so hard or got to that effort without you..
Always your friend,