Winning Armando – A Mountain Bike Tale


I was not an athletic youngster, and in no way won any prizes for sports. Spelling and mathematics, yes. But not sports! I was shy and retiring, the last chosen on any team. It was a “Catch-22” scenario the significantly less self-assurance my peers revealed in my athletic skills, the worse I would play. I was invariably the one particular who got hit in the head with softball, soccer ball, or football who landed on my butt even though attempting to ice skate on the frozen field behind the school who came in dead-last in every swimming and running heat. Even though taller than my female classmates, I couldn’t get the basketball into the hoop any attempt to dribble would send the ball bouncing crazily off my personal feet. And I never even want to talk about gymnastics. The hanging rope, the pull-up bars, the floor mat — instruments of torture. I would rather have submitted to the gloating “dentist” who works Dustin Hoffman over in “Marathon Man.” You get the image. I got employed to feeling mortified every waking moment. I wished on several occasions that the Earth would open up and swallow me, along with my non-existent hand-eye coordination. In higher college I could simply have authored a book called “1001 Approaches to Get Excused from P.E. Class.” As an alternative, I concentrated on Science it was not one particular of my best subjects, but at least I could forget about PhysEd, and became absorbed in collecting insects, and skinning and dissecting modest mammals.

During my late twenties, with some encouragement and coaching from my really patient husband, I metamorphosed from slug to sport enthusiast. At 33, I lastly earned my initial trophy — a 15-pound bronze Aztec warrior who stands, with spear raised, on best of my bedroom dresser. To look at him you’d never suspect he was a 1st-place prize for the particularly challenging sport of mountain biking. But he knows. And I know.

It all began on a cool, foggy November morning in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, the site of the initial annual Montana Grande Mountain Bike Ride. Bright and early that day Mark and I had driven from San Diego across the border into Tijuana, and then continued down the road to Rosarito Beach. Freshly suited in lycra, with our bikes gleaming on racks atop our automobile, we had pulled into Rosarito Beach to join about 150 other riders effectively ahead of the noon starting time. The promoters were cautious to elaborate in the entry application that it was “just a ride, and not a race.” However, there would be prizes for initial- via third-place riders in both the male and female classes. The ride was scheduled to start at noon. At 11:30 AM, clusters of neon-clad mountain-bike aficionados in helmets and sunglasses gathered in a tight wad at the starting internet site, in an alley amongst industrial buildings. For half an hour, we poised on our bikes, ready to roll, straining at the beginning ribbon with the intestine-wrenching nervousness that clutches numerous a racer at a beginning gate.

At noon, the event’s promoter known as everyone’s focus, and we mountain-bikers prepared to “rock and roll.” But he announced that due to technicalities, the ride would be delayed for an additional half hour. Some of us took turns watching bikes for each and every other as we sought intestinal relief in the restroom of “Peanuts and Beer,” a nearby cantina. Finally, at 12:30 P.M., the ride officially started. A clot of us burst via the starting ribbon onto a twenty-mile dirt jeep track that twisted out of town and looped about the desert mountains east of Rosarito. The commence was possibly the scariest component of the ride for most individuals, careening into every other, handlebars hooking handlebars, tires nerfing tires, and dust flying as cheers rose from the onlookers.

A pack of eight or ten of the quickest men, which includes my husband, loped ahead and promptly became dots on the horizon. I was capable to preserve up with the subsequent group of about fifty riders. Right after jamming along the challenging-packed, rutted road, a long ascent rose up like a wall ahead of us. To my frustration, a number of people all of a sudden stopped in front of me on the dusty road. Twice I had to get off and run my bicycle around these stall victims! Finally, as the riders spread out, I was breezing down the rocky roads and operating into a smooth, quickly cadence. As I passed the 1st water /aid station 5 miles into the race, the volunteers there yelled, “You’re the second lady, keep it up!”

I came upon some surprise singletrack with soft, rutted dirt. My tires tracked skittishly via, bouncing me off a cliff, and practically off my bike, but I held my line. Further downill, off-camber turns featuring mounds of cake-flour dirt forced numerous a rider to their knees.

Next, some simple-going terrain skirted alongside rancheros exactly where cows stood chewing, observing the steady stream of mountain bike “cosmonauts.” Later Mark would ask if I had noticed the cow with short legs and no rump. So intent on gaining speed, I had missed that sorry sight.

For the subsequent 5 miles speeding as quickly as my legs could hammer and passing male riders one particular by one particular, I felt hopeful I would catch the very first lady any minute. I let myself go on the downhill stretches, a single of which was so rocky and treacherous, it had claimed a rider who lay at the bottom with two medics bent more than him and an ambulance parked nearby. I attempted not to think about the scene as I sailed past, gathering momentum for yet an additional difficult uphill climb and keeping the unsafe believed of crashing out of my mind.

At the last water/aid station, I rolled via calling, “Throw water on me!” A volunteer happily doused me with a cup of water that reacted like water poured into an empty radiator. It prevented me from overheating, just in time. “Three far more miles to go,” the volunteer told me. As I turned back to thank him, I noticed a woman coming fairly swiftly behind me, about a quarter of a mile away. I revved it up as quick as I could then, pondering, “I want to win!”

I blazed past a couple of ranches where Mexican households sat outside and rooted me on, shouting “Arriba!” Grazing horses with prominent ribs looked up to scrutinize the spectacle I must have been – a frenzied, muddied lady on some sort of metal creature. Then I heard a familiar female voice greeting me from behind, “Hi Pat!” It was a fellow member of my Wednesday night riding group, Tracy, who had closed the quarter mile gap in between us in no time.

“Hi Tracy,” I replied. “How are you doing?”

“I crashed back there,” she replied.

“You okay?”

“I’m nevertheless feeling sort of woozy.”

Even after her crash she was a powerful rider. We diced as she led for a couple of feet, then I’d pass and lead. Finally, she passed and I followed her line down a steep hill which catapulted us onto a steep incline with soft dirt. Tracy jumped off her bike and began running it up. I knew this was the crucial point in our race, and that if I wanted to maintain second place, I had much better stay on my bike and pump. Obsession motivated me up and over that hill and I propelled forward. I did not look back.

I never ever let up and raced via the finish line ribbon as a photographer snapped my picture and a crowd cheered me and my Raleigh bicycle house. Moments later I found that Tracy had been the number-one woman and I must have passed her (after she crashed) with out realizing it. That meant I was first-place lady. And that meant “Armando” the bronze Aztec trophy was mine to take residence.

Armando stood on the center of the table outside on the cantina patio, king of all he surveyed, and focal point of the afternoon, as Mark, our riding buddies and I sat drinking beers with lime wedges and devouring baskets of tortilla chips and bowls of salsa. Each so typically, 1 of the other riders would cease at our table and comment, “Hey! That’s some trophy! Great job!”

The sky darkened as individuals celebrated with margaritas, tacos and beer, and these in a partying mood started dancing to the beat of a reggae band. If only my higher-school classmates could see me now. Armando, my trophy who stood gazing impassively into the distance was, at 15 pounds, a hefty reminder of an accomplishment I could in no way even have imagined as a girl. I never want to mount Armando to my handlebars to remind me that I can break by means of limitations I just have to set my thoughts to it, then do it.