Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday Service: A Week In The Racing Life

Words and images are courtesy of Colin Patterson, who competed in Guatemala from October 23 – November 1, 2018. Prior to posting, minor edits did occur.

The air was cooler and more crisp than you might think for a Central American country. Walking down the maze of halls in our mountain-lodge style hotel, I tried to stretch out my crushed legs from the previous day’s racing. Hoping to get warm, we boarded the bus early.

It was day eight. By this point, we had almost climbed the elevation of Mt. Everest during our 440 miles of racing. Departing the City of Quetzaltenango, we climbed, by bus, to 7,600 feet, our starting point for the day.  

Day eight, which consisted of an uphill time trial, was not one of the stages that we feared. Most of those had already passed. However, this stage was not going to be simple.

At sea level, this stage would have been ideal for me, considering its flat sections, shallow pitches in grade, and bits of gravel. However, with its conclusion at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, I knew I’d be gasping for air.

At mile six of the uphill time trial, I thought that I had been pacing myself well. My legs, on the other hand, they were disagreeing. Then, I struck dirt, meaning five miles and 1,500 feet of climbing were on tap. Pavement became pave, pave became gravel. Abruptly, my remaining energy was fleeing, as I dodged basketball-sized potholes and collided with rocks. 

Up, up, just a bit more up.

To finish, I was going to need to dig. Deep.

Then, it happened. It happens to all competitive cyclists. Endless days of training, they flooded my legs, reviving my energy. Flashing back to 32S13, our first Everjourney adventure, I realized that I have conquered much more punishing backcountry climbs. Remembering my excitement from 32S13, my gears clicked and ticked, as I notched a few gears harder, pushing for the remaining miles.

As I consider my time in Guatemala, the more I understand how this trip represents the true meaning of Everjourney. Racing abroad allows us to explore areas and experience cultures, rare opportunities that do not exist for most people.

Communal interactions.

In Guatemala, citizens are magical and passionate about cycling.

On a daily basis, while we were racing, streets were lined with people. Often, they were sporting indigenous attire, while we were clad in colorful kit. Through every town, with its narrow, pothole-filled streets, cheering was constant, clumps of confetti and buckets of water were hurled, and fireworks were set off. 

Right, fireworks were set off, directly at our wheels. 

As seen from above, our peloton for the week.

To say the atmosphere was electric would be an understatement.

At the conclusion of a day’s racing, with our energy stores sapped, citizens became fans, continuously showing their support. At the finish, while trying force down a Super Cola or Gallo Malta, we would be swarmed. Often surrounded by 15 minutes, we would talk to the locals in broken Spanish, telling them where we traveled from, how much we loved Guatemala, and the difficulties of racing.

While it was not uncommon for our picture to be taken, or our signatures to be requested, I was once handed a baby to hold for a photo. Passion.

Colin Patterson, a man of the people.

Beyond stage eight, we had some time to explore locally. At this point, I had no idea where we were in Guatemala. However, this was a poorer region.

Given our timing, a massive farmer’s market had been assembled. Vendors lined both sides, as well as the center, of the narrow, cobbled streets. This left us tiptoeing around seed piles, vegetable displays, and woven cloth. Around a “parque central,” this market spanned blocks in every direction.

Farmer's market exploration.

Every 20 feet we were overwhelmed with another smell, maybe freshly baked bread, fish, tortillas, or trash piles being ransacked by stray dogs.

Action.
 
With our time in Guatemala coming to a close, the final awards and celebrations occurred in a local stadium. We completed a celebratory lap, before collapsing, relieved to have completed a brutal week of racing.

Continuing our daily tradition of post-race photos and signatures, we soaked in the sun, while watching the crowd carry the overall winner across the stadium. They danced and chanted, while we reminisced on our time, thankful to be finished.

As Sean Bird once said, “You ever think about how there are a lot of times when you go out riding, and you don’t want to be riding in that moment. And you think of why you’re doing it, and you realize it’s so you can do something like this. Like, actually be able to do this…”

We ride, endlessly, so we may experience adventures. This was one for the books.