This is the point where I really start to enjoy myself. No one is in front of me for a minute, and if my palpitating heart didn’t know any better, I could be out on a trail ride with Blue’s brand new knobbies swallowing these miles of dirt like a starving dog.
Suddenly I round a corner to the sight of a small traffic jam. About eight riders are stopped at a rocky outcropping because someone is stuck. I pause for a moment, unsure of how to proceed. Do I wait in line like the polite, well-raised American girl that I am? These guys got here first, right? Well, yeah, but…. Then I spot a gnarly line just to the left that leads up a little ledge and think, hell no…this is RACIN’! As I barge my way past the polite folk waiting patiently and billy-goat my way up past the stalled rider, I put on a small rodeo and holler, “Stand back, ordinary mortals!”
Behind me, I hear at least two angry motors now pouncing up my line, undoubtedly wondering, Why didn’t I see that in the first place? and Who says I’m an ordinary mortal!? and best of all, Was that a GIRL? My third wind ensues, I’m wearing a big, stupid grin, and somebody’s screaming in my helmet the first of about a million WOOHOOOOOs!
There are some things you will learn about yourself in a desert race that you may never learn at any other time in your life. Some of them you’ll probably wish you hadn’t. I’ve learned that I’m capable of becoming a crazed, psychotic machine with no other purpose in life than to roll through home check and nab that finisher’s pin. I become a primitive animal with one thought in my head. (For those of you who are aware of the incredible multi-tasking entity that is a woman’s brain, you’ll know that this is no small feat.)
I’ve also learned that under a lot of stress and pressure, about half the thoughts that occur in my head also occur out loud—at top volume. Welcome to the Molly Show. Please tell me that I’m not the only one who does this, guys. About halfway through the race, I start to really feel it. I’ve had so many battles back and forth and pulling crazy s__t over and over again, it feels like I’ve lived three lifetimes in the last 20 or so miles and I’m still not half done. This is when I start giving myself the ridiculous pep talks. Out loud. It starts out with the tentative, “Yeah! Yeah, you got this. Focus. You got this, girl. Focus!” Gradually it deteriorates into loud observations of the scenery and racers in front of me, punctuated with the occasional top volume, “WHO’S A BAD BITCH?” Also some hysterical cackling and a song or two. Sometimes its the music from On Any Sunday if there’s no one in front of me. Sometimes it’s not.
This sort of behavior isn’t terribly surprising to me—I’m well aware that I’ve probably knocked a few screws loose over the years—but the thing that really kills me is that fact that I raced for hours in the pouring rain and didn’t realize the weather was doing anything more than sprinkling until it was all over—and everything, including me, was thoroughly drenched and slimy like a 120-pound bag of fried okra with wet hair.
This downpour may have had something to do with that critical and momentary loss of grip that eventually left me maimed and bawling. I was booking it down a straight stretch of wash when at the last second I realized the trail marker pointed up onto a diverging single-track. During the process of quickly braking and yanking that big hunk of reciprocating 450cc mass over to where it needed to go, I managed to crunch my left wrist into the handlebar. The initial pain was like any other, but as I continued with less than five miles to the finish, I began to realize that something was terribly wrong. Every little bump sent a sharp blast of pain through my wrist, and trying to work the clutch began to terrify me.
No!, I thought. I broke my wrist.
I then transformed into a maniacal beast with nothing to lose. I had to finish. I inched along in second gear, going as fast as I could bear, screaming in pain and sobbing. The numerous bikes that passed me each represented a hard-won battle now lost. I’m sure all these guys who recognized me from earlier were confused and wondering what the hell I was doing snailing down the trail with my butt on the seat, after I had blown past many of them on some heinous stretch of treacherous loose rock. Each fresh defeat brought a new sob. It took everything and more to make it those last few miles, and by the time I got to home check I had no sanity left. Seeing the tent appear through my tear-fogged goggles brought forth a whimper of utter relief and joy. I couldn’t believe I actually made it.
Someone shoved a Rhino Rally finisher’s pin down the top of my right glove and noticed that something was wrong and I was not okay. Whoever those guys were who helped me out at the end of the race, thank you for calming down a very confused girl and walking my bike back to my truck for me. I held that finisher’s pin in my swollen left hand for what ended up being an eight-hour drive home through one of the worst blizzards of the year. When I called my husband to tell him about the race, I somehow failed to mention that my wrist was most likely broken and that I was currently in excruciating pain.
I later found out I took second in my class. What’s funny is that I couldn’t care less how I finished, other than it makes for a cool story that I finished a race with a broken wrist and took second place to boot. But personally, that part doesn’t matter much. It only mattered that I finished.
Six months later, I’m recovering from surgery to repair my scaphoid after spending most of the year in a cast. I broke the most difficult bone in the body to heal and had to have bone grafts and hardware installed about two months back. If you ask me whether or not it was worth it, there’s a rational part of me that says, well, no. Not really. I lost the best job I’ve ever had and haven’t been able to ride all summer. But, goddamnit, I can’t wait to do it again!
I won’t pretend that I’m a normal, sane, functioning adult.