The Taste of Victory
to go: 1,809.9
been imagining this
victory for ten months, and this is the way it has usually played out
the big screen of my imagination: me on my groovy bike, looking strong
and fit and pink from the sun, effortlessly breezing to the top of
the Moraga Hill with my fist pumping in the air, while birds sing
and crowds cheer and CNN photographers jostle for that Pulitzer shot.
Here's how it didn't
look: me chugging to the top of the Moraga Hill in the middle of a
downpour ... looking more like a shipwreck casualty than a champion
But that's the thing
about victories. You can't always special-order them:
sometimes you have to take them just the way you get them.
The Moraga Hill has been
the bane of my cycling existence for nearly
now. I cried the first time we rode it, last spring. I'd only been
riding for a month, and I was so overwhelmed by the distance and the
incline and the pain that I lagged a hundred feet behind David, bawling
like a baby the entire time. "I don't ever want to ride that stoopid
hill again!" I sobbed afterwards. But of course I didn't really mean
it. In fact, the more I thought about it -- the more skill and
confidence I acquired as a cyclist -- the more I WANTED
to trump that hill.
It became a point of
honor after a while.
Every time we've ridden
the Moraga to Concord trail since then, I've managed to get another few
feet closer to the top of the hill before I've had to get off and push
the Schwinn the rest of the way. Once last year I almost
made it -- I was within a fingertip's length of the summit, I swear --
but just as we got to the top of the trail, we suddenly had to brake to
avoid hitting a little boy on rollerblades. (He was whining to his dad
that his underpants were 'giving him a wedgie.' Maybe I should have run
over him anyway, just on principle.)
On Saturday morning,
though, I was determined that THIS would be the day.
I finally have the
right bike, for one thing: a real bicyclist's bicycle. (A bike that
weighs twenty pounds LESS
than the Schwinn.) I have almost a full year of riding
under my belt. My wind is better, I have more stamina, I have more self
confidence as a cyclist. The weather reports for Saturday were a little
iffy -- the local TV weather puppets were predicting rain and
thunderstorms for the Bay Area, for most of the weekend -- but that
didn't matter. They could have been predicting hurricanes or snowstorms
or free Celine Dion concerts in Moraga Park, and I still
would have been right there at the foot of the trail on Saturday
morning, raring to go. I wanted to cross the stoopid Moraga Hill off my
personal To-Do List, once and for all.
We were exactly a minute
and a half into the ride when it started to rain. I'm not
talking about a polite, *happy-doodle* smattering of springtime
raindrops, either. This was a full-blown, in-your-face, look-out-below
DOWNPOUR. It was like somebody
had punctured that big black storm cloud hanging overhead, like a
pontoon, and dumped four bazillion metric gallons of ice water directly
on top of us. We were drenched to the skin in seconds flat.
"I think the rain may
have just cancelled our ride," David said matter-of-factly.
But I was having none of
it. "Let's at least do the hill," I pleaded. "Then we can double-back
and head to the car if it's still raining." I hadn't crawled out of bed
at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, only to turn back because of a little
wet weather. (I'm a SEATTLE
forcryingoutloud.) David, looking surprised and
pleased, said OK, fine, let's do it. I
cranked the new bike into its lowest, most cooperative gear ... shoved
my feet into the hated toe clips ... leaned forward into the rain,
quietly wishing they made windshield wipers for glasses ... and for the
next ten minutes I rode like the devil (or Celine Dion) was on my tail.
And all of a sudden
there I was. At the top of The Moraga Hill. Just like that.
Actually, the whole
thing was sort of anticlimactic. Once I got to the top, I stood there
for a moment and just looked around. Where were the birds? The crowds?
The photographers? Where were the Wheaties people with advertising
contracts in hand? Instead, it was just David and me standing at the
top of the Moraga Hill ... soaked to the bone, goosepimpled and
shivering, wiping rain and snot out of our eyes and our mouths and our
hair. A nice lady jogger came by at that moment and saw David taking my
picture in front of the Moraga Trail sign, and she offered to take one
of the two of us together. ("Anyone out here in this
to have their picture taken," she said. And then she splashed off into
the storm to finish her soggy run.)
"Hey," David said
simply. "You did it." And he pulled me under a mammoth eucalyptus tree,
where we sheltered for the next half an hour, until the worst of the
squall blew past and we could continue our ride. He kissed me while we
waited: a long, lingering kiss that tasted like eucalyptus, raindrops
... and victory.
OK. Maybe it wasn't my
picture on a Wheaties box. But as rewards go, I'd say that this one
of the pain seem worthwhile.
in 2002 index