September 25, 2002
Murder By Spandex

miles to go: 594.92

David's parents are afraid he's going to kill me.

Not on purpose, mind you. They don't think that he's deliberately trying to *off* me so he can collect on the insurance policy or run off with The New Girl or abscond with my bazillion-dollar inheritance. They're not pricing defense attorneys. They're not expecting to find their favorite daughter-in-law stuffed into a crawlspace or planted beneath a walnut orchard, any time soon.

But they're worried that he's going to kill me, just the same. I can tell.

Ever since this bike-riding stuff began in earnest last year -- especially since we told them about our plans to ride 2,002 in 2002 -- they've been monitoring the two of us as though we're a couple of lab rats, watching for signs of reckless endangerment (him) or impending physical collapse (me). Although they're both too polite to say so, I'm sure they're convinced that David is pushing me too hard/too far/too fast, and that one of these days I'm simply going to expire, right there in the middle of The Iron Horse Trail.  Or in the middle of their kitchen.

Either way, it's probably not going to be a big bunch of fun for anybody.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

At least once a month or so, David and I try to combine our *big* Saturday ride with a little bit of familial warm-and-fuzzy.

His parents live near the bike trails in Contra Costa County -- in the very same house, as a matter of fact, where a Young Punk Ю僱êrvØ¡ once stood in the bathroom, fastening safety pins to his face -- so every three or four weeks we configure our ride to include a couple of hours' worth of family Shmooze-and-Snack Time. It adds an extra five to ten miles to the odometer, depending on which route we're taking. It earns us huge *parental points.*

Plus, if we time it right, we usually end up at their doorstep just in time for lunch.

David's mother serves us her cold tuna-and-bean salad. David's father reads us stock market articles he's clipped from the financial section. They both gently admonish us about "taking it easy" and "not over-extending ourselves" on the bike trail. At the end of the visit, my father-in-law ceremoniously loads our bikes into the trunk of his car and drives us back to the Subaru. As he drops us off at our car, he says the exact same thing to David, every time. 

"Don't kill Secra," he tells his son. There is laughter in his voice when he says it, but his eyes are deadly serious.

Don't kill Secra, his eyes say. We don't want to have to break in another new daughter-in-law.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

David figured out that we were in trouble before I did, I think.

We were fine during the earliest part of the ride on Saturday. We got off to a later start than usual -- it was 8:30 already before we finally got onto the trail -- but we immediately started making up for lost time. And it wasn't hot yet. I actually felt chilly as we rode over the Moraga Hill (or as I've come to refer to my former nemesis, the Moraga Speed Bump). "Maybe we should have brought our windbreakers," I said to David worriedly. But he said no ... we were fine just the way we were.

"The hot season isn't over yet," he reminded me. "It's going to start warming up in another thirty minutes."

And of course he was right. By the time we got to Danville, I was glad not to have the added bulk and nuisance of a windbreaker tied around my waist or stuffed into my bike bag or getting tangled in my toe clips. As we rode towards Pleasanton, I was aware that it was gradually getting warmer -- my sunglasses sticking to the bridge of my nose is always an early clue -- but I was so busy worrying about my noisy third gear and my numb right foot that I didn't realize HOW warm it had become until I heard David congratulating me.

"You're being a really good sport about this," he said.

A good sport about what? I was about to ask ... and that's when it hit me, like the giant boot heel of God slamming down out of the Heavens, grinding me flat against the bike trail. Somewhere between The Moraga Speed Bump and the Pleasanton BART Station, someone had dialed the thermostat from "Pleasant, Slightly-Overwarm Indian Summer Morning, Perfect For A Couple of Middle-Aged Cyclists Trying To Accumulate A Little Extra MileageMileageMileage" ...

... all the way up to "Blast Furnace."

And that's when *I* knew we were in trouble, too.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

"I had no idea it was going to get this warm today," David said grimly -- and apologetically -- as he chugged along beside me, twenty minutes later. His skin was turning the color of a blood orange, and sweat poured out from under his bike helmet and down the side of his face in rivers. A single droplet of perspiration swung from the tip of his nose, like a Swarovski Austrian crystal.

I'm sure I looked every bit as cooked.

The Iron Horse Trail had suddenly become a ghost town. All of the annoying dog-walkers and rollerbladers and double-decker baby strollers had vanished into thin (and sweltering) air ... no doubt retreating to the safety and air-conditioned comfort of Anywhere Besides The Iron Horse Trail. David and I, on the other hand, had no choice but to keep going: by that point we were just about equidistant between my in-laws' house in Walnut Creek and our car, parked back in Moraga. Either way, it was going to be at least another twenty miles, and the mercury was still on the rise.

There was nothing we could do but suck it up and ride.

We doubled the amount of sunscreen. We tripled the number of rest stops. We quadrupled the amount of hydration. We coasted on the downhills and we crawled on the uphills. At one point I yanked my water bottle from its cage as I rode, pointed it straight down the front of my shirt and squeezed as hard as I could.  ("That's full of Gatorade, y'know," David reminded me, a fraction of a second too late.) We did everything we could do, basically, to keep from killing ourselves (or each other) totally dead. Even so, by the time we finally got to his parents' house -- five hours and forty-two miles after we started out in Moraga: about twice as long as it would have taken us normally -- David and I looked like a couple of Maine Hardshells, freshly escaped from the lobster pot.

My mother-in-law took one look at us, standing on her doorstep, and she winced.

Dragging us both into the air conditioned kitchen, she sat us down at the table and immediately began force-feeding us water and fruit. As she ran back and forth -- I was still having a little trouble catching my breath, at that point, so I wasn't able to tell her Slow down, don't worry about it, I'm just going to vomit it back up anyway -- she shot her son a look that said Is this how I raised you?

"I didn't know it was going to get so hot," said David sheepishly.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

It was a more subdued family visit than usual.

I didn't say much. I never say much, as a rule -- I'm always the quietest person in the room -- but on Saturday afternoon I was even quieter than usual. Mostly I just sat there, drinking bucket after bucket of ice water and pretending to listen to the conversation. Once in a while, when no one was looking, I discreetly mopped up another puddle of sweat and Gatorade from the kitchen table in front of me. (For a while I was afraid I was melting.)  The in-laws showed us photos from their recent trip to England. David's brother Chris was visiting from Sacramento, so we wished him a Happy Birthday and discussed plans to come up and ride the American River Trail next month. I didn't feel like eating, although I made an attempt. There was a bowl of grapes in front of us: I picked one off the stem and raised it to my mouth, but it popped out of my sweat-slick fingers and dropped down the front of my tank top, lodging itself in my cleavage.

I was too tired to bother fishing it out, so I just left it there.

I fell asleep in the back seat of my father-in-law's car during the thirty-minute drive back to Moraga. I woke up just long enough to help David move the bikes into the Subaru, and then I fell asleep again for the rest of the ride home. I didn't even hear my father-in-law warning David not to kill me.

He probably figured it was a moot point by then, anyway.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

By the time we got home on Saturday night we were wrecked.

I mean we were completely, profoundly, 250% w-r-e-c-k-e-d. I've never experienced anything like it. I've been tired after tough rides ... I've certainly been muscle sore ... I've even been vaguely heat sick, a couple of times. But this was the first time I had all three happening simultaneously, and it was worse than the Healdsburg Hell Ride and all of the early Moraga Hills put together. I vaguely remember stripping off the soggy Spandex, stretching out across the bed and watching about ten minutes worth of "Cops" before plummeting into a deep, dead-to-the-world coma.

The next thing I knew it was Sunday morning ... and I was still alive. Nobody was more surprised than *I* was.

The good news is that we weren't planning to ride at all on Sunday anyway. David was going to spend the day at Six Flags with his brothers, Chris and Peter, and an army of nieces, nephews and other small family members. I was invited to go along, but the truth is that a sweaty amusement park filled with shrieking children isn't my idea of Big Fun, even when I'm not feeling flattened by the boot heel of God. (As a matter of fact, throw in an uncomfortable new pair of sandals, a couple of $14 hot dogs and a free Celine Dion concert, and you've pretty much got my vision of Hell on Earth.)  My plans for the day were a lot less complicated: I was going to drink Gatorade, take an ice cold bath, putz around the dark cool apartment, goof around on the computer a little, relax, rest, recover.

Or maybe I would just go back to bed and sleep all day.

"Are you sure you're going to be OK?" David asked me worriedly as he was leaving for Vallejo. "Do you need me to go to the store and get you something before I go?" Like a hyperbaric chamber, maybe? I smiled wanly and said no, I was fine, don't worry about me ... just go and have fun.

"Ride a rollercoaster for me," I told him.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Less than an hour later the phone was ringing.

"I'm here in the medical tent," David said ... his voice on the cell phone sounding uncharacteristically weak and wobbly. He'd started feeling 'woozy,' he said, while he was waiting in line to get into the amusement park. The next thing he knew, he was laying on a folding cot in the middle of the Six Flags First Aid station, with his legs elevated and a cold compress on his forehead, while a young medic quizzed him about "which heart medications he's taking." The combination of killer ride on Saturday and 100 degree temperatures at the amusement park on Sunday were too much for him, apparently.

"The medic thinks it's heat sickness," he said.

Jesus. Maybe we'd better not tell David's parents about this. They might decide that they've been suspicious of the wrong lab rat, all along.

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and run off with the new girl!