Murder By Spandex
to go: 594.92
afraid he's going to kill me.
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
or planted beneath a walnut orchard, any time soon.
they're worried that
he's going to kill me, just the same. I can tell.
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
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
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.*
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.
kill Secra," he tells his son.
There is laughter in his voice when he says it, but his eyes are
kill Secra, his eyes say. We
don't want to have to break in another new daughter-in-law.
* * * * * *
figured out that
we were in trouble before I did, I think.
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.
hot season isn't
over yet," he reminded me. "It's going to start warming up in another
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.
being a really
good sport about this," he said.
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
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.
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
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
as I could. ("That's full of Gatorade, y'know," David reminded
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.
one look at us, standing on her doorstep, and she winced.
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?
didn't know it was
going to get so hot," said David sheepishly.
* * * * * *
was a more subdued
family visit than usual.
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
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.
was too tired to
bother fishing it out, so I just left it there.
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.
probably figured it
was a moot point by then, anyway.
* * * * * *
the time we got home
on Saturday night we were wrecked.
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,
next thing I knew it
was Sunday morning ... and I was still alive. Nobody was more surprised
than *I* was.
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:
going to drink Gatorade, take an ice cold bath, putz around the dark
cool apartment, goof around on the computer a little, relax, rest,
maybe I would just go
back to bed and sleep all day.
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.
for me," I told him.
* * * * * *
than an hour later
the phone was ringing.
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.
medic thinks it's
heat sickness," he said.
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.
throw a rock