Because I live an ordinary life, I sometimes have to do some pretty non-ordinary things. Which is my way of trying to say, in a clever way, that since I’ve got a job and wife and kids and house and responsibilities and stuff like that, and that my wife also has a job and responsibilities that don’t perfectly dovetail with my own, we have to sometimes work pretty hard if we’re going to train together.
And as of very recently, that’s gotten a little bit harder.
Specifically, now that the Boston Marathon is behind me, I don’t plan to do any more running for at least a few months. The riding season has begun, and that’s all I want to do.
The Hammer, on the other hand, is on a running hot streak and has a marathon planned for the weekend after this one (this weekend is reserved for the 2012 annual RAWROD). So she wants to keep running. And of course, I want to support her.
Plus, it’s not like our work schedules exactly match up or anything. She works at three different hospitals. I work either in an office complex or my basement, depending on whether I need to actually have human contact on the given day.
So for us to work out together last Monday, a little creativity was required.
I was getting off work earlier than The Hammer and really wanted to spend some quality time with a mountain bike and Corner Canyon — just have a ride where I could really go at my absolute limit for about 90 minutes.
By the time I finished doing that, The Hammer would be home from her job and would be into the narrow window of time she had for the 13-mile run se wanted to do.
How could we make these two things work together? Pretty well, as it turns out.
The Hammer would run toward and up Hog Hollow as part of her run, which I should be coming down. When we ran into each other, I’d turn around and would ride alongside her, carrying water, Gatorade and food for her during her big trail run.
The Beginning of the Execution
Everything started off great. Since I was in riding alone and was in the mood to beat myself up a bit, I used my Arriva Leo bluetooth headphones (full disclosure: I got no special deal on these, I just bought them on the website like everyone else) playing music streamed from my phone (My Chemical Romance: Danger Days, in case you’re curious).
And I had an incredible ride. Up Hog. Up Jacob’s. Down Jacob’s. Down Ghost. Up Brocks.
And then, right about the time I was starting back down Hog Hollow, I get a call from The Hammer (a kind of nice thing about the Leos is that they have a mic, so you can take a call while riding / running without stopping and digging out your phone; just punch the “Answer” button on the headset).
She was just getting to the Hog Hollow trailhead. “Good timing,” I said. “I’ll just bomb down and meet you in a few minutes.”
Which I did.
The Beginning of the Problem
The Hammer had gotten maybe half a mile up the trail when I ran into her (not literally, because I’m an excellent cyclist). “I stashed some bottles of water and Gatorade under a bush right at the trailhead on my way home from work,” she told me.
“Perfect,” I said. “I’ll ride back and pick them up and then catch up with you.” And then, over my shoulder as we headed in opposite directions, I shouted, “See you in a couple minutes.”
You can see where this is going, right?
A quick downhill half mile or so brought me to where The Hammer had stashed the bottles. I had no idea how much she would want during her run, but figured it was better for me to carry too much than too little.
So I filled one of the bottles in my cage with Gatorade, filled the other with water, and then stuck a third bottle water in a jersey pocket. It was a hot day (close to 80 degrees). More is better.
Besides, the extra weight of all this fluid would turn this ride into more of a workout.
I didn’t hurry. I figured I’d be catching The Hammer in a couple minutes, and after that it would just be easy riding for me. A nice cool down after the intense solo ride I had just done on my own.
Then I turned around and started back up Hog Hollow. At first, I went easy. I kept expecting to see her every time I rounded a corner. Surely she couldn’t have gotten far, right?
Then I started thinking.
“Hey,” I said to myself. “It’s not like The Hammer stood still while I rode back to the trailhead and loaded up with supplies. She’s put some distance on me since then. I need to hurry if I’m going to catch her before she gets to the top.
How long had I spent filling bottles? Three minutes maybe? I wasn’t hurrying, so maybe even four minutes. During that time, The Hammer would be on a rolling-to-mostly-flat section of the trail; she could have put half a mile on me, in addition to whatever time she had put on me while I was riding away from her to get to the supplies.
So maybe by now she was a mile ahead of me.
I started riding hard.
I could feel as I rode that I was already kind of cooked, but pushed hard anyway, wanting to catch The Hammer as soon as possible. After all, I had told her I’d be riding beside her — a rolling, always-available aid station ready to give her drinks at a second’s notice — not riding somewhere behind her, with all this food and drink doing her absolutely no good whatsoever.
And then I started wondering: How far is it from the Hog Hollow trailhead to the saddle, exactly? Two miles? Three? 3.5?
To my surprise, I really did not know. I’ve done this climb probably more than 100 times — maybe close to 200! — in my life, and did not know its distance.
Regardless, though, I figured she had a mile head start on me, and it’s not like she was standing still while I was riding. I started pushing harder (for what it’s worth, I just used this post to find that the Hog Hollow climb is just under three miles).
I kept expecting to get The Hammer in my sights. I kept continuing to not see her. I kept riding harder and harder.
I laughed to myself — just in my head, because I was breathing too hard to laugh in real life, plus I hear it kind of looks crazy when a guy by himself starts laughing aloud for no apparent reason, not that I have any experience with that sort of thing.
Somehow, the image I had in my head of me tooling along on my bike while The Hammer killed herself running had turned into a ride where I was on the threshold of finding out what Honey Stinger barf tastes like.
And then a question occurred to me: was it possible that The Hammer was currently working toward the exact opposite goal of what I was working toward? Which is to say, was it possible she was trying her damnedest to keep me from catching her?
As soon as that question occurred to me, I knew the answer: Definitely.
I rode harder. No, just kidding. I was already going full tilt.
One More Question
I rode with everything I had, knowing that I had somehow been fooled into a bike-vs-foot race with The Hammer, and that she was winning.
I passed the halfway point. She was not in sight.
I passed the 3/4 mark. She was not in sight.
I began to wonder if it was possible that The Hammer had made a wrong turn. Or had been kidnapped. Or had fallen into a ravine.
Seriously, I briefly considered each of those possibilities. But never seriously. Because I knew the truth of the matter.
And the truth of the matter was simple: She was busy kicking my butt.
Which gave rise to a serious question, which I began to ponder the rest of the climb up Hog Hollow, even as I strained my eyes hopefully, looking for a neon-yellow pair of shorts that simply refused to appear:
How much — if any! — faster is a mountain bike than a runner, when climbing a steep trail?
I got to the top of Hog Hollow. Beaten, in more ways than one. But I had not caught her yet, so I kept riding, hard.
I pounded away to the top of Clark’s trail, where three different trails converge, all headed down from there. I looked down each, trying to see her.
And there, running down Brock’s, was The Hammer. Finally. Maybe 200 feet ahead. And since it was downhill, it took just a few seconds to make up that distance.
“You caught me!” said The Hammer.
“You,” I replied, “are a badass.”