Monday, September 8, 2008

09.06.08

I'm sure you all are just aching to know about my ride last saturday, so here goes.
I survived LOTOJA 2008, my second. once again the universe conspired to give me a perfect day . . . from my incredible support team (that would be three of my kids, a friend of theirs, and my kid's dad bob) to my great riding partner bill, to the absolutely exquisite weather, to my incredible workhorse of a bike.
completing lotoja is a team effort. no one is completely on their own out there, even though they may be the lone soul on a given stretch of asphalt.
which many of us had at times.
but you can feel the energy of all the riders, all the supporters, and possibly even that of those who have ridden before us.
I had help along the way, as I sat behind many people's wheels and benefited from their draft (bill's, quite often). and I helped others at times in the same way. but the most glorious help I had was from Liz Johnson.
a little history: back in june, Liz mentioned that she and her family were going to be riding lotoja, and I remember her mentioning riding the relay. [ many people form teams of 2-5 people who split up the ride.] then the day before the ride, my friend connie sent me a text, saying that Liz's family members were riding the relay in her honor.
so as I was riding a stretch of road coming into star valley (which is not my favorite place in the world), a group of guys passed me slowly enough that I could stay with them. I noticed that many of them wore jerseys that had the initials of Liz's dad's firm on them. I then asked the two cyclists in the back, nearest to me, if they knew Liz. one of them turned his head back toward me, and said, "she's my wife."
oh, God, oh, should I have said anything?
as I type this I'm not sure I should be sharing this story because even though it's mine, it's also his. and I think I have intruded on his life enough. but the rest of the story impacted me so greatly, that I need to write about it, so the part of me that wants to share this wins out over the part of me that respects his privacy.
we talked for a few minutes, and I told him how I knew Liz. I wished him a good rest of the ride, and then dropped off the back to let him be.
for the rest of the ride (which might have been 80 miles or so), we played leap frog with his group, finishing the race just a few minutes behind him.
why I am sharing this is that Liz was with me ~ and thus, I guess, him as well ~ for that entire portion of the ride, all the way to the end. I could feel her all around us, above us in that beautiful white-dotted blue sky. I could feel her joy, see her smile, feel her sadness over the fact that her husband was aching with loss.

the next-to-last section of the ride is up Snake River canyon, which is the most gorgeous section of the ride, for me. looking down on the river, seeing huge rocks through the stunningly clear green-tinted water, left me awestruck. (you know this happens to me sometimes.) It is such a beautiful stretch of road that I wanted time to stop, I wanted to just live there, in that time and space, for as long as I needed.
but I couldn't, could I?

we stopped there by the river on the way home, and walked down a path to the massive rocks at the river's edge. we sat on the rocks, soaking in the sun and the river's strength, until enough absorbed into our souls so that we could return to everyday life.

Liz carried me through to the lotoja finish line,
and the snake river is part of what will carry me through this fall as I slowly transition to a winter off the bike.

2 comments:

jer-o-rific said...

I am Liz's brother Jeremy, and I can attest to the fact that Liz was with us on that ride - as I was part of that pack that kept passing and being passed by you. Liz was there and I could feel her pushing us all to the finish line and to the rest of our lives.

susan said...

I do need to clarify: the only time I passed Jeremy and Chris' group was while they were stopped at a feed zone....
I have never felt anyone's presence so strongly as I feel Liz's, so I am not surprised that I wasn't alone in this knowing.
you all have suffered a huge loss, but what an amazing gift she's giving in return. blessings to you all . . .