Over The Line
We strolled down the avenue of stalls lined up right after the finishing line. First booth was these two chicklets handing out finisher's t-shirts (that made it official then), then the commemorative beer glass (to be put to immediate use), a guy giving away vitamin water (also put to immediate use), and on the other side of the street, a huge marquee containing the bags driven up from the start, and an army of volunteers. It took 15 seconds for one to read the number off my bike, disappear under the tent and reappear again with my bag.
We were so early that there was an aura of setup still, and we were outnumbered by the regular, "normal" customers at the brew-house. I was hot, tired, and still not really getting to grips with the fact that in terms of my goals, I'd hit the ball out of the park. No humidity, no wind, no heat, (at least until the last couple of hours anyway), no aches, no flats, constant calorie and fluid intake, and sure, apparently adequate training had all come together in a perfect storm to create an almost dream-like ease to the whole ride. It hardly seemed possible that I was in such great shape. Always the underdog, it was almost as if it would have been more gratifying if it had been more of a struggle. Wait, let's be clear: I could not be happier, I could not have asked for a better day, I'm just trying to explain a sort of numbness I was feeling instead of the high-fiving-everyone and air-punching that I'd expected to feel. Sheesh, I didn't even feel like a beer. Yet. Temporary aberration I assure you.
So we decided to walk back to the car, put my trusty steed to rest and grab my nice clothes (as opposed to the emergency change I'd entrusted to the bussed bag). It was indeed a long way back to the parking lot, a mowed field behind several more buildings. Incredibly, in addition to the 1000 B2B riders and escorts, there were several other functions being hosted at the brewery that afternoon. Lots of congrats, and knowing nods and waves from other finishers as we walked there and back. Make no mistake it was definitely in the mid-high 80's (pushing 30 C) by then, so we were glad to get back to the shade of the marquees set up for the BBQ.
But first a shower. I had heard a rumor that showers would be available, but I ignored the information firstly because it just didn't seem practical for a pub/brewery to be able to shower off 1000 riders and certainly not without standing in line for hours, and secondly because I did not dream I'd be there in anything like enough time to worry about it. I fully expected to be rushing around trying to see if the bar was still open and if there was anything left at the BBQ before Claudia shoveled me into the car and headed for home. The long and short was I had plenty of time, but no equipment. No worries, I had clothes to change into, and it was plenty warm enough to air dry, so as much out of curiosity as anything, I set off in the direction of the men's shower.
A roped off path led potential bathers all the way around to the back of the building and emptied us out in front of another marquee, about 30 ft wide and 70 feet long. We went through the flap at the near end. The front half of the tent was divided into four rows of folding chairs. There were plenty with no clothes on them and I picked a quiet corner to park my change of clothes, stripped off and followed the line of naked bodies into the back half, where four similar lines of pipes ran about 7 ft off the floor, with a stop-cock-type lever every three feet or so. I could just reach the lever, and found one with a bar of soap conveniently lying on the floor. It was a binary shower, on or off, and it only had one temperature, but hey, I didn't hear any complaints. It was exactly the temperature I would have run it at if I was providing free hot water—about half way between freezing and room temperature. Just enough to take the edge off, not enough for anyone to want to hang around in.
Feeling much, much, better, and suddenly much, much more tired, I toweled off using my new finishers t-shirt, and changed into my fresh clothes. In hindsight, that was my biggest mistake of the day. I should have worn that shirt and toweled off with the nice one I'd brought to celebrate in. With it, my peers would have recognized me as a fellow rider. Without it, I was just another punter. Oh well, if that was the worst thing that happened that day (and it was) seriously, life was good.
Now I was ready for a beer. I found Claudia again and we headed to the bar. 148 miles for a Harpoon IPA. Oh yeah, and talk about fresh. We filled my new glass and handed over one of my three coupons, then found a seat in the BBQ tent.
We hadn't bothered to buy her a ticket—I calculated that between her pickiness and my inability to pack food in the way I used to, we'd have ample on one plate. Although it was a one-pass-at-the-trough affair, this proved a good gamble. You could pile on as much as you liked. I accepted a burger, what looked like half a chicken and some pork sausages, couldn't face the brisket/London broil. A couple of spoonfuls of high-calorie salads and a dollop of potato salad, and we were done. Except then there was another smaller bowl, and a chicklet serving fruit salad out of a huge basin. She was sweet enough to steer around all the melon pieces and fill my bowl with grapes, pineapple, and blueberries. I grabbed a bun for my burger, some ketchup, relish, and irons, and promptly left the fruit on the table. Since I assumed that this is where Claudia would focus, it did not take me long to figure out it was missing when I unloaded at out table, and when I got back it was still there, thank goodness. I didn't relish the idea of persuading the serving wench to go through the whole process again.
I was right, Claudia ate most of the fruit salad, but to my surprise, she then proceeded to demolish the chicken as well. I was just happy to be there, happy she wanted to eat, happy she wanted to be there. And happy to be sipping on cold beer with the condensation dribbling down the outside of the glass, just like it does in your thirsty dreams as you peddle away the miles.
The BBQ was advertised as being put on my the Windsor Fire Department, and the guys hanging around the grills certainly looked like firemen. Call me sexist, but I have to say that the women actually doing the work did not look like fire-persons. they looked like fire-person's wives. The fire-persons themselves were all drinking Harpoon, so I suppose all was not lost.
While I was in the shower, Claudia had started calling folks. Lots of folks apparently. Even Adam and Rachel, who happened to be hanging out together at some sort of music festival and who apparently assumed from the finish number that I actually beat the 983 folks still to cross the line. They sent this self-portrait. Not to be out-done, we tried to send one back, but by now of course I was freshly laundered which was a bummer, so we tried to get the shirt into the picture some other way. Trying to orient the camera, ourselves, and the shirt proved beyond us, as you can see, but of course the camera did an excellent job of showing how red I was from the sun (and I was still pretty warm, despite the shower). I can't explain why the shirt looks like a sail. I assure you it was actually pretty snug, and IMHO I don't look that plump.
While I slowly finished off the plate of food, Claudia volunteered to get me another beer while she tracked down a glass of water for herself. We agreed that I was done after that, which left me with a spare coupon. I turned to the gaggle of "yutes" who had meanwhile gathered at the table behind me. "Could anybody put this to use?" "Does it come with a price?" "No, price, just a promise that it will not go to waste." "Oh, do not worry, somebody will use it. thank you very much!"
We'd heard that there would be some announcements around 5pm, and that amongst these two lottery prize winners would take home tickets for a cycling vacation in Italy. We resolved to wait to ensure I was not among the winners and then head for home. While we waited, we tried to get an update on Patrick. There was no hope of getting one on Laurie, but folks would surely remember Patrick. The news was not good, we found a volunteer who'd been manning the first rest stop back in Townsend for most of the day, and he did not remember Patrick coming through. That was terrible. Something bad must have happened to prevent him even making it that far. Imagine how thrilled I was a month later when the "official" photos were published, and there he was crossing the finishing line. So Patrick finished, and we did not win a trip to Italy. We strolled back to the car, I helped Claudia navigate out of the field, out of the parking lot, out of the brewery, and then 10 miles north, out of the state. Once we were heading south on I 89, and a few minutes before 6pm, I think I must have fallen asleep.