24 hours of grunts and pain
August 23, 2003
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What do you do when your good friend is kneeling beside the trail throwing up, the clock is ticking, and the competition is closing in? That depends on what you've been through during the previous 36 hours.
"They're short," Robin says to no one in particular.
"Too short?" a voice calls back.
"Well, not too short, but they're short."
Like some other racers, the Angels have passed over the camping option and instead rented a condo at the resort, where Robin, a 5'9" blonde with blue eyes, stands in the living room modeling the Angels' new uniform. Short blue shorts with "Angels" printed across the butt and snazzy new jerseys with all their sponsors' names and logos. The length of the shorts has been a topic of discussion for some time now. The conclusion is that they're going to be all right. Same for the jerseys, newly arrived from the seamstress who rushed an alteration earlier in the week to make them more form fitting, almost too form fitting.
All of this is a considerable relief to Amy, who not only designed and ordered the shorts, but oversaw the jersey project as well. Amy emerges from the kitchen where she's been organizing the unloading of various supplies with the frantic energy of a regional theater director and starts pinching the seams of Robin's jersey and pulling on the hem of the shorts.
"Yeah, she did a pretty a good job, especially on such short notice," she says stepping back for a minute, hands on hips.
Lisa, too, is fully outfitted, olive skinned with straight black hair and thighs that would make Tina Turner put on a long coat. She sits back on a chair and smiles nervously. "Do yours fit?" Amy asks. "I thinks so," Lisa responds, standing for inspection, like a child getting ready for church.
In the kitchen, Sarah continues to work on a large pasta casserole, even though she insisted several times that she can't cook. But no one else stepped forward so she took it on. The room fills with the smell of garlic bread and before long the bread, salad and a massive pan of pasta land on the table. Let the carbo-loading begin.
Saturday 9:15 a.m.
The support team consists of Amy's husband Scott, the bike mechanic, Lisa's husband Gary, Robin's boyfriend Sean, and a few other friends. It's their job to keep the bikes clean and running, shuttle the riders to and from the condo on time, and have whatever supplies are needed on hand. There are nightmare stories about teams losing 20 minutes because one rider wasn't ready to take off when the rider before her came in from the course.
The smell of body odor fill the air. Racers hop from foot to foot, make small talk with each other, stretch and mumble to themselves, while jockeying for position close to the front. Finally, the countdown begins and a buzz goes through the crowd of 7,000 onlookers.
The gun goes off to the sound of grunts and whoops and bike shoes scratching the gravelly hard pack of the first climb. As the mob of runners fight their way up the first hill the race looks like the Tour de France mixed with the running of the bulls. Sarah, so fit and formidable up close, suddenly looks tiny among the mass, like she might be crushed in the charge. But up the first hill they all go, then down the other side, grabbing their bikes and heading for the trail.
As the bikes rip down through the trees the crowd cheers them on, and when Sarah flashes by she's 117th overall and the first woman to pass.
At last Sarah rides into the main tent where the exchanges take place. She skids up to the scorer's table and officially times out and hands the team baton to Amy. Amy checks in with the scorer then sprints to her bike, which like everyone else's leans against a rack about 75 yards away.
Sarah is covered in mud from the knees down and flecked with mud across her face. Two sections of trail were so muddy that she had to get off and push for long stretches. Her efforts put the Angels five minutes ahead of the second place team and 14 minutes ahead of third. Courtesy of Team Angels
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