It hits me: I have exactly 62 minutes to execute a final lap. That’s more time than I needed to finish my first two laps, but not as much time as I needed for the last four. We’ve got until 5:00 pm to finish as many laps of the Wente course as possible. It’s a long shot, but I’ve been off the bike for who knows how long. I feel recovered, like I could really attack the course, so why not give it my all?
Why I’m not currently out on the course is a fair question, but that’s only because I’m in a dream and it has lurched into action like some cinematographer’s jump cut to a battle scene. There’s no time to ask, “How did I get here?” I need to act.
I grab my gloves, realize my helmet is on my head, a relief. But I’m not in my cycling shoes. On the table in front of me I see a full water bottle as well as a tube of chews. I grab them and then head for the course.
In the distance, I can see a cyclocross course and people on cyclocross bikes. I don’t stop to consider that I’ve been in a mountain bike race nor what the implications of that dissonance really mean.
I walk through a doorway and into a maze of railing like an amusement park queue, only it’s an actual maze. Silver rails and white tile floor extend around me for 20 yards or more. And there are puzzles on the wall that I must solve before I can get to the course. One is like some wall-mounted Rubik’s cube of black and gray, but—hell—to know how to solve it I need my race bible. To solve a puzzle, one must know for what one is solving. I try skipping to an adjacent puzzle on the wall, but I have even less clue as to how to figure it.
Where is that bible?
I turn to run back to the pits to grab my guide, and look up at the ramps, netting and catwalks above. How have I run this labyrinth with each lap of the course? How is it I have to descend stairs to get back to ground level? When did I ascend a stairway? I thought I was in a mountain bike race, not some amusement park funhouse.
With bible in hand, I trace my way back through the maze to the puzzles and as I flip to the correct page in the manual I realize—holy crap!—I don’t have my bike with me! I left it in the pits! What’s wrong with me?!
A friend points to where my bike is and shows me a shortcut. Even as I’m running to get it I worry how I will manage to work it through the aluminum railing. A long draw off my bottle does nothing to ease my mind.
Why does no one else have their bike inside this gauntlet?
Friends call to me: Patrick, you can do it! There’s still 54 minutes left!
Wait, what?! Already just 54 minutes? I’ve wasted eight minutes just trying to get out on the course? I can’t possibly finish another lap before the cutoff.
I wake, hot with desperation, slick with sweat.
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