Epic was a word I knew I’d use to describe the Brasil Ride, but I didn’t realize that it would be in a different context. I also had fear of not being able to line up at the start of stage 1, but I didn’t realize my fear should have been for different reasons.
After 2 weeks of impatiently waiting for my concussion symptoms (and flu recovery) to subside, I was finally able to pedal a bike merely 5 days before the event. I was terrified that I had bonked my head so bad that I would not be able to start the Brasil Ride. I still can’t believe this happened one month ago (and that I still have a little bit of a dark circle under my left eye)
I knew that being off the bike for 2 weeks was not ideal, but I was simply rejoicing the fact that I could START the race. Getting to that point after my crash was a small victory in itself.
The journey to South America commenced on Friday morning. I was to meet Jeff in Miami and we were supposed to get on our international flight to Salvador together. He was having some delay issues in Chicago and was stressing out. I reassured him, “You’ll make it, don’t worry… plenty of time!” As soon as he boarded his plane, disaster struck mine at the Dallas airport. “We are sorry, there is a problem with a plane. We are delayed indefinitely and will let you know when we will depart as soon as possible.” An irate man with stubble on his face and a bald head screamed amongst the grumbling crowd, “You gotta be fucking KIDDING ME!!” I knew there was nothing I could do, and that I had one hour in between planes in Miami. I crossed my fingers and tried to be patient. Over an hour later, we finally departed. It wasn’t looking good and as we pulled up to the gate in Miami at 7:45 PM, I hoped that my 7:55 flight to Salvador would either wait or was delayed. We pulled in 4 gates away. I shoved my way out of the plane and as I did, I got a text from Jeff saying they were closing the door. You want to know the value of 2 minutes? Ask someone who missed their flight.
It is still unbelievable that we couldn’t start the race. It just feels odd and I keep thinking, “did that really happen?” I thought not starting would be because of my concussion!
I was able to ride 5 of the 7 stages at varying effort levels – a total of about 240 miles in 5 days in the blistering heat. Honestly, I enjoyed the warmth well knowing I’d be coming home to winter. That’s a good training week!
I enjoyed them all except I was not feeling well for Stage 6. I woke up with my stomach in knots and waves of nausea. I was too stubborn to ride on a bus from Rio to Mucuge, so I dug my heels in and lined up. I was very sorry for awhile that I had tried to ride. I felt so weak and I knew it was a 130km day. I was so thankful that my friend Jason Sumner was in no hurry and rode with me.
We also ended up riding with the second place women’s team – Andrea Mendonca and Melanie Leveau. By the end of the ride I was starting to feel better. It was also nice to slowly see my confidence and ability to process information quickly on the bike come back. I was having a lot of difficulty riding technical terrain because it seemed to come at me too fast before I could decide what to do. I noticed this on the mountain bike ride I did right before I left. It was encouraging to see that my brain was finally healing along with my mental state. Who knew that a trestle park crash would have such consequences!!! I was also overly cautious because if you hit your head twice in a month, the outcome can be very grave… or fatal. I’ve worked too hard on my brain to take huge risks.
It was a really odd feeling to be at a race, but not really racing. Purgatory… but a good purgatory. I got to know and ride with a lot of people that I otherwise would not have had time to talk to because I would have been “racing.” I took more photos. I got to look up and around at the scenery. My appreciation for people mid to back of the pack in a race was deepened. Those people understand the meaning of true grit. They are out there until the time cut-offs. They have so much passion. There were days that I was impatient and irritated that I was out on course for so long so I’d go harder simply just to get done faster. Some racers do not have that option, only to complete their journey and they are prepared to persevere to the bitter end, and to do it day after day. I enjoyed being in purgatory with the other racers who had to drop out and spending so much time with Brian and Jenny was one of the best memories of the trip.
It was a new type of camaraderie I’ve never experienced at a race. Despite everything that happened, I still felt so fortunate to be in Brazil and to meet so many great people…to support people, to be a part of a Brazilian family for a week. The passion of the volunteers and race employees definitely stood out.
We arrived back in Salvador on Sunday, but our flight wasn’t until 6 PM on Monday. That meant one thing. BEACH TIME!!!!!
I’m really happy to be home. I love traveling, especially abroad, but one of the beautiful things about it is the simple things you appreciate at home. Like being able to drink tap water, being able to ask for help when you need it without having to do a charades act, or your own pillow! I was even greeted with 8 inches of snow overnight.
I had a great time in Brasil. I think everyone made the best of the situation and was able to enjoy the moment. I feel very grateful that I got to go, but I hope I never have to repeat the experience as it happened again! I felt like a little kid sitting in time out while we watched racers take off one team at a time for the prologue!! It’d be fun to return to the Brasil Ride sans concussion, with a bike to start the race, and without Jeff getting food poisoning(along with about 20 others!)
Huge thanks to Brasil Ride for putting on a fabulous event with a challenging course, great people, and AMAZING culture. Obrigada! Till next time!
I will be doing a photo blog post next since I took about 300 photos. I’ll post my favorites (some are on here already)