Just days after Smokey passed, Jay and I went out to Chaska to ride the Dirty Benjamin, a 107 mile gravel road race. If you'd have asked us a week prior, Jay would have said he was out for the win, and I was hoping to finish strong in the women's race (repeat champ if I could). But with the preceding day's events, 3 days without sleep, and no appetite and we changed our tune to 'riding with a number on' and doing it all for Smokey. He loved being outside and going to the races, so we knew he'd want us to enjoy the beautiful day.
We worked our way to the front of the 170+ riders for the start of the race, wanting to stay with some smooth riders as we began. The beginning f the race was chilly, and my mind was a blur, playing the songs I'd put on Nite, Nite Smokey on repeat. Before I knew what was going on, we were 20 miles into the race and Jay was ecstatic as he came over to me, raving about us being in the break. I looked around to find 20 of us together, and the rest of the riders nowhere in sight. Me, the only gal in the pack, riding with the TOP dudes! I can tell you honestly, I really don't know how it happened.
We stayed strong in the pack until the handful of Revolution Cycles guys went to the front and started amping up the pace. After 8 miles of holding a steady 24 mph in the gravel, I started to pop off the back. At mile 50, there were 10 of us shelled from the group so we formed a solid chase group and kept our speed high. At the checkpoint at mile 62, I took a quick nature break as Jay refilled our water and we choked down a 1/2 a PB&J each. With little delay, we were back on the trail in hot pursuit.
The group stayed tight, but I blew to bits around mile 90 with legs cramping and my emotions boiling over. Jay left the pack and came back to me, soothing me with sweet words about Smokey and encouraging me to stay on it in his honor. I gathered myself together and we turned up the speed again, knowing there were only a handful of miles remaining.
Once we hit the pavement for the final 5+ miles, relief began to wash over us and the pain in our bodies ebbed away. Although Hurl and the rest of the pack we popped off of at mile 90 were just up the road, Jay stayed by my side and was there to solute with me as we crossed the line.
We ended up finishing 12th & 13th in 6:01:33 hours, 13 minutes faster than last year! Repeat victory - whoohoo!!!! The 2nd place woman was 45+ min behind - it was crazy! Thanks for the inspiration, Lil Smokey! Momma did it for you!
Jay, I couldn't have ever done it without your support and love. Thank you so very much!
Still riding high,