I’ve beaten the bus home on my bike before. But, not like this.
After meeting a friend and her friend for dinner downtown, we parted ways. I headed home from roughly 16th and Park Ave. I didn’t set Runkeeper. Instead, hoping for a nice liesurely ride home without the every 5 minute audio cues. I stopped briefly to see if there was a line at the movie theater for Harry Potter. There was. So, I continued the journey home.
When I got to the top of the first hill where 15th meets 29th and Boulder, I stopped to turn on runkeeper. I didn’t know at the time what kind of a workout I was in for. I headed up to 32nd. And from there, I made a left. Now, normally I would make a right on Zuni and then a left on 35th. 35th Ave is more direct. But, it’s also a bit flatter than the extreme incline that is 32nd. You rarely see a cyclist going west on 32nd from Speer. In contrast, cyclists are nearly tripping over each other on 35th ave. Ever since I moved to this side of town, I’ve been thinking about when I wanted to tackle 32nd. I’ve known that I’d have to work up to it. But, it’s not something I’ve been planning to do anytime soon. I get stuck in ruts. It happens with a lot of things in my life. Sometimes, I need to get kicked out of that rut. Tonight, that kick came in the form of a city bus.
The #32 bus, which I’ve taken often in bad weather, stays on 32nd Ave on the west side of town. I’ve beaten it in a timed race. But, since I use 35th Ave, it’s not really head on. I’ve managed to get to 32nd and Pierce before the bus gets there on two occasions. You could say that it’s quite an accomplishment since I have to ride over to 35th and back to do it. But, like I said, it’s flatter. And who knows. On those days I beat it, it might have had to pick up 5 passengers in wheel chairs at each stop.
I could have tackled the 32nd Ave. climb without the competition of a city bus, but it wouldn’t have been as fun. Most of us, do better with competition. Someone pushing you from behind. I need that too.
When I turned left onto 32nd Ave, there wasn’t a bus insight. But, before I got to Zuni, it passed me. I had no plans to do it then. But, I decided to follow it and maybe cut over closer to North High School. I passed it once. But, after it picked up a passenger, it took the lead. From here, I was hooked. The race was on. No turning back. I caught up at the light at Federal. But, I cheated. I ran the light in between traffic. I followed the park to the right and made the little left that leads the intersection of Speer and 32nd Ave.
From this point, the bus never got in front of me. And that fact alone is mind boggling. After this intersection, the climb is horrendous. At least a 40% grade incline. If it’s not, it certainly feels like it.
At Speer, I broke the law again. I know. But, it was the last time. I promise. I knew if I was to get to the top without stopping, I would have to get into a rhythm. I didn’t have a plan. I just stayed in the saddle and worked on my breathing. I looked straight ahead and worked on getting to the top one stroke of the pedal at a time. If the bus passed me here, there was nothing I could do about it. The bus was the way to the top. It was what was pushing me. The hill was the true opponent.
The road here is pretty tight until you get to Meade, which is one street past Lowell. There are cars parked on the street that keep moving cars from having enough room to pass cyclists. But, I didn’t feel a car behind me. There were no headlights shining past me from behind. No car noise. So, I kept pushing.
It wasn’t until I was nearly to Tennyson that I noticed the pattern in my breathing. I was breathing in when my left foot was beginning it’s down stroke. And I was breathing out at my right foot’s down stroke. The similarity to swimming and it’s patterned breathing was immediately apparent. I heard the bus after crossing Tennyson. But it was only briefly. I think it made a stop there. But, I’m not sure. I didn’t look back. I just kept pushing.
the traffic light at Sheridan in the distance was red. But, as I got closer it turned green. In response, I got out of the saddle for the first time. And I was rewarded for doing so. Just before my front wheel hit the intersection, the light turned yellow. Behind me, the sound of air brakes.
A smile as I got back in the saddle and kept pushing. I wasn’t done. the top of the hill isn’t for another 100 yards.
Benton Street is where a branch of the Wheat Ridge library is located. It’s also the top of the hill I was trying to conquer. If I could push it up to that point, I would be rewarded on the downhill. Being a frequent traveler on this route, it’s rare that the bus doesn’t make a stop at Benton.
I reached the top, still in the lead. At this point, I pulled up and rode down the hill with my hands off the handlebars. In my mind, I had accomplished what I set out to do. I beat the hill. The bus was a worthy opponent. I couldn’t have done it so spectacularly without being pushed by it. If the bus beat me to Pierce, I honestly didn’t care.
I looked behind me for the first time at the bottom of the hill. The bus was easily 50 yards behind me. I grabbed the handlebars and made one final push. Out of the saddle, I rocked the bike back and forth. 200 yards to the finish line.
I could hear the engine behind me. I was starting to see headlghts shining on the ground in front of the bike. But, I didn’t stop. I kept pushing.
Just before the formation of the left turn lane, I stuck out my left arm to indicate my intention. It was hear I realized that inertia would, by itself, get me across the finish line first. Yes! I made sure that I would be making my turn safely, then looked over my right shoulder, stuck out my arm toward my opponent and said “I beat you!” I didn’t focus in on the driver. I’m not sure if he looked at me. Or even cared. In his mind, he’s just doing his route. He might have been amazed that this guy on a bike he passed 3.5 miles back was still with him. I don’t know. But, I really wish I could shake his hand. He was a good opponent. If only in my mind. He helped me get up that hill. Without him, I might have done it. But, not with so much effort. Not with so much passion. Not with so much sweat. Thank you city bus. Thank you.