Fondo day was a true role reversal day for Mario and I. While he has watched me run 5 km races, 10 km races, half marathons and full marathons time and time again, last Saturday was the first race I had truly waited and watched for him.
See, last year when Mario rode into the finish for the Whistler Gran Fondo, I was stuck in a major traffic jam trying to get from the Squamish rest station, where I had been volunteering for four hours prior, to the finish at Whistler. But unfortunately, I arrived 15 minutes after he had already finished.
This time, I was not going to let that happen. First, I signed Mario up for the full fondo to ensure I’d have plenty of time to scope out the perfect spot to be front and centre for him at the finish line. And second, I volunteered for the morning bike valet shift from 8:30 to 1:30, which was stationed right at the finish line, so just in case he had, you know, gone in for some blood doping or tainted meat the night prior (unbeknownst to me of course) and was Super Speedy Gonzalez, I’d be there no matter what.
Given that Mario had never ridden 100 miles before, he wasn’t sure how long it would take him, or what kind of toll it would take on his body. He knew he could do it, but he was nervous as hell about the unknown. He debated what to wear, what tools to bring, what fuel to stock. He questioned every little thing, the route, the hills, his skills, his fellow riders’ skills. He worried over the what ifs.
Sound familiar? Listening to him reminded me of, well, me. Leading up to my first marathon last year, I went through those exact same motions. And now, I was the one in the position having to reassure him, pump him up, tell him everything he already knew, but just needed to hear again. (Seriously, any guy who rides his bike to his own wedding would surely rock that fondo!)
It wasn’t just the pre-fondo jitters that were similar though. All through his ride he was wrestling with bipolar thoughts ranging from feeling like he was rocking the ride to oh my god when will it ever end. AND he got the nasty nausea. Both marathons I was riddled with that nasty nausea that comes out of nowhere and just smacks you right in the face trying with all its might to knock you down. It’s likely due to a lack of electrolytes, but for me, by the time I get to that point, there is no eating or drinking anything with flavour for fear of full on projectile. It’s a good thing Mario listens to me, because as soon as he started getting that feeling, he started guzzling the electrolyte drink and was good to go again.
And so, while Mario was doing this …
I was doing this …
For five hours, I was in charge of signing in bikes to the bike valet. I saw a lot of the common brands: Specialized, Cannondale, Cervelo, Trek (lots of girls on Trek). I saw Orbea, Kona, Felt, Giant, Scott, BMC. And yes, my friends, I saw Bianchi. I saw old, steel-framed Bianchis, gleaming, new, carbon-fibre ones, classic teal-hued ones, silver ones, yellow ones, and oh man, did I ever drool with each and every one of those girls. Ahhh sigh.
At 2:45 p.m., I positioned myself at the finish, camera in hand. Mario started out with the 6.5 hour group, and guessed an arrival time of anywhere from 3-4 p.m. And so, with every rider that came around that bend, I was squinting my eyes, trying with all my might to remember what Mario was wearing that morning. White and Blue. Bloody hell, every rider coming through seemed to be wearing white and blue. It took about a half an hour for me to remember he was also wearing knickers – that was key. Every time I spotted knickers, I started clicking the shutter down… it seems I have an awful lot of pictures of girls coming across the finish 😉
Around 4:15 p.m., I saw blue and white, I saw knickers, I saw Lapierre, and oh man, I started screaming. I was screaming so loud, the two pint-sized girls next to me started yelling out for Mario too. I have never ever been so excited and happy and relieved and proud to see someone cross a finish line. It is a moment I will honestly cherish for so many years to come 😀