You and me together sitting at the bar, because I always like to chat up the bartender. It's Monday at 5pm because I have to be in bed early. I eat mussels and smoked eel and a little bit of steak tartare because the medicine people tell me that the red meat is good for me. [Flashback to the doctor gasping at my low hematocrit levels last week.]
All I can talk about is this tour and all you can do is listen and tell me I will be ok. The conversation would be over quickly except that I don't believe you. Here is the part where I recite statistics and numbers and stage profiles and probability figures. Here is where I tell you what the former pro said. And what the other former pro said. And all the rest of the evidence.
I ask you - I plead with you - to stop for a second and consider this reality. I say, someone puts this dream in your hand and closes your fingers into your palm and says, "This is yours. All you have to do is pedal." But it is so much pedaling! So many hours. So much time. So big. What do you do with that? Can you do it? Can you possibly afford not to do it?
Here's what you say to me: " Heidi, I know you. I have known you for so long. This is what you do: you set a goal so big it seems impossible and then you have a breakdown as you get close. What happens after that is magic: your body rising to the occasion, your head as hard as nails. How you sit on a bike for so many hours I can never understand. I can never do it myself. You? You can do it. I've seen you do it. You will do it."
I'm not convinced.
"Remember the magic, Heidi." you say, "Remember when we sat in the early morning in that little apartment in Ocean Beach watching the Tour. You said, 'The yellow jersey is filled with magic!' and then you stood on the sofa holding the cereal bowl and cried while the little men agonized their way to the tops of very tall mountains, performing feats of physicality that should have been impossible."
"It will be different when you're there," you say, "It will be different when you're in that land on those roads with people rallying around you. You all will come together and there will be chemistry that exists beyond you. You'll see. You have to remember what you already believe. I only know all of this because you are the one that taught me."
"Let's order cheese for dessert." you say, "You're going to be fine. All you need is some cheese."
The remedy comes in the form of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk and a Spanish sheep's cheese called Miti Caña. And Bucheron, the old standby.
Cheese cures all.
This dinner will repeat itself over and over again; me with all this verbalized insecurity, you with all this saved up wisdom. Where did you get this shit? It doesn't matter. I need it.
Please let this be calm.
"Can I tell you what I need?"
(All I've been doing for the past two months is saying what I need. All he has been doing is listening. Patiently.)
"I need for the next three weeks to be absolutely calm. You cannot scold me for leaving the lights on. You cannot point out how I cracked my iPhone screen again. You cannot become exasperated with me for crying or taking too many baths or going to bed too early. I need to just ride my bike and eat my supplements and take my recovery and sit and do nothing. I just need everything to be calm and quiet: no problems, no stress."
"You can't leave the lights on the way you do," you say, "It's wasting energy!"
"No talk of these lights!" If I were not sitting in a tall chair, I would stamp my foot. This is tantrum territory.
My point in telling you all of this is that this is taking over everything.
It's ok. And it's going to be ok. But for right now it's taking over completely. I am consumed by a focus that feels physical. Maria described her start of the Paris-Brest-Paris brevet this way: "I was just there and I was so still and everything was so clear. I was in the zone. And then we started pedaling..."
God bless the patience around us right now. And the support.
This thing is coming to a head. A point of light in front of us.
We're in the zone.
I have always loved sport more than I should. I love the way it challenges and stretches us. The way it forces us to grow and shift.
But most importantly, the way it forces us to feel.
Lashed together there on the field or in the road, we live or die as a single entity, united in a way that transcends individual ego or the expectations of media and sponsors.
There is a chemistry that exists outside of every one of us, which rises above the groveling insecurities of the individual. I will rise to the occasion not only because it is in my blood, but because I believe in Kate and Jen and Maria and Kym and Kristen far more than I believe in myself.
Scientists are wont to dismiss miracles as fluke because they have not yet identified the equation that calculates magic. To hell with their white coats and mathematics. We will ride beyond ourselves not just for each other but also for you – because what point is there in living a life so calculated and precise?
I can’t tell you anymore about what’s going to happen because it makes me crazy to even think about it. There is magic in the Tour de France. And there is magic in those roads. And there is magic in these legs. All these legs. I know it. I know it.
You’ll see when I see.
And back at home in July maybe Sal will read my updates and stand on the couch with a bowl of cereal and scream, “MAGIC!!”
Maybe you will too.
I can’t wait to find out.