Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And Now, You May Race The Bride

(My wife and I were talking the other day about some favorite stories and the one about the competitive couple popped up. I reread it and deemed it good enough for a repost. Originally posted on the Joe Biker Blog January, 2008, enjoy "And Now, You May Race The Bride.")

It was as if they started their lives together with the words, “with this ring, I thee race.” I can imagine their first kiss, seemingly endless, with both parties taking it way past the point of public comfortableness to see who could endure the longest as the guests covered the eyes of their children. It was game on from day one. As I watched them from my perch along the trail above them, I wondered who drank more at the reception, who opened the most gifts the day after, and if I was witnessing their honeymoon right now.

My first experience with Mr. & Mrs. Race was at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The cover shot of the Rand McNally road atlas spread across the sky, the Delicate Arch. To get there, my wife and I rode our mountain bikes from the lot nearest the entry off the highway. It was our first two week vacation together, plenty of time to mountain bike Moab, ride the trails around the 10-Mile Range near Vail, and then head to northern Wisconsin for the Chequamegon 40 mountain bike race. It was a dream vacation for a pair of daytime amateur adventurers.

There’s no bikes allowed on the trail to the Delicate Arch. So, we leaned our bikes against a sign post and hiked the shortish trail to the vista point in our cycling shoes. Just up the trail was another couple, a little older than us maybe in their mid 30’s, and the spunk they had in their steps was a tish more than most people on the trail had, given the tendency of the epic landscape panorama to make you stop and eek out a silent wow. As we paused to take in another view along the trail, we noticed something peculiar about the other couple up the trail. Maybe we spend too much time watching Seinfeld, but as they crossed into our view, they were hiking, quickly, almost at the point of stepping into a jog, but never quite crossing the line. It was almost hard to look at, like their tempo was ruining the landscape.

Sure they could’ve been Moab locals out for an everyday hike in their backyard, but still, this was the Delicate Arch. Like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, you could probably see it hundreds of times and, every time it would look different and stun you with another eye popper. Still, they held their uncomfortable clip along the trail. Long stretching steps, pumping arms, they overlapped their strides and covered more ground with every step than seemed possible. My wife asked, “Are they racing?” I looked. The woman passed the guy when he got hung up on a corner of loose rocks. Not to be outdone, the guy quickly passed her back, even turning sideways to get around on the tight trail. “I dunno, maybe they’re just locals out training for an adventure race or something. There’s some pro athletes that live out here.” We wrote it off.

We reached the Arch, dropped out bags and dug out our camera. Amazingly, Mr. & Mrs. Race did too. Granted they had a tiny lightweight camera to match their pace, but still they obviously were photo snapping snacking tourists just like us. Now granted, at the time, we were nothing resembling fast hikers, just your average couple that enjoyed doing stuff in the outdoors. Maybe we we’re just slow in our bike shoes and witnessing a couple with a few years on us sticking it to the lesser fit. We downed a Snickers and a not-so-yellow banana, asked a woman from a bus tour to take our picture in front of the arch, and we were off.

Sure enough, the fast hiking couple was already on their way back, once again, just a hundred yards or so down the trail. And, they were at it again, a fraction of a mile per hour from running, but still hiking. It was almost hard to ignore now. I had to force myself to look away and enjoy probably the only day in my life I would ever see this landscape. My wife said, “It’s like they’re the competitive couple.” We joked, notched up our pace and mocked them by passing each other as we giggled along the trail.

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