I’m followed by a demon with ghostly eyes and a terrible smile. His breath is toxic; it could peel paint from the walls. Just the mere thought of it and I start to sweat. Why can’t I shake this beast that burdens me each year?
There are times when I feel I have him beat. My skills and knowledge fill me with confidence. Each year I train harder and feel that I am stronger than this horrible nightmare. Year after year, I’ve gotten close to the start and think to myself “this is the year I won’t fear you. This is the year I won’t lose sleep wondering if you will catch me.” But, then as the hours draw closer to the start, he appears.
His teeth are always more gnarled than expected. His black eyes burn through me and cause me to freeze right where I am. His blistered, peeling skin and long dirty hair scare me and erase every bit of confidence I have mustered. This is the point I feel I am finished before I even start. This is the moment I fear the demon has me and I am done.
As I wheel my bike to the start of the Chequamegon 40, I avoid the demon’s gaze. As I get my spot and look around at the other riders, I try to blend in so the demon won't see me. Just make it past the demon. Just make it to Rosie’s Field and everything will be alright. The demon is the ‘start’ of Chequamegon; – this is where the racers are hell bent for position – this is where the demon lives.
In years past the demon has come so close to catching me. I hear his screams. I sense his torment. I hear gnashing teeth and feel hot, acrid breath on the back of my neck. It’s the sounds of steel and carbon and aluminum and bodies twisting and bending and scraping upon the road. In past races I’ve seen the demon beast ahead of me. I’ve seen him out of the corner of my eyes and I’ve heard him behind me. It is a horrible sound. One that can suck the life right from you and make you want to curl up, close your eyes and cry.
The demon can’t touch me once I hit Rosie’s Field though. Once I touch tire to dirt, I am safe. The demon has never caught me, but I know in 2012, he will try once again.