“Here it is”, Bud said as we took a left-hand turn and faced a steep hill.
This was the hill that Bud had ridden hard in 1998 in honor of my father, Marcel. I remember him telling me the details of this moment in the Pan Mass Challenge and my eyes watered in response. Dad had died in March of 1998 and the pain of losing him was still very fresh in my heart and mind.
It was now 1999 and I was facing this steep hill, I was tired from one-and-half days of riding but I responded with a lightning surge of emotional energy. I jumped out of my saddle and tore up this incline separating myself from the riders around me. This was for dad! Halfway up the hill, my legs flooded with blood and lactic acid and screamed for mercy. My breathing blew in-and-out like a motorized bellows while my lungs expanded to their maximum capacity. Legs and lungs pushing as hard as I could go. A brief thought of stopping this surge entered my thoughts only to hear myself scream inside, “Go harder!” I love my dad and this effort was for him. I made it to the top of the hill breathing hard and slumping slightly over my handlebars. We were more than halfway done our second day of riding and this expenditure brought me to the edge. “Thanks Bud!” I said.
Each year after my introduction to “Marcel’s Hill” I charge this incline with a ravenous hunger to celebrate my father’s life with an outpouring of physical exertion. One year I forgot where the hill was and we came upon this memorable part of the course just after I had been pulling a group of riders for quite some time. I had just dropped back to rest and here was the hill. My fatigue got out of my way as I once again jumped on my pedals and screamed up the incline. Again, my legs protested as I pounded each rotation into the road. “This is for you dad!” my heart yelled.
Another August weekend will soon be here. The miles across Massachusetts will present their challenges, but in a small residential neighbor hood on “Marcel’s Hill” I will celebrate my love for my dad.