Up at Dawn

An essay by Adali Martinez, of the Hopkins Spring 2012 IFN Writers

Keep running, running. In this context there’s no disrespect and when I bust a rhyme . . . ”

5:00 a.m. wake-up call. The Black Eyed Peas won’t make it any better. Auto-tuned voices and synthesized beats echo off the church’s high ceiling.  I slide deeper into my red sleeping bag and pull the zipper just high enough to cover my eyes. I try to get into the fetal position but lose my balance and fall off the cushioned pew onto the hardwood floor. Now that’s a wake-up call.

Everyone looks miserable. Who wouldn’t be? Early wake-up means one of two things: we are climbing a mountain range or we are doing a ‘century’. Today we’re riding 101 miles. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Nebraska is as flat as a pancake, right? Wrong. The entire state of Nebraska is a false flat. Elevation sneaks up on you.

There’s no use complaining. I dig through my duffle bag for my cleanest jersey. Smells like wet dog. Then I race to the bathroom to beat the morning rush.

“Anyone got Chami butter? My crotch is killing me today,” says Kim.

“Here you go, Parchment,” Amanda offers.

“Stop calling me that. It’s not my fault I have sensitive skin and a saddle that hates me.”

“Adali, is that a bruise on your butt cheek?” Sheila says.

“No, it’s a birth mark.” I don’t mind getting dressed in front of everyone, but it’s still not okay for Sheila to be checking out my butt. Sure, we had to get comfortable around each other by the second day of the ride. Middle school shower amenities usually mean a rectangular tiled room with 10 spigots on the walls. No dividers. That first time we left our biking shorts and sports bras on and started to lather up.

“Come on guys, we’re going to have to see each other naked eventually.” Amanda was the first to strip down. One by one, we all stripped down. The room fell silent and we each faced the wall to avoid seeing anyone’s bare body.

Adjusting to the 4KforCancer lifestyle has been tougher than the actual biking: 63 days with the same 25 people. I eat on the side of the road every day. I sleep on church floors every night. I endure the smell of cows, road kill, and my teammates.

And, still, worst of all, I have to wake up at dawn.

Author’s Note:

Names have been changed to protect the chaste and chafed.

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