Relentless

Image of Mel White

Mel White

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Qualified

My pursuer was relentless. Slowly, realization had dawned on me that I could not escape him. One mile had become five, then ten. With grim determination, I set out to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Still, as the race reached its halfway point, the lone cyclist behind me held his ground. Toiling along Old 220 on the Penn State Altoona to University Park Memorial race, the other riders had drifted back, out of sight and out of mind. My nemesis had come out of nowhere. He was a ghost in my helmet-mirror before being obstructed by a curve; a silhouette at a rise in the road before vanishing again as the road dipped.
“Ding-ding”
I heard the bell before I realized what it was. A soft tinkle carried by the wind. I thought at first it must be the bell of a local child, cheering on the riders as we passed by. But no child was in sight. The sound had come from behind me. It was a bell on my pursuers bike! The thought cheered me somewhat—a friendly “hello” from a fellow rider. I had no way to respond so I focused my attention ahead and continued pedalling.
“Ding-Ding”
Again, the bell! A bit louder now, it seemed. Indeed, a glance again in my helmet mirror seemed to show a closer pursuit. Why does he ring again, I wondered. Is he taunting me? Or is he challenging me? With a silent curse, I pedaled harder than before in an effort to gain some distance and get away from that bell as much, and as for as long, as possible.
“DING-Ding”
The bell! Even closer and louder than before! Why does he waste his energy ringing a bell? Why add to the weight of the bicycle? In a sport where most riders look to shave grams of weight from every component of the bike, adding a bell would be folly or hubris. I chuckled to myself at the idea of the bell slowing my opponent with its weight and dragging him down due to air friction. I pedaled hard—harder than ever. How could I let someone with a bell pass me?
“DING-DING”
He was right behind me now! I could not spare a glance to gauge the distance. But I could see the finish line in sight! My pursuers breath was loud in my ears! In my peripheral vision, his front wheel was a black blur. I imagined feeling the heat from the friction between tire and road as we approached the finish line.
“DING-DING-DING”
One last time, the bell rang. But I didn’t care. I had won! A race I thought lost miles earlier was mine. I coasted to a stop, exhausted but exuberant. The race officials congratulated me and my husband gave me an awkward hug as I sat on the bike.
“That was a personal best,” he said.
“I thought it might be,” I replied. “I wouldn’t have done it except for the second-place rider. He was right behind me, pushing me all the way.”
My husband looked confused.
“There was no one close to you. The runner up finished almost a minute behind.”
“That’s not possible. He was right behind me. A rider, all in black. He kept ringing his bell.”
The race official looked at me with suspicion.
“A rider, all in black, ringing a bell?” He asked. “That sounds like Tommy Yi. Tommy used to ride this route all the time, commuting to school and work. People loved to hear his bell as he rode by. But Tommy was killed last year in a hit and run accident, not far from here. This is his memorial race, don’t you know?”

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