14 October 2009

Pedal on, regardless

Day 1: Flash flood watches, in addition to heavy thunderstorm warnings. First day ride was called off. Eight hardy cyclists went anyway, and the rest of us worried about them all day.

Day 2: Bro. Bob convinced me (easily) to take the short route, which picked up at the first SAG stop and thus shaved 20 miles off the total ride. Then, at midpoint, he suggested I take the SAG truck to the next rest stop and resume the ride there, to make sure we got in before dark. By the time we reached said stop, my front tire had gone totally flat, and despite all efforts from the young man driving the SAG van from Lindsay Wilson College, it would not hold air. Not for nothin'... So it was back on the truck for me and Nellie Belle. I completed about 30 of the intended 90 miles.

Camp Acton: Great lasagna, good beer, excellent new friends and old relations! Enjoyed the evening immensely, and am eternally grateful to everyone who got the bike back on track: the anonymous donor of the appropriate tube, the guy whose name I can't remember who got it properly installed and aligned, and Nancy, who found a tube donor and coordinated the whole thing! I have to say, I've never met a Nancy who wasn't up to any challenge!

Day 3: Skipped the first leg on the advice of Nancy, who planned the route. She said, "If you aren't sure you can do the whole thing, go for the second part. It's beautiful." She was right.

I started from Lindsay Wilson College, after brunch. Bob left ahead of me -- totally fine, since by that time, we were each on our own agenda. I ended up walking about the last third of the very first hill, before ever even leaving town, and the second. Rode the third in low gear, but walked the fourth. Somewhere about half- to two-thirds of the way up that hill, Ed Stodola passed me. Ed is the "founding father" of this ride, and I'm not sure whether it was just my second wind kicking in or my latent competitive streak, but something gave me a kick in the butt at that point. That was the last hill I walked!

From there on, Nellie Belle and I rode the hills. The first few were tougher than advertised, but then they began to ease up. Not so obvious at first -- it was easy to say, Oh, I was ready for that one, or even, Gee, that wasn't as bad as it looked! I still had those 'Anne Lamott moments' -- the ones where I'd see a hill coming and start praying, "Help me, help me, thank you, thank you," before I ever even hit the incline. And the ones where I'd see the hill and the first thought in my head would be, "Oh, shit."

Not far into the first day, I stopped greeting great downhill runs with a reflexive "WOO-HOO!" It didn't take long before I learned that what goes down must go back up -- and after that, when the "down" came, it came with a caution. I did have one reprieve: the downhill run about 2/3 of the way to the second rest stop on Sunday. I wish I'd stopped to take a picture or two! The road surface was horrible, the route twisted and turned like nothing I've seen since we drove across Chunky Gal in western NC years ago... The limestone loomed on the right all the way down, the woods dense as midnight on the left, and when I shot out into daylight, into that long valley of meadows and cows and sunshine at the bottom, it took my breath away.

And before that -- flying down that mountain -- oh, my God. It was flying. Even though I had to keep tapping my brakes, even though the surface kept wanting to throw me, in spite of the sense of being a runaway train, all by myself... This is it. This is what it's about. For me, this is the essence of cycling: sitting on the seat, hands on the bars, leaning into the wind and flying. Just flying.

Altogether, I rode about 20 or 25 miles before the SAG van came back for me. I'd told one of the other riders to tell them to wait for me, and I was about a mile from the rest stop when they came over the ridge. "Get tired of waiting for me?" I asked. "Yep," the driver answered.

So there you go. I was bringing up the rear and holding up the show. I rode about half of the last two-thirds of the course for day 3.

But that is beside the point.

No excuses. I wasn't prepared. I hadn't trained hard enough. I didn't ride the whole route.

But -- these are not excuses. These are statements of fact.

There's no way to know what you're getting into on a ride like this until you do it. I had no idea, and I STILL did the best I could.

One of the women who does long rides regularly told me I had "more balls" than anyone she knew, because if this had been her first ride ever, she'd never have done another one. Can't say as I have any balls, other than balls o' yarn, but I appreciate the sentiment and I'll definitely do it again!

The route was a bitch on wheels. Bro Bob allowed as how, if he'd done Day 1, he might not have been up to Day 3. I dunno. But now that we know what it looks like, I'm committed to keeping up with him next year.

I'm back on Weight Watchers, as of today. I've scheduled a fitness assessment at the gym, and I've requested a personal training program.

I don't care if I'm the first one with "front wheels in" in 2010. But I have every intention of being there!

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