I’m not sure I really grokked what Dickens was talking about when he said that thing about it being the best of times and the worst of times but I get it now. The Cinderella Classic 2006 brought that phrase into very sharp focus for me. This piece is almost as long as A Tale of Two Cities so I’ve titled the subsections so you can pick and choose what to read.
My friend C who got me in to this thing picked me up early Saturday morning and we headed out to the event after picking up friend B. It was pouring rain and all we could do was hope for the best. By the time we had parked the truck the rain had stopped – a good omen. Registration for this thing was extremely well coordinated and we got checked in in a heartbeat. Another good omen. Friend E showed up and got her stuff and everyone was ready to go. Only problem was that I had no bike The sweet little $4400 bike I was using on loan wasn’t there yet. Finally at 8 AM I told the others to go because I didn’t know how long it would be. This was a mistake as the guy got there about 10 minutes later and I got the bike in the next 5. Oh well.
I hopped on this bike that I had never ridden and thought WHOA – I’m riding on air! This little bike was suweet!! It weighed NOTHING! I messed around with the gears a bit to figure them out and get used to them and then I was off. I was awesome! I was a powerhouse! I passed woman after woman and was just flying down the road. Lady Garmina tells me I was moving at 12 – 15 mph which is a good clip for me and much faster than I move on my Trek. There was but one word to describe this early experience – Bikegasm!
Disaster strikes and I get robbed
At about 12 miles I notice a strong vibration in the front end of the bike and realized I had just gotten a flat. DAMN! I stopped and got the front wheel off the bike and was about to apply my tire changing clinic know-how to the situation when a Sag wagon stopped. I was really grateful for that because I had forgotten to bring my pump although I did have a spare tire. Anyhow, sadly enough it turned out the Sag Wagon guy was no master at changing tires I knew I was in trouble when he was unsystematic and really rough about getting the tire off. Then he manhandled the tube out by the valve stem which of course tore. So much for that tube. Long story short he had a hard time getting the new tube in and when I started riding there was a bubble and then BAM! The tire blew. He changed it again and it seemed okay but no – 1/2 a mile later BAM – it blew again. I was so tempted to assist him and exert my own tire changing knowledge but I wanted to be gracious. After all this guy sacrificed his Saturday morning to help with the ride. In retrospect I could have both been gracious and helped out and come out ahead but we all know that thing about hindsight, right?
What happened instead is that he looked at me and said, “I could do it again but it might make more sense to go to the rest stop and see if someone who is better at this can do it so I agreed. Sadly, that meant that I rode 10 miles in a car and was thus robbed of actually riding my bike 65 miles not to mention missing out on what turned out to be the best part of the ride.
On the road again
We got to the rest station where I got some food and water and then took the bike to the tire pumping tent and got the flat fixed properly. That guy was good! I finally got back on the road and as I recall the next part of the ride was fine. We wound through some countryside and then through an industrial park, such is California. Still no rain but the wind really started picking up. I was a little spooked about my front tire but decided to just keep riding and assume it would be fine.
They Call the Wind Mariah – I call it Torture.
16 miles later I was at the lunch stop. I made and ate a sandwich and tried not to be too upset that it was now clear that I would not be rejoining my friends on this ride as they were easily 45 minutes ahead of me.. I got back on the bike and headed out again. At this point we were really heading out to farm country and the wind got really strong. I’m pretty sure it was blowing in the neighborhood of 20 – 30 mph and it was relentless.
For the most part we were heading straight into it. I have never worked so hard on a bike in my life. Not even those Dr. Seuss like elevation maps held a candle to this wind. I started to get really aggravated because we were out in beautiful farm country – there were cows and horses and sheep and goats. There were barns and vineyards and beautiful green hills (that’s what it looked like last year). And the wind blew and it blew and it blew and all I could do was clutch my handlebars, drop the bike into first and pedal, pedal, pedal. My glutes were tighter than the skin on Joan Rivers face and I hurt. My groinal area felt mashed and bruised and yet even going down hill if you didn’t keep pedaling you would come to dead stop and fall over.
I kept glancing up hoping to see a turn – desperately yearning for a turn. Every time I saw that we got to hang a right I rejoiced only to be crushed again when we turned left. There were more miles heading straight in to the wind than having it blow at our sides and when it did blow at our sides we had to list to the left to keep from getting blown over. It was brutal.
In Which I Lose My Mind
I started losing my grip on reality. Like a prisoner who hasn’t seen the sun for days I attempted to reconfigure what I was going through into something else- anything else. I imaged that I was sailing and that wind was a huge bonus but I wasn’t fooling myself – not for a nanosecond. Instead my thoughts turned to how lonely I was, how sad it was that my friends didn’t wait for me (no matter that I told them to go ahead and then had a flat tire disaster). When I had last spoken to one of them via cell I suggested they wait for me at the last rest stop and she told me that C and B had their husbands coming and didn’t want to hold them up. E said she would give me a ride home, instead (her husband didn’t come out with her). Ugh – husbands. Everyone had a husband but me. I started feeling so sorry for myself and grumping that being alone was the story of my life. I had gone to Europe alone when I was 19. I had driven across the country alone at 23 and now here I was at 51, out in the middle of nowhere fighting the wind and I was alone again. I was alone, had always been alone and would, forever after be alone. I would die a lonely old cat lady who works as a Walmart Greeter. I was doomed So what if there were about 100 women around me. So what if I have great friends who love me? Oh and kids, what kids? Loser, loner, pariah.. I hate my life… I hate myself….. I CANNOT STAND THIS WIND ANOTHER SECOND AND BY THE WAY I HATE BIKING!
I know – I’ll Quit!
And then it hit me – I could quit! I could just get to the next rest stop and toss the bike in a sag wagon and get a ride back to the start. That’s it! That’s what I’ll do. I planned my whole speech to justify not finishing. Why put up with this pain and this crap wind and oh by the way it was hailing on us now. I’m wet, I’m cold, I’m tired and hell, I don’t even like cycling anyhow! So what if I have this cherry little machine? I HATE THIS – I’M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN! IS THIS REST STOP NEVER GOING TO MATERIALIZE!!!??? Pedal, pedal, pedal….grrr…. rumble… rumble Hello cows, hello sheep, oh please stop the wind, oh please God have mercy.
I started trying to compare what I was going through to my last marathon. I was in some significant pain half way through that race but at this point in the ride that struck me as a higher quality of pain – more endurable, almost pleasurable. Never mind that my first stop after the finish line was the Red Cross tent. It wasn’t so bad and by the way did I tell you I HATE BIKES! I really want to quit.
The Lemon Drop Man
There is a man who goes out on the course every year and hands out lemon drops to the riders. I had forgotten about him but as I was pedaling up a hill and a man started to hand me something I said, “Oh – are you The Lemon Drop Man?” and he said, “Are you my Princess” and I said, “Yes, yes I am, I am your Princess”. And I had a lemon drop and I had a Prince and the prince told me that if you made it this far you were going to make it to the end and I kept going – pedal, pedal, pedal. ” (that’s not me in the pic. My pics aren’t up yet)
The Last Rest
At last, the rest stop materialized and up I went to find something. A sag wagon? Some water? My mind? I didn’t even know. I got some water and overheard some women saying that the wind should only last another 5 or 6 miles. Someone else said it was mostly downhill to the end. I took heart. I drank another glass of water and turned my trusty steed around and got back in the saddle. There was only about another 16 miles to go and I could do that – I was sure of it.
After I had been riding for a couple of miles I realized something important. I was riding strong, I was not hurting too much and felt good – really good. Instead of pedal, pedal, pedal, grrr, rumble, rumble I was really moving – Lady Garmina confirms that I was back to the 12 – 15 mph pace I had enjoyed at the beginning.
The only thing I did wrong was I kept anticipating the end without really knowing how much further I needed to go. That anticipation of finding the finish around every corner was a little annoying but not too bad – I still managed to ride well. I hooked up with a couple of women who obviously do a lot more cycling than me and made it my business not to fall behind and that turned out to be great strategy.
Not too far from the finish I connected again with my friends via cell phone and learned that C had decided that she and her husband would stay to take me home. When I got back I (almost tearfully) turned in my beautiful bike – my new best friend, and filled out a questionnaire. I walked up to the clubhouse and there were my good friends sporting big smiles, just waiting to greet me. My dementia vanished in a second and I once again felt befriended and loved.
I did it – I finished the race and I felt good. My butt was sore, my butt bones felt mashed and I was disappointed to have missed 10 of my 65 miles but my heart and soul beamed with self satisfaction. I hate to admit it but I’ve already found myself using the phrase ‘next time’ today. Could it be that my mind is still wandering around out there with the cows?
1). To C for inviting the rest of us to do this event with her and for having the delicious pasta feed Thursday night. Good times
2). To Valley Spokesmen for putting on such a fantastically well organized event. The start was fast, the food was great, the Sag support was plentiful, the CHP were out in force in case anyone got hurt and they needed to summon help and a good time was had by all in spite of the horrific conditions. You are a commendable club.
3). To all of the Princes working the ride – the Sag wagon guys as well as the food servers. Special thanks to my Sag wagon guy for being there and doing what you could to help.
4). To Specialized Bikes for loaning out their new line of women’s bikes for testing and feedback. You are my new favorite company
5). To Justice Baxer of Wheels of Justice for taking up the call with Specialized and staying at work until 8 PM on a Friday to fit riders to bikes. Justice you rock and your bike shop is my new favorite store.
6). To E for crowning us Women of Iron and giving us a sticker to prove it.
7). To B for joining the party and for that Apple Cake recipe – yum!
8). To the RBF for all of your support
9). And last but not least, to me for going the distance
When I got home my new Gel Kayano XIs were sitting on the kitchen table in a box having just arrived via UPS. Tuesday I start training for the SF Marathon. I can hardly wait!