I was about eight miles into the ride when I realized a cow was staring at me. Actually, not just one cow, but a field of cows. They had stopped grazing and seemed to hold their breath as they watched me chug down mouthfuls of water. I suppose I was a sight. I was alone on a country road where forty-some-odd bikes had already ridden through. I was red faced, dry mouthed and was working on a hateful disposition. Moments earlier Z had been riding behind me. After too many “we need to catch up!” and “use your gears!” I told him to go ahead of me. Instead of drafting, he took off. Insert the hateful disposition right there. As I caught my breath, I noticed an old farmer was watching me from the barn. Deciding I was too pitiful to be a threat, he moved along with his Saturday morning chores. The cows, though, they were suspicious. Why was this chunky girl trying to ride a bike down their road? Why didn’t the skinny men in tight pants wait for her? Is that milk in that bottle?
The Tour de Lila was the first bike ride Z and I had participated in. We loaded our bikes and headed to my mom’s house the night before. She stuffed us with spaghetti and meatballs. She gave us the big bed so we would be rested. The ride was 15, 25 or 50 miles. I was told it was a family ride. In truth, the only “families” that showed up were professional riding teams from the local bike shops. They all headed out on the 50 mile ride on their $5,000 bikes. As I watched them roll out, I thought that they really did look like the guys from the Tour de France. Z and I were signed up for the 25 mile ride. We were riding our mountain bikes. My spin instructor, Justin, assured me that I could easily do 25 miles. As I stared into the deep brown eyes of a cow, I thought, “I’m a fool. There is no way I can do 25 miles. This isn’t freakin’ spin class. There is wind out here!” Z had doubled back, so I ended my water break. We were almost to the point where a decision had to be made — turn left and go 25 miles, stay straight and go 15. Up ahead [he left me again], Z signaled to turn left. I stayed straight. I figured if I was going to ride alone, I might as well blaze my own path. The local bike shop guy came by in his van to see how I was doing. Good, I said. Keep going, he said. The 50 milers passed me too. They cheered encouragement. I was doing a respectable job (meaning I hadn’t fallen off my bike), when the first hill came. And it came with a vengeance. It’s true, I don’t entirely understand how to use my gears. I thought I had the general concept, but in practice, I was failing miserably. I got off of my bike and walked for a moment. The bike guy in the van was back. “Are you OK?” Yes. “You sure?” Yes. “Bike OK?” Clearly he did not think I was OK and wanted me to stop being delusional. “I’m fine. That hill almost killed me.” He looked concerned. “I’m fine,” I said and got back on my bike and peddled off. There were three more major hills, but I didn’t get off of my bike. At one point I looked like I was barely moving, but I was on the seat with my bike in the upright position. Small victories, people.
The irony is that when I finished the ride, I felt good. Good and energetic. I finished 15 real road miles in an hour and 10 minutes. The bike shop riders were averaging about 22 miles in an hour. In spin class I can finish 25 miles in 50 minutes on a base ride. I probably could have done 25 miles for the Tour de Lila. I know now I could have done 25. Next time I’ll have a little faith in myself.
Currently Reading: The Happiness Project is still sitting on my bed stand and Sarah’s Key is in my bookbag waiting to be read. I really haven’t read anything since I went back to work on August 25th. According to Stephen King, if you don’t have time to read, you have no business writing.
Training Log: My training has been off the rails since the beginning of August. Next 5K is this coming Saturday. I absolutely get the NO EXCUSES, JUST DO IT! philosophy, but I also get that I have to show up at work and do household chores and finish my freelance articles and shower and sleep. I’ll figure it out, because I think two blogs saying “I did it, but it wasn’t pretty” is enough.