01 September 2009

Didn't Sag; Wasn't Last!!!

18 June 2003
Day 4
Delta to Gunnison
108 whopping miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I was an absolute muddy mess when I arrived in Gunnison at 6 p.m. But I arrived! I made it! I completed my first century ever!!!

This was the day I trained for. I knew I could do the rest. Sunday was more difficult than today, but today was the challenge. Today was the Ride I wasn't sure I could do. Today is the goal I've been shooting for since February.

AND I DID IT!!!

As every morning this week, I awoke before my alarm went off. Nervous energy immediately sent me into wide-awake-and-alert mode.

After I saw the line for breakfast, which was not even being served yet, I decided to head out, at 4:45 a.m. I was the fifth bag on the truck. I followed twinkling lights down a country road, just like in the Starlight Spectacular, until one of my leaders lost his headlight. It smashed when it hit the pavement, and his whole group had to turn back. Now I was in the lead. I wasn't first, but I couldn't see anyone ahead of me.

No one passed me for several miles. Then suddenly I heard someone call out, "I'm following your twinkling light!" A few minutes later, a dark tandem passed me. I asked how they could do this with no lights, and they answered that they weren't prepared, but like the rest of the insecure riders like me, they were worried about how long this journey would take. The sacrifice was made.

No one passed me again for several miles. The first fluorescent orange road message of the day was "Holy Cow!" followed by an arrow pointing to a field of cattle. I laughed out loud, but there was no one around to hear me.

Because it wasn't hot when I started, I didn't drink enough. By the second rest stop, I was getting tired. Before the third rest stop, I felt horrible. Then Team Axis of Evil passed me, and their alarm went off. "Drink time!" the leader directed. In perfect synch, all 11 riders hoisted their water bottles and sipped, while drafting, then replaced their bottles without dropping a single one. Poetry in motion.

I made a conscious effort to drink more and felt immediately better. Then it began getting hot, and the climbing required a little more effort. I didn't forget to drink again beyond that.

At the Hotchkiss rest stop, the local girls softball team was selling homemade muffins, cookies and brownies for a quarter each. The traveling cookies, fruit bars and brownies were going for two dollars each, and they were getting stale. These little sluggers had each made goodies that very morning. Of course, I go out of my way to support any softball team. I paid the girls the same price I'd paid for the traveling brownies earlier in the week and suggested they raise their prices. Their brownies, I might add, were scrumptious!

Lots of people commented today about how "tough" I am for making this trip on a mountain bike with knobby tires. When we hit rough sections of road, they made humorous offers to trade tires with me. I kept telling everyone to wait until Cottonwood Pass on Friday, when mountain bikes like mine will rule.

Past the fifth rest stop, rain began to sprinkle, and the temperature had become so uncomfortably warm; the cool moisture on my face and arms felt GREAT!

I stopped for another hour at the sixth rest stop -- Curecanti. The views were as promised, "stunning," and I was tired of water. I drank my first Gatorade of the week, quite watered down. Bleh. Nasty stuff.

I passed the next rest stop because I thought it was the final one. The last section of ride had been all downhill, and it took less than half an hour. I didn't think I needed food or a break. A few splashy miles later, after the headwind picked up considerably and cut me to 10 mph, a cyclist behind me cheered, "Only 20 more miles to go!"

At that moment, I wished the Ride was over. I was ten miles further out than I thought, and the wind was making the flat road feel like a climb. Every time one of the staff vans went by, I counted bikes on the roof. I kept reminding myself this was the day I trained for. This was the day my friends and co-workers sent best wishes and positive thoughts for. This was the biggest goal I had ever undertaken. Well, except for maybe… adoption...

At the final rest stop, with only ten miles to go, I took courage that if I rested briefly, I could beat all the riders who were taking breaks. I would not be last! (I wasn't going to be last anyway, but I didn't want to be 1,000th or 1,500th, either.)

I ate two oranges and then headed out again. The trivia question at the rest stop kept my mind completely occupied for about five miles. Name at least five pro sports teams that don't end in S. A major sports fan, I was exhausted and drained, and the answers were coming in extreme slow motion.

Avalanche. That was easy. Who knocked us out of the playoffs? Oh, yeah, Wild. What's that team in Utah? They don't end with S. I like that team. Why can't I think of the team name? Oh, yeah, Jazz. I know there's got to be another one. No, there's got to be two. Okay, think hard. Let's see. Gosh, it's getting hot. Oh, yeah, Heat! That's one! One more. Come on. You can do it. I one by one tried to think of all the names of all the teams, starting in California and working my way up through Oregon and then Washington, and my oh my the miles were ticking by. Red Sox! That's it!!! White Sox!!! Magic!!! I'm on a roll! I'm rolling on a roll! But you won't find me pedaling back for some stupid radio station T-shirt prize!!!

People who passed me during the final few miles complained about the rumble strips, the "nothingness" of the last 30 miles and the blasted headwind. I kept trying to hum the theme music Rocky.

Then I passed a road message: "Celebrate Good Times, Come On!" The song started playing in my head, and the words started coming out of my mouth as I found my second wind. I stood and pedaled hard and furious as I could, and I passed, and I passed, and I passed! Oooh, boy, was I getting excited!

A welcoming committee at the school yelled and waved and congratulated riders who survived the mileage. The exhilaration of completing my very first century escaped via a long, loud, "Wooooooooooooohooooooooooooo!" that left the crowd laughing and applauding. Even riders I passed chuckled at my exuberance, perhaps too drained to join in.

As I parked my bike in the security lot, tears began streaming down my face. I made it!!!

Before I reached the finish line, I couldn't say it was fun. I thought century rides were not for me.

I don't know if my century feelings will evolve or transform. All I know right this minute is that I did it. I did something I've been trying unsuccessfully to do since March. The goal continually eluded me.

But not today. I finally did it. I passed the century mark!

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