Monday, September 10, 2007


Hooray! I did it! With almost no training, I biked 102.6 miles in just under 8 hours this weekend (that's an average of a 13.25 miles per hour). I accomplished this century ride , along with 1,999 other riders supported by the Narrangansett Bay Wheelmen on Sunday, September 9th.

I woke up at 4:30 AM on Sunday, expecting to leave BMG's 984 square foot slice of paradise by 5:00 AM, so I'd be at the starting point by 6:30 AM. I was expecting the worst - a 10 hour sojourn on my bike. (How long was my longest training ride you ask? 47 short short miles. Boy was I unprepared for this!) Imagine my disappointment when I noticed bright flashes of lightning in the sky, hardy rolls of thunder, and the sprinkle of warm summer rain moistening the deck. I love to bike, and I am a fair weather biker. The forecast did not predict rain in coastal Southeastern Massachusetts, and I decide to wait out the rain a little bit.

At 5:52 AM, I decided to hit the road, the rain had only gotten more persistent. But, I didn't want to doubly disappoint myself by (a) training poorly, and (b) punking out. So, I folded my bike into my car and hit the road. Worst case scenario? I'd have a groggy drive to UMass Dartmouth, and I'd merely turn around and play video games at BMG's all day.

The weather did clear up just south of Brockton, and my spirits were buoyed as I whizzed past each on ramp to the highway, which dropped increasing numbers of cars stuffed with bikes and spandex-clad people onto my southerly route. After my nervous check-in, I hit the road through flat farm land along the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border.

Biking for me is a solitary sport. I get into a space where I am thinking about nothing but my legs spinning. I watch and listen to the scenery. I saw cows (dairy and beef), sheep, goats, horses, and myriad egrets, cranes and herons. One of the first birds I saw was an ominous hawk slowly circling overhead right after the start of the ride. "Waiting for the first biker to fall?" I wondered as I reverently biked out of the raptor's field of vision.

I was reminded that biking is a team sport by the well-organized pace lines that whizzed by me early in the ride. They apparently assign one person to scream the contents of road signs out for the entire team. I got one scary earful by a petite, middle-aged woman yelling "TRACKS" as we bumped over a railroad crossing. So loud was she that I jumped and yelled "Jeez! I can read the sign too." At which point she apologized, and I later gave her annoyed looks when I espied her at rest areas. "Who is biking at 20-25 miles per hour and needs someone to read street signs to them?" I wondered to myself. These same pace lines also use simple hand signals to point out road hazards. The same query applies. "If I am paying enough attention to watch your hand signals, I'd rather just pay attention to the road." Who needs the screaming middle man?

I had a couple of minor mishaps. One flat tire (predicted by the brilliant and helpful BMG), which was changed with the assistance of Eric and Val from just outside of Providence. Volunteer mechanics from East Providence Cycle gave mechanical support during the ride, and fixed a loose rear derailleur (the mechanism that controls the gear shifting). This helped me smoothly glide into the easy gears as I became progressively more tired along the way.

I talked myself encouragingly through the last 30 miles. "You can bike another 5 miles, come on CF!" and later "You can bike 1 more mile, come on CF!" When I realized I was going to make it, I started to cry. And I was a little worried. Because I did it without training. I struggle so much with my motivation to reach physical goals. Finishing this 102 ride represented the achievement of a goal I had set for myself, and it also represented achievement without much work (except on the day of said goal accomplishment). I lamented this fact to BMG later, as he kindly fed me candy bars and murmured words of congratulations to me in my tired haze. His wise response? "If you trained, you would not be as tired. If you trained, you would have been able to keep up with the pace lines (if I wanted to, which I don't). If you trained, you'd feel even better about what you did today." He's right, and I feel great.

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