Thursday, May 05, 2005

View of the Century Part 2

It has taken me a long time to get where I am. Seventy-five miles or so is a long way on a bike. In Atlanta during rush hour, that could take you 3 hours at times. Yet the sense of accomplishment is not there at mile marker 75. There isn't even a mile marker 75. You just know it because you, the rider are watching the miles click by.

But with 31 miles or so left, you start to do the math in your 20mph that will be almost 1 1/2 hours of pedaling. But then I look down and see that the digital readout says 14 mph. Better make that two more hours of pedaling.

Then you realize that they have saved the hilliest of the ride for the last part of the century. The downhill parts are great. Until, you see ahead that you have a 3/4 of a mile climb with a 12 % grade. The first one was a challenge. The second one I encountered I told myself I was buiding character. The third, and I was cussing the course planners loudly and frequently. On the fourth, I needed that breath to get up the hill.

That's when I decided that they must have closed the rest stops early for the protection of those voulunteers working them. Without them, that left the conveniece store as the place to get a Powerade and a snack before finishing.

One of the positive things about cycling is that you get to wear a lot of form fitting clothes around others that also dressed as you are, and so there are no concerns about appeearnce. One of the bad things about cycling is that you wear a lot of form fitting clothes and get to go into convenience stores where there is no shortage of people staring at you and wondering what sort of nutcase is coming in here with gloves and a helmet and spandex shorts.

When you are dehydrated, tired and hungry, you really do not give a rat's ass about what they think. Fortunately there are two other cyclists there leaving as I enter. At least I know that I am not the only one.

Getting some liquids and food, I am ready to ride the final stretch. Hoping that the end of this ride is easier than the last part has been, I keep my fingers crossed. As an intersection approaches, I think that it surely looks familiar. Then I realize, it is the same intersection where I waited for my friend. Rout planners, please make a note: It is unusually cruel to bring century riders back to a point they were at at mile 59 or so. It makes them question why they took the long way to a point that they were already at.

At least now I know that I am on the same route as the others who took a shorter trip, and I tell myself that I can consider this the icing on my cake. I have learned that it is a requirement to play a lot of mind games on long rides. This is one of them.

Another of the tricks I do is to attempt some simple math, and in doing so, convert the miles on the bike to where I would be if it was a marathon. Mile 100 on the bike would equal 25 marathon miles, I tell myself. This is where it counts. So finish strong.

I wanted to do just that. I promise you. But the route planners had other ideas once again. I feel certain that the planners sat around a map, with highlighters and carefully laid out the course. I even imagine that they drove it several times to make sure everything was as good as it could be. I am not sure that they rode it, however.

Arriving back in Madison would have been a real pleasure, were it not for the fact that fatigue was a major factor, and they threw us into a wonderfully historic area, with plenty of cars and stop signs. As soon as you got going, you either had a light or a stop sign and had towork around the traffic. It would have been wonderful to start the ride that way, but not to finish it.

Fearful of making a mental error, I watched the cars instead of the scenery and decided maybe there will be another day when I look at historic Madison.

Finally, I see the area where we started. There are no finish line markings. There are no crowds to greet you. There are no medals or awards. I did not care about the bandana any longer. I did not have the energy to try and hunt it down.

The century is a great thing to do. It is about a hundred things and one thing at the same time: one hundred miles and what I can do when I desire to.

Thanks for reading.



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