Monday, April 21, 2014

Tour De Cure - Beast Mode ( as my teens like to say)

My century ride happened over a month ago and I thought I would update sooner than this but, you know, life and all. I don't seem to have time to write anymore and I don't think I enjoy it half as much as I used to, so mixing those two things together makes coming on here kind of hard.

I do have some thoughts on my ride and I want to get them out before I lose all memory of that day.
The entire ride can be summed up with the word windy, but of course you know I like using many words to talk about things so here, let me bore you for a little while.

I woke around 5 am the day of the ride and ate some sushi for breakfast. My nerves prevented me from eating much else and sushi gives me lots of energy, so it worked out well. I got to the ride with about twenty minutes to spare and promptly made my way to the very, very, very back of the line. It's always good to know your place and get there. This is a general life application, not just a riding thing. We took off at the starting line at 7:30 am. The sun was still rising and everything looked beautiful and hopeful and exciting. I'm not one for pictures so just use your imagination. Imagine several hundred smiling, happy riders completely ignorant of the horrendous winds they were about to face for the next several hours.

For the first part of the ride I managed to stay close enough to many groups of riders, but at mile fifty things thinned out quite a bit because most people were not riding the entire century. By mile sixty I found myself completely alone. I ride something called a "fitness bike" ( don't let the name fool you - I bought the bike under the assumption it would magically melt away my cellulite, yet here I sit on my cottage cheese behind) . A fitness bike is a cross between a mountain bike and a hybrid, meaning you ride in an upright position and with thicker tires than a road bike. Bored yet? My point is, unless you are in phenomenal shape, keeping up with people on road bikes when you are riding a fitness bike is nearly impossible. Every other person riding this century used a road bike. My sister, who's ridden several centuries, kindly decided not to tell me I would most likely be the only person not riding a road bike. She knows my biggest fear in life involves doing anything that will draw attention to my person, so she kept quiet and I am eternally grateful because I already spend too much time worrying over nonsense and I didn't need that added to the list.

I rode through some beautiful country towns with rolling hills dotted with orange groves and towns with names like Intercession, where the wind made riding at speeds over ten miles an hour impossible. I thought perhaps God was trying to send me a message, making me ride through a town called Intercession and all, so I decided to start begging every saint in heaven for prayers. I don't really think my success or failure at finishing the ride hit the list of top ten things people were praying about that day, but I really didn't want to quit riding so I prayed all about me for just a bit.

I rode through some horrendously busy areas like Rt 17 and 92. As I was going down that busy highway with cars whipping past me at fast rates, I got lonely and scared and lost. I called the ride support team and asked them for directions and they told me to head south or north or something, and I told them, no, I am lost and hungry and tired and going on minimal brain function, please just tell me, do I go left or right and they said left, just go left. So I did. And I kept seeing no other riders and cars kept whizzing past me and I thought, oh this really wouldn't be a good day to get hit, why am I doing this? And then I prayed some more, but not for me, I prayed for other people who really needed praying for. I don't like talking about this stuff because I find talking about praying and God not something entirely in my comfort zone,  but I tell you this for your possible benefit. If you find yourself in a desperate situation, pray for other people. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you stop thinking about your own self imposed misery and focus your mind on others. Most people know this already but I'm a slow learner.

At the mile sixty six water break I pulled over, grabbed something to eat and drink and texted my sister, my husband and my friend, Terri. I told my husband not to worry, I felt fine and hydrated and happy and I would text an update at the eighty mile rest stop. Somewhere around mile seventy five I bumped into a group of riders and I wanted to cry happy tears, as the loneliness at that point hit an unbearable level. It was a group of rag tag stragglers, maybe seven or eight people who probably told their original groups to go ahead without them. I rode in the back and just kept pedaling. My body felt surprisingly strong, but my mind started wandering into hopeless territory. Keeping your mind on track is nearly as important as keeping your body there and I started doubting myself and let worry set in.  But then we hit International Drive and I cruised  by the Copa Loca, the hotel my sister stays at when she comes here, and I made myself laugh thinking about her visits and the time she came all the way to Florida just to see Anthony get his First Holy Communion. She got lost on the way up to Mount Dora and missed the entire ceremony and ended up walking into Mass as the priest was walking down the aisle and exiting the church. For as long as I live I will never forget the look on her face that day as she walked through the church doors.  Little did she know that hilarious memory would come back to me several years later, just when I needed it most.

When I pulled into the mile eighty rest stop I heard people calling my name and I looked over and saw Kate and Maggie and Greg waving and smiling and it may have been the sweetest thing my husband ever did for me, surprising me and showing up like that. We chatted for a bit, until Maggie started asking me pesky questions about whether there was a McDonalds anywhere around because I guess she hadn't eaten in over an hour and starvation had set in and also, this whole thing was boring her so when could she go home and play, and why was I so sweaty and stinky. Guess what parents; you can run,(or ride) but you can never, ever hide from your children, not even on a hundred mile bike ride. Suddenly riding seemed like an absolute treat and I hopped back on my bike and set off for the final twenty miles. Alone again, with nothing but the sound of  hollowing gusts of winds to keep me company, I sank back into a state of not quite hopelessness but certainly something close.

At about mile ninety I spotted two guys who I recognized from the earlier rag tag crew and I pedaled quickly to catch them. They were sweet and told me nice things about how impressed they were with me riding a mountain bike for an entire century. I heard this same thing at least twenty times over the course of the ride that day and had grown quite impressed with myself by the time the rag taggers mentioned it. My burst of arrogance at my mad riding skills boosted my mood for at least a quarter of a mile, but those winds, they got me down again. I kept wanting to look down at my odometer, but I knew if I did I would be overcome with frustration so I kept going until I saw the ninety six mile rest stop. Oh, only four more miles to go, I thought. I can do it!

As I hit mile ninety seven, then ninety eight, then ninety nine, I wondered why I couldn't see the finish line. And then I hit mile one hundred and I wasn't even back at Lake Nona and I thought maybe I was lost again, but my two rag tag companions kept assuring me it was almost over, we were almost there, but we weren't really because the ride ended being not one hundred miles, but one hundred and four. And four miles on top of one hundred miles is less than fun, especially when you've spent the past eight hours telling yourself that at mile one hundred it would all be over. I told my two new friends to go on ahead without me, I didn't want to drag them down. And for four long miles I did nothing but look down at the ground. That was it. I didn't look down at the ground and try and tell myself uplifting things or  pray or think happy thoughts. I just looked down. Every ounce of energy left went into pedaling into what I later learned were twenty five mile an hour winds.

When I finally did look up I saw nothing around me but some cows and a few houses and a strange looking person up ahead in the distance, flaying and jumping; someone tall and lanky and acting crazy and waving his arms everywhere. As I kept getting closer, I saw it was my son ringing a cow bell and screaming and running to meet me so that he could cross the finish line with me. Anthony told me at least a hundred times that no matter how long of a wait, he would be there screaming for me at the finish and he didn't disappoint. I did the ride for him and he made sure to let me know how much he appreciated it. It was all very sweet and I'm sure if I wasn't completely exhausted I would have managed to cry a little, but I couldn't muster tears by then. Greg and Jane and Kate and Maggie were also there waiting for me. I have never been so happy to see all of them and hug them.

So there, the story of my century ride. It's over and if you ask me if I'm ever going to do another I will say say, yes, but it will be on my own terms, in my own little neck of the woods here in Lake County. After the century I thought about how dangerous some of the roads were that I traveled on. I was the only person who rode alone, without a team, mostly because I don't know anyone else who wants to ride a hundred miles and I wasn't about to join a team of people I didn't already know. So much of the ride was lonely and scary and if you know me at all, it takes takes quite a bit for me to be nervous on my bike. It's the place I'm happiest and most at peace, but there were huge chunks of the ride where I wanted to call my husband and beg him to come ride alongside me in his car. Me and my bike belong in Lake County. Of course if you're reading this and thinking you want to join me in next year's Tour De Cure, I can probably be talked into getting out of Lake County again. And my lovely husband even went out and bought me a new to me road bike a week after the century was over, so I may even be able to finish in less than eight hours next year.


Julie said...

You amaze me! I think the longest bike ride I ever went on was 9 miles and I was achy and whined about it for days afterwards. But really you amaze me not just because of the ride but because you can always manage to make in laugh out loud at your posts and then somehow by the end I am crying. I understand that you are most comfortable on your bike, but I really wish you were most comfortable at your computer because your writing is so important to the lucky few of that are blessed enough to know about it!

deborah said...

I have NOT done SEVERAL centuries-only two and I had the utmost faith that you could complete your ride! My faith based on the fact that you had your mind set on it and when Ann Marie's mind is set there is no stopping her!
The visual of Anthony with the cow bell is priceless.

Melissa said...

This was awesome! Well done!

X said...

I came to check your blog after a long time away and see that my comment on this one never was recorded.

You are awesome and I love you!