This past weekend I did a 55 mile bike tour with the P.I.C. For “real” bikers, I guess that’s not a whole heck of a lot, but I’m not a “real” biker. I ride to work a couple of times a week (4 miles) and maybe do some riding on the weekend, but leading up to this tour, we had done 10 miles at most in one ride. Not nearly enough to properly prepare for a 55 mile ride. But having done the five borough tour (40 miles) I thought, we should be fine.
As in the five borough bike tour, this was the best part of the tour. It wasn’t easy, but the adrenaline of doing the tour made it seem relatively easy. I was taking in the sights, and enjoying the day. It was sunny, and there was a good amount of other people doing the tour with us. If I had to guess, there were 1500-2000 people. My body felt good, and we had a good rhythm. This wasn’t a closed course, so we had to stop at lights and mind traffic, but outside of some major cross streets, it really wasn’t bad. Also, for this tour, there were 30, 55, 75, and 100 mile options. We signed up for the 55 mile, but kept 30 as an option in case we were struggling. By the time we were near 20, I was confident we were going to do the 55. I had to be sure though because the 30 mile track was going to break off soon. If we were going to continue, we need to be sure because there was no turning back.
Things tend to get serious when you hit that 21st mile. Fully committed to going 55 miles at this point. You are no longer out there just to have a good time. This is the point where your body realizes you’re actually asking it to push itself. It understands that this is not a regular workout, but something where you are going to need to dig a little deeper. It’s no time to panic, but the chatty banter with whomever you’re riding with or around tends to stop. It’s a little quieter, and you’re a little more focused on how you feel. You have to remember to drink before you get thirsty. Why are my lips so dry? Should I stop at this rest stop and grab a banana. It’s still fun, but you feel a bit more of a burn. On this particular leg of the tour, the roads were small, and the cars were scarce. On more than one occasion, I realized we were actually by ourselves. Our only guide was the little pink arrows on the pavement at most intersections. For me, this is where I began to wonder if not training was a bad idea….yes, it was, but nothing we can do about that now. Toward that 40th mile, I felt some relief knowing that this was the distance for the five borough tour. So, what’s another 15 miles??
On my handlebars I had a speedometer. This also showed the average mph, and the total miles. Throughout the entire race, I tried my hardest not to see the mileage. I wanted to make sure our mph average was above 10 (we are around 12.1), which is the only reason I continued to check it. But for some reason, each time I looked, I saw the mileage. And during this stretch, the numbers moved like they were stuck in quick sand. A half a mile felt like three. My hands started to ache, and the soreness on my butt was becoming more of a problem. My bike felt much heavier. I also began to get a cramp in my thigh. And though a few sips of water helped make it go away, my bottle seemed to empty out as quickly as I filled it. The exhilaration of going down a hill, was quickly lost to an uphill grade, no matter how slight it was. This route was the definition of rolling hills, or so that’s how I remember it. Oh, did I say we did all this on mountain bikes? The saving grace was hybrid tires, and though the difference seems minimal, it’s appreciated.
I will tell you, I’ve never worked my thighs to such exhaustion before. I was begging them to do something, and shortly before mile 50, they started telling me no. I pushed, and with each push, I could feel them wanting to give up on me. It seems like these tours all tend to have a steep incline near the end. I was ready, mentally, for it. Hell, I rode up the Verrazano Bridge on a windy day, which was a much steeper incline than the hill this tour presented. But, I couldn’t…I tried, I continued begging, but they just wouldn’t do it. I conceded to the defeat. Sadly, I walked it. Afterwards, slightly dejected, I rode on. There was still a few miles to go, and I was certain that I had seen the worst of it. After a quick rest stop, we were back on our way, and on the horizon…another tough hill. The only comfort was that numerous people around me also hated the sight of this, and a lot of them “looked” like pros. I stopped at the foot of the hill, and was joined by a handful of others. More people approached, more people stopped. I heard the groans of those who decided not to lose their momentum, and pedaled on. The cheer of one of the volunteers was urging people along. To myself I said, I have to do this. No walking this one. The P.I.C had been a monster on the course all day, so I knew she’d have no issue. Let’s do it….I jumped on the bike, and pedaled my way to a little more pride. I made it to the top of that hill, slowly…one cycle followed by the next. Getting every little bit out of these thighs. The rest, was a downhill roll toward the finish line.
I know people who have run marathons, and that is one major accomplishment. This is the closest I’ll get to that feeling, unless I decide to do a century ride…maybe one day, but if I do, I’ll definitely train. And though I could have done better, it was a great moment of accomplishment. A moment of self satisfaction. To some extent, a sense of belonging as you celebrate silently, with the others that took that trek Slightly sore, I ate a lobster roll, took in the scene, and took my behind home. I needed a nap. I love that I am blessed enough to be able to do these things. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? And I’m getting older, so I need to be somewhat active. And, riding a bike, in my opinion, is still better than running. LOL Till next time.