Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Journey of 100,000 Meters

It seems like only a post ago, and yet here we are.  Assembled again for the Tour de Cure 2016.  I guess it was just a post ago.  Which seems like yesterday.  For such is The Ribbon of Time.

Conditions for the day were questionable. So much so, that the Tour cancelled the Century route.  Thunderstorms, hail, dogs and cats threatened the ride from the west.  The Metric Century was moved up to a 6:30 start. We raced against the elements.  For nothing much is more miserable than a 5-hour ride in the rain. Or hail.

My previous experiences in rain and hail had confirmed this.  Once on a trail ride with Miss B we returned from the west in an epic downpour.  Water bottles not necessary - you could tilt your head back and get a full mouth of water - that is, if it didn't drown you.  As we crossed Dry Mill Run, we encountered an individual who face-planted without a helmet.  He was bleeding out.  It took almost 30 minutes for the ambulance to get there.  And when he came to, his first words were "where's my bike?"  The helmet clearly wasn't protecting much, but it would have saved him a fractured skull.

Another time I got caught in the rain wearing jeans.  A casual ride turned bad.  Riding in wet jeans ranks second-worst to riding in the rain.  Until it started to hail.  Then wet-jean riding became third.  I struggled through it enough to get home, with a sudden and splitting headache.  And when I took the helmet off, all was revealed.  The openings in the top of my helmet (like 2" deep) were filled with hailstones.  Kind of like a mobile snow cone.

Back to the ride.  I was only planning on doing the Metric anyway, so not a major disappointment.  68 miles +/-, but it sounds so much more impressive as 100,000 meters, right?

The temperature was fair, and I was out early.  As we reached the first rest stop, the fabulous volunteers were mixing a fresh batch of Gatorade.  As I slugged back a couple cups, I thought of all the riders behind me - followers - who would also drink the Gatorade.  On the return run here we were cheered on by none other than Wonder Woman.  Until then I did not know she had a sidekick, known as T-Shirt Man in Grass Skirt.

We were routed through possibly every suburban street in Ashburn, Ashburn Farm, Village, whatever.  Out to South Riding, and back again to the trail.  Up, up, up the Blue Ridge Ascent, now rerouted around and under Route 9.  And into one of my favorite trail sections west of Paeonian Springs.  Until finally, the rest stop and turnaround at Purcellville.

It seemed like the rain was chasing the back of my helmet.  At times it seemed like the humidity was just forming in horizontal droplets suspended in mid-air.  My jersey was soaked through and stayed that way (possibly 4th worst ride condition).  The Time Ribbon appeared before me.  The miles behind no longer existed, lumped together with all the previous Centuries.  Only the miles ahead were there.  And they weren't coming soon enough.  Another rider down.  Medics.  More Gatorade.  And the final pull up Sunset Hills and into the Town Center.  The Time Ribbon snapped - like a wet towel in gym class - and the Journey of 100,000 meters was over.

With heartfelt thanks to all the sponsors, we raised over $1,000 to fight diabetes.  Thanks to the support crews who came to the aid of both riders I saw on the pavement.  And thanks to the volunteers at the rest stops and the event organizers.  See you in the fall for the DC 50 miler!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time Travel at its Finest

The dial of the time machine finally stops spinning at 2015. Your Humble Narrator and his friend Sam find themselves back in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure. 500 A.D. seems like a long time ago. But it was also last week. For this was the Fourth Century.

Suddenly, the year was 1972. That's right, before the Internet, cell phones, personal computers, or even color TV (at least at my house). The class of 12, 13 and the occasional 14-year old boys gathered in their ridiculous junior high gym "uniforms." They were also wearing ORIGINAL Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars, Black and White, hi and lo-top. Because that's all there was. And you laid out a lot of hard-earned cash to get them through the school discount, for $7.50. But that is another story for another day.

The occasion was the third and final day of Track and Field. Just as the Olympics has its 100-meters, so junior high school has its premier event, the 50-yard dash. You knew who the fastest guys were. When your turn came you wondered what time you could post. Neither the fastest nor the slowest, and when it was over you went to the sideline to watch the next heat.

No one expected great things from Mark, except Mark himself. He SHOT out of the blocks and at the 15-yard mark we all knew, that this was going to be something special indeed. We stood agape as he extended the lead over the fastest boys. It was a miracle.

But by 30 yards, the upper half of Mark was running faster than the lower half. The treadmill had gone berserk. He desperately tried to make his legs catch up, but the ground came up to meet him. In the face. As he was carted off the field with a broken arm, we all knew we had witnessed something.

What we had witnessed was an epic fail before there were such things. That first bitch-slap from life that reminds us to not get ahead of ourselves. We all get it sooner or later. And for the rest of the year we would laugh when we would see the cast, remembering the cosmic slapstick we had watched unfold. But somehow there was respect too. Because in his mind, and for about 5 seconds, he was the fastest guy out there that day.

1972 was a long time ago. But the Fourth Century had a way of reminding me. It also reminded me why I only rode 88 miles last year.

We've been over this before. The relentless pedaling. The hills. Keep pedaling. Avoid Whining. 4 months ago, Sam didn't even have a bike. This day, he helped push Your Humble Narrator through the hills. But not before I found my own version of the 50-yard dash. We made it to the half-way mark in 3 1/2 hours. We made it back in 5. But we made it back.

Somewhere along the way, I became free again. The metal was made ready for the hand of the Maker. And that's why you ride. Or run the 50-yard dash.

Thanks Sam. And thanks to the generous sponsors. And ADA, and the volunteers along the way. Until next year my friends, live in the moment.