I started cycling a few months ago mainly because after a few years of working out in the gym I was desperate to find something to do outside that wouldn't wreak my already precarious knees. Well, Lance was in the middle of winning his sixth Tour and I had an old mountain bike in the garage (bought in a fit of optimism several years before I even went to a gym)…seemed like a good idea.
So, there I was, signed up for the 70-mile course at the Ride for the Roses. Now, I did a metric century (100km) a couple of weeks ago, so I figured what are a few more miles? The fact that I barely finished that ride is ancient history – and any part of my subconscious that brought it up was labeled “not a team player” and ignored.
The morning was cool and cloudy but no forecast for rain, so I thought it was perfect. We all got in our departure lanes (6500 riders means you gotta get organized!) to await the start. Lance got up on the podium to say a few words. Will Ferrell went up next and did a great job impersonating George W Bush (“you are a bunch of worker workers”). The camera then jumped to Robin Williams suiting up for his ride, and we got another bit of improv. The Hollywood roll call finished with Sheryl Crow singing the national anthem. Almost makes it worth getting up at 5am.
It was at this point that I detected a problem: I teamed up with my friend Scot, who I discovered at this point used to bicycle race in college. His friend Sarah, who was joining us, turns out to run triathlons fairly regularly. Rounding out our little group was Mike, who had only been seriously biking for…20 years. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that I was on an old, inexpensive mountain bike while they were on road bikes. Get the feeling that I got off at the wrong stop?
We were off! I spent the first 30 miles desperately trying to keep up. At that point I lost them between water stops, and I was forced to ride on alone. Well, not completely alone. Besides the vast number of other riders around, the Texas sun had come out. It was at this point that I realized that (a) all the gyms I’ve gone to have AC and (b) all my rides for the last few months had been in the morning. By mile 50, I was having heat flashes throughout my body.
But as my wife says, I am a goal-oriented, competitive person. That means that I continued to ignore my better sense and pushed through. I iced myself down at rest stops 50 and 62 so I figured – hey, what’s 8 more miles?
Well, this was where the new math comes in. In most of the world 70 - 62 = 8, but not here. On this ride, it equals 13. That is because the route I was on was actually 75 miles. Apparently somebody felt that 75 was too complicated a number and rounded it down to 70. I suppose I should be grateful. If they had been accurate, I probably would have surrendered peacefully at the 62-mile rest stop instead of fighting on to a blundered victory at 70 (or whatever).
As fate would have it, I did meet up with Scot and Sarah at the 62-mile rest stop so I did have company for my heat-induced hallucinations. That’s nice. We all agreed that the new math was a bit of a puzzle and the mile signs they had posted were introducing new calculus as well (mile 35 of the 40, followed by mile 60 of the 70, followed by mile 75 of the 100…this is on the common last stretch…you figure it out).
But, with the fickle attention of the gods we finally crossed the finish line, dropped our bikes and hit the pasta tent like Odysseus’ crew when they finally reached Italy (with a bit fewer casualties, I hope).