Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Bad Lookin for Roadkill- A First Timer's trip through Hell

I have been somewhat frantic this week. Any extra time and quite a bit that was not extra time has been spent getting ready for the "Crummy Century" this Sunday. A 103 mile bike ride through York County Maine. Before we see CRUM Cycles again, 15 towns will have been touched and 60+ turns executed. Many small hills and a couple large ones are strategically placed to punish and humble at the right moments.

The fast guys will be somewhere between 5 and 6 hours. The rest of us will spend up to 8 hours toughing it out. Many of the people threatening to show up have never done a century. Some of them are too cocky and will most likely bail or suffer one of the worst days of their lives once they bonk. Other rookies are way over anxious. Their fitness and mile base is more than enough to make it physically. They have the mind game to deal with.

I remember my first century. An unplanned, spur of the moment excursion one Sunday in the mid 1980's. I was on my first mountain bike. It weighed at least 35 pounds. I wore cut off jeans and sneakers. Took one bottle and $30. Told my wife I was going to ride as far as I could and then come home. I figured 30 to 40 miles. But I got off track somewhere in New Hampshire.

Ever since my years of driving tractor trailers all over this country, I decided I was never lost, just misplaced. Lost is so final. And let's face it, if you are on pavement, there is a way out. Not even close to being stuck in 3 million acres of pucker up country Maine. I also learned that being misplaced was a fact of my life. I had become accustomed to often being clueless about where I was. So I learned to deal with it. Pick a direction and head that way. Eventually the road will either end or it will lead to a way out. a way back, or if I was lucky, right on target.

So with the proper attitude, I became properly lost. Yeah, that's right, lost. Not misplaced, but good and lost. About 4 in the afternoon, I found myself again. Where I was was not as close to home as I would have liked to be. About 4 in the afternoon, those cutoff jeans had become denim Hell for my crotch and butt cheeks. The sneakers had proven why they are a bad idea for cycling shoes. I was in tough shape. I was in Ossipee, NH - 35 miles from home.

Thirsty, tired and sore, I stopped at a local Mom & Pop grocery store on Rte 16. Ordered up a sub, grabbed a couple of beers, some bottled water and sat out front with glazed eyes in the afternoon Sun. I wolfed down the sub and guzzled the 2 beers. 20 minutes later another lesson came home to roost. Beer and intense exercise really don't go well together. I had to pull over and do a roadside review of that sub I just crammed down.

Now I was truly miserable. But do I call my wife to come get me? No, of course not. I got myself into this mess, I was damn sure gonna get myself out. With that hardheaded stupidity in mind, I pedaled the most painful 30 miles I had ever ridden. Or probably ever will in the future. The memory now has not softened the misery I was experiencing. There are no rose colored glasses here.

I pulled into our dooryard just about sunset, 12 hours after I left. I threw the bike in the grass and collapsed under the big Red Maple by the well. There I contemplated and took inventory of the body I still had left. Every nerve in my body had been pushed hard and now they all complained. I felt like roadkill looks.

As I wallowed in pain under that maple, my wife came out to teach me the final lesson of the day. New riders always seem to be married to new and upcoming bike widows. The learning curve for a cycling fool is tough on both in the beginning. Since I hadn't called or ended up a statistic so the cops would have, my darling wife was not very darling at the moment. She laid into me. Read me the riot act. Instead of sympathy and a soft hug, I was verbally kicked in the balls.

What was odd though, her harsh and brutal words were music to my ears. I was finally home. I just smiled. Didn't that piss her off.