There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
On this ride, I realized why guys like biking so much. It’s basically the perfect guy sport, and here’s why:
1. Technology. You can buy a bike at any level of technology you want, starting from a $400 and extending up into almost infinitely expensive. Aside from bikes themselves, there’s a huge range of supplemental technology you can add, including (but not limited to) extremely fancy, expensive bike GPS systems, types of clipless shoes, gearing, derailleurs, handlebars, clothing, and frame materials.
2. Competition. Guys love to compete, and they love to win. Cycling gives guys endless opportunities to target and beat other guys in a way that team sports don’t. The individualism of cycling lets guys compete with EVERYBODY ELSE out there. Although everybody was nice and all, I think all the guys got a thrill out of saying “On your left” as they zipped by people. Women seemed somewhat more laid back, although I did encounter some exceptions.
3. Machoism. An incredible number of guys did things that I couldn’t understand, and which I had to chalk up entirely to their need to feel manly and powerful. For example, I saw lots of guys climbing hills—what passed for hills on this ride; there weren’t any real killers, although we had some rollers in there—in extremely high gears. They refused to shift from their large chainrings, or to shift down on the rear cassette much at all, choosing instead to muscle up every hill. Now, I admit some hills you just have to muscle up, but I only do that when I’ve run clean out of gears and I can’t go any lower. What I saw was guys with plenty of low gears who simply refused to use them, and chose instead to agonizingly grind up inclines that they could easily have spun up. The only advantage of this tactic is that you might ride slightly faster up the hill, although you reach the top utterly exhausted. Presumably the need to reach the top ties in to No. 2 above.
The ride! Ian covered the basics, but I’ll throw in some detail. Both mornings we rode through dense, glasses-obscuring fog for hours. I lucked out and never missed a turn or hit anything, despite almost total fog-related blindness. I felt good and strong on both days, and found it easy to ride faster than I usually do, since I had people to keep up with. Over the two days I averaged 15.9 miles an hour, taking 4 hours, 55 minutes riding (not counting rest stops) to complete the first day and 4 hours, 45 or so minutes on the second day.
On the first day I rode for a long ways with a guy named Steve, who had a stuffed unicorn attached to his helmet. He’s a massage therapist who works at a country club near our house, and he’s seen me riding on my normal commute—he recognized me by the neon orange streamers I have on the back of my helmet, which apparently are pretty noticeable. More on that in a second. The unicorn he attached to his helmet showed that he rode for a client of his who has MS and loves unicorns; he got tons of people commenting on his unicorn, ranging from guys sneering to little girls squealing “He’s got a unicorn!” On the first day we also had lots of people from towns we passed through cheering for us, clapping, waving, and holding signs. It was very encouraging. I’ve never had people cheer for me as I rode by before.
I couldn’t believe the number of rest stops we had. I stopped at all but one on the first day: At mile 16, 30, 40, 50, (I skipped the one at mile 57, since I felt like I’d just stopped) and at 71. Normally on my training rides I stop at mile 20, 40, and 60; I’d very rarely stop more than four times even on an 80-mile ride. They had food, drinks, and bathrooms at every stop. I ate lots of banana halves, orange slices, fig newtons (amazingly sustaining!), and a few PB&J; sandwiches. The bathrooms really made it all worth it, though. My usual rides don’t involve planning bathroom stops, and I usually have to use a fast food restaurant one that I feel guilty about since I don’t buy any food there. But these Port-a-Potties were just for us, and they were great. I’m so easy to please.
Anyway, Day 1 I felt good, but my knees started hurting about mile 60 or so, which coincided with when the rolling hills started. I have enough muscle to get up the hills, but my knees need me to spin as much as possible. The day ended with a nice ride along the Cape Cod Canal and a run in to the grounds of the Mass Maritime Academy through cheering people, including Ian. When I got in, I left my bike in a huge bike corral, checked in, and almost immediately took a shower. I felt filthy, thanks to the sweat, sunscreen, and layer of grit all over me.
Then Ian went and set up the tent while I found ice for my knees. The chemical ice packs available didn’t seem to help very much, even though I kept icing diligently throughout the evening. I also ate some of the Luna bars I’d brought and drank more water. I drank lots of water on this ride. While Ian brought stuff from the car, I almost fell asleep in our tent. Then we heard an announcement about a VIP reception on the ship docked at the Mass Maritime Academy, so I went to that, but Ian couldn’t come, which was kind of sad. I didn’t really enjoy the reception; it seemed like an opportunity to drink nicer alcohol than beer, but food-wise all they had was cheese, crackers, and veggie- and fruit-platters. I wanted to shout, “Hello! We’ve just ridden 75 miles! We’d like something more substantial than alcohol and nibblies!” Instead I at LOTS of nibblies and chatted with some people there. Eventually I got bored, so I went back to Ian, got us some real food, and we sat in the shade most of the afternoon.
Food wasn’t that exciting there, honestly. After my ride, I want lots of carbs with some protein thrown in. The food, however, was barbeque chicken, baked beans, white hamburger buns (to put the chicken on?), iceberg lettuce salad, and pasta salad. I forced myself to eat the bread and baked beans, but honestly I was disappointed. Everything else about the ride was so well done, and this seemed remarkably thoughtless towards what cyclists might want to eat after a long ride. They were very considerate about having enough beer, though. Apparently all everybody else wanted to do was drink, because that’s all they talked about beforehand and that’s what they immediately started doing upon arrival.
Ian and I retired early to the tent and I fell asleep, thanks to the foresight of bringing ear-plugs, by 8:00. Friday we stayed up until 10:00 and got up at 4:30, so that followed by a long bike ride combined to tire me out something awful. I slept alright, waking up a few times I think mainly from the humidity. It never cooled down or de-humitified over the night. Even going to sleep at 8:00, the time to get up came all too soon—though I doubt 3:45 am ever comes late enough. We neglected to bring flash lights, so I dressed and we packed up in the dark.
Breakfast was uninspired as well; everything was fried: Scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, and biscuits. They also had melon salad and lots of coffee. I took the melons, two biscuit, and some scrambled eggs, wishing for a good hearty bowl of oatmeal. Riding on grease like that just makes me feel queasy. I’d finished my breakfast, helped Ian carry stuff to the car, and bid him farewell by about 5:00.
Day 2 didn’t involve the hu
ge pack of people that Day 1 did. Today we could leave any time between 5:00 and 7:00, so people trickled out as they were ready, whereas Day 1 we all massed in a corral and left pretty much all at once. So I left around 5:00 am, and quickly fell in with some guys going about my same pace. We rode together for the first 13 miles, but one guy fell behind (he told us this was his first ride of the season, so I’m not surprised he couldn’t keep up. I wouldn’t want to ride two 75-mile days in a row as my first rides of the year) after a while. I saw the other guy intermittently throughout the rest of the day. I also saw a guy named Bob who I met in the food line. Bob left early, too, and passed me early on, riding really fast. We chatted at rest stops and at the finish line when we saw each other, and I learned that he goes to church (he runs the sound there) at a 17-month-old church that meets in the movie theater in Milford.
This morning proved very foggy, too, and I worried about missing markers in the mist. I didn’t have other people to follow most of the beginning part, but thankfully I didn’t go astray. As with Saturday, cops stood at all the major intersections, stopping traffic so the MS cyclists could cross safely without stopping. I loved that—holding up cars for bikes just feels like such an excellent switch. I always said “thank you” to the cops as I went by.
Eventually I fell in with a guy named Pete, who works in California and lives near Hidden Valley. He was riding a cyclocross bike, too, so we talked about bikes and gearing for a while. Then he sneered at the hills on this ride and at the people complaining about the hills; honestly I had to agree somewhat. Although they did go up, these weren’t very bad hills at all. Then we got to a rest stop, and I left before he did, but ended up riding almost the rest of the way with a guy named Jed. Jed is middle-aged, has four girls ranging from 16 to 3 years old, and works at Mercury Computers in Chelmsford. This was his first season riding, but he’d been training with triathlete buddies who got him in good enough shape that he left me behind several times. Pete passed us after a while, but I didn’t try to keep up.
Overall, I actually felt really quite good. Lots of people asked me “How do you feel?” today, and each time I could honestly answer, “Great!” I did feel great, strong, and not really tired much at all. All my long weekend rides really paid off for this time, at least. My butt wasn’t painful at all, either, which I know was a major complaint among people who hadn’t ridden two days in a row much before. In short, I couldn’t have been better prepared or felt better throughout the whole two days. I never felt utterly miserable, drained, exhausted, or ready to drop. I ate and drank consistently before I felt hungry and thirsty, and I paced myself, letting faster people pass me without chasing them down. It was good. The only downside was my knees, which hurt until I took Ibuprofen.
The only bad part of the route was riding on Route 6 into Provincetown at the very end of the ride. It wasn’t too windy, thankfully, but we did have some headwind and the sun had started to get pretty hot. Just when I started wondering how much longer the ride could be—the Cape isn’t that long, after all!—I turned off Route 6, and ta-da! There was the end, with Ian cheering for me again and a couple of photographers taking pictures of my triumphant, cheerful entry. It was great. I had taken an Ibuprofen before I left and another at the second or third rest stop, so my knees felt alright at that point, although now they’re starting to ache some.
Anyway. I iced my knees first thing, while chatting with Ian, eating a banana, and drinking lots of icy water. Then while I found food in the form of a turkey wrap, Ian went to the car to retrieve my bag and towel so I could shower. As I ate I saw Bob, so we sat and chatted for a while. He’d finished at 10:00; I got in at 10:15. He was impressed that I’d maintained a 15-mph average with my microscopic 42T chainring. Then Ian appeared, so I went off to shower.
The showers were pretty crazy. It was basically a huge semi-truck trailer that you go inside of and it has tiny little showers lining half the wall. The other half was a raised platform to put stuff on. The water pressure was great and I got it just the right temperature; scrubbing the grit off feels so good. After that I changed, got my free ice cream cup, and we left.
We stopped once in Eastham to let me pee—thank goodness for National Parks’ public restrooms!—and again at the King Street Café in Franklin, where we ate a 2:00 lunch-thing. I had Portobello mushrooms, spinach, and tomato on foccacia; Ian had chicken stir-fry. And thence home, tired but feeling very satisfied and successful. We laid the tent out to dry (inside, thankfully: it’s thunderstorming now), ran a couple loads of laundry, and I’m about ready to take my second shower of the day.
My plan is to eat some more, then go to bed as early as is reasonable, possibly before it even gets dark out. Six o’clock tomorrow should feel like sleeping in after this weekend!