Sunday, April 30, 2017

if everything goes as unplanned...

This year I registered for an organized event. I can't explain it. Peer pressure, I guess. My neighbor rides in this event every year, as do two of my high school friends. Also, my LBS is one of the sponsors. The event itself is to raise funds for local schools. This year, it took place on Saturday, April 29th.

So...Saturday morning. Four in the morning. Excited and apprehensive. Wait, is that a sore throat I feel coming on? Oh, no, am I having stomach problems? What, I'm really supposed to ride forty-five miles? I can't do that! Not even on my best day, and I'm feeling really tired.

Fortunately for me, I have a colleague who is extremely athletic and does loads of runs/rides/hikes. This is what she said to me: "Every run or ride or whatever that I've planned to take part in...I doubt myself and my ability to do it. And I start coming up with reasons why I can't do it. But then I usually do it anyway."

Side note: I don't have a good record with this sort of thing. I've registered for only one other organized event, a twelve mile ride around my home town. And I actually lost sleep over whether I would be capable of doing the twelve miles. I didn't want to fail, but more importantly, I didn't want to fail in a group. So I didn't go to that particular event. Instead I went on a solo fifteen mile ride, and felt like a dolt.

I thought about what my colleague had said. Then I got dressed, got on my bike, and rode over to the departure point, from which riders would be bussed to the point where ride would begin. The ride itself departed from Vacaville and ended up in Sacramento. There was a lunch stop in Davis, about thirty miles in. Note: Vacaville, Sacramento, and Davis are all cities in California.

Now I'm not sure what kind of narrative this should have. Point-by-point? No, too boring. A few summary paragraphs? No, utterly un-entertaining. How about just enumerating three or four high points? Um...yeah, ok.

I had only been told a few things about this ride. The first was that except for some gently rolling hills, it was flat. Well, one person's "gently rolling hills" is another person's "several challenging climbs." I was also told that on the years that there hadn't been a tailwind, there had been no wind at all. This year, for the first time, there was a headwind. Not too daunting, but I don't need much of an excuse to complain about it.

Since I was trying to make time, I only took a few pictures. But someone took a picture of me (at my request):
The person taking this picture was considerate enough not to focus on my pasty white legs.
The temperatures on this ride were in the low eighties. Fortunately for me, I was wearing shorts. Fortunately for you, there are no pictures where you can actually see this.

Oh, yeah, I said high points. So here are some.

The first rest stop. This is where organization showed its friendly face. There were great snacks, water refills, and a friendly rest stop attendant who sprayed water on my face with a plant mister. The view across the road was beautiful as well.
Yup, the sky looked like this all day.
The wooded roads. They were beautiful and provided a wind break. I only appreciated the wind break when I hit a section of road where the woods ceased abruptly and a cross wind started to push me towards the side of the road. But even that was kind of cool, because I'd never experienced it before. Headwinds yes, crosswinds no.

At one point in the wooded section, a deer ran across the road about forty feet ahead of me. The deer stopped for a second once it had crossed the road, and I would swear it was looking at me. Maybe trying to determine if I were a danger or not. Then it ran off.  I honestly think that was the coolest thing I saw all day.

The Sacramento causeway. It's a three-mile long elevated bridge with a bike/pedestrian path. It passes over the Yolo bypass, which is flooded after heavy rainstorms. This year it was flooded and it looked like some dystopian vision of Earth after the polar icecaps melt. I am sorry that I didn't stop and take pictures, but...hey, it was fairly smooth and straight for three-and-change miles. I had "big-ring, easy cadence" euphoria.

The people. If you've ever been on an organized ride, you probably already know what I'm talking about. The people were friendly and supportive. I'm especially thankful to the people who staffed the rest stops. I felt they went above and beyond in providing support for the riders.

The route passed through many beautiful vineyards. They provided a wind break and occasional shade.
At this point, I think I had "outdoor" euphoria.
There was a point right after the Sacramento causeway where I had to ride through a cloud of gnats that went on for about three hundred feet. But even that...even that was interesting (in retrospective) because I'd never had to do it before. I'm also happy that they weren't mosquitoes.

The people. Again. But I have to single out a particular group of riders who let me ride with them out of Davis. Without them, I may well have become lost. So, thanks to them!

Favorite post-ride moments: 

My wife drove eighty-something miles to pick me up after the ride. She didn't have to, and I could have easily taken the train back, but she said this: "This is kind of a triumph for you, and I want to celebrate with you." Put that way, I wasn't about to say no.

Seeing several friends at the end of the ride. All of these friends rode longer portions of the ride than I did (110 and 120 miles), and I was happy to see them turn up. It's just good to connect with friends.

Going out with my wife for hamburgers. Then finding out (the next morning) that I seemed to have mysteriously lost two pounds in body weight.

My least favorite post-ride moment: realizing I had forgotten to put adequate sunscreen on a small patch on the back of my leg, and it's now burnt and hurts like flaming heck. But hey, if that's the worst thing that happens to me from now on, life is paradise.

And I came away with this: I now have no doubt that riding makes life better.