Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Biking a Double Century

June 20, 2009

Now was my chance to bike 200 miles in one day.

I'd tried in 2007...

..and husband Tom had decided I was too tired at mile 192.

I tried in 2008 on the RAIN ride...

...but it was too blasted hot.

Finally Tom said - do it on your own.

Find the perfect day...close to the longest day of the year...

...and go for it!

I trained for months - all on flats and all with tailwinds.

I was going for pure, raw distance.

Finally June 20 I woke up at 4AM and strapped on my helmet.

I left Tom sleeping in our Terre Haute hotel room and I slipped away down the hall - 

- the gentle clicking of my gears filling the silence of the night.

A deep breath in the parking lot as I clicked in my pedals.

It was a gentle glide down the Main Street of Terre Haute...

no wind

no cars

no people

Just me and my bike 

We coasted an easy 10 miles west to Illinois.

We lined up with the starting line of the famous RAIN ride across Indiana.

Usually I am there at dawn with a thousand and more lycraed guys.

Today - alone and quiet.

We spun over the starting line with no fanfare - no photos - no cheers.

Out onto 40 we felt a slight breeze as we started up a gentle hill...



...out of the dark woods he charged aiming for my pedals.

Heart leaping into gear I crunched down and spun those wheels for dear life.

Left the doberman in our dust....

...and my heart a little shaky.

Whew! That got my adrenaline up!

But now it was time to settle down into the rhythm....

...pedals circling steadily

....noticing the reflections of the sunrise on the buildings as I biked back through Terre Haute and on into the depths of Indiana.

I start my own reflections - on life, on biking, on challenge.

I get into my zone watching the cornfields hum by.

I practice my French.

About 40 miles into the ride - a visit with Tom.

Gatorade - moral support - and I'm back on the road.

He stops to see me every now and then between driving ranges.

As we run into noon and I swing South of Indy I send him home - I can handle things, I say, I'll see you on the other side of Indiana.

I'm confident.

But then I lose my way - 

can't find the RAIN markings -

roads are unmarked and unmapped.

But I'm still putting in the miles, so what does it matter?

And it's getting hot.

Finally I find the RAIN lunch site.

Normally I see it packed with bikers - shovelling in as much food as they can.

Today it is baking in the sun.

As am I.

I am wilting.

I stop in the shade and take a breath...

when there is shade.

I'm not keeping up the pace.

At mile 110 I lose faith. 

It is too hot. 

Feet starting to swell and hurt.

Taking Advil.

I time it out and at this pace I couldn't finish 200 unless I biked until 11 PM.

I have failed.

But at mile 130 I have Julie waiting for me... in Knightstown she would be waiting with a full change of fresh clothes for me - and an iced towel for my wretched body.

I couldn't let Julie down.

So I lower my head and hammer away...
ticking away the miles slowly.

Finally Knightstown - and Julie -


My head spins as I strip in the ladies room.
Ice all over my body.

I pause before slipping on my fresh shorts, shirt, socks!

And Julie is so bubbly - 

"I saw 2 other bikers - I asked them if they'd seen you. They said no, but that they were biking 100 miles today. I told them my friend was biking 200 miles!"

She beams with pride.

How could I quit now?

Refreshed I hit the road again.

I could do it!

Lasted about 2 miles.

Then I sunk again into pain -
the feet agonizing - swollen.

Every 4 hours another Advil - it would help for a while but not long.

Butt hurting.
Hands throbbing. 
Tired of Gatorade.

Would Richmond ever come?

Finally my blurry vision saw Richmond.

I called Tom.
He was relaxing at home eating dinner.

I'm heading into Ohio I told him.
Do you want me to come?
Not yet, I said.

If he came I would be weak.
I might quit.

After Richmond something wonderful happened...

...the sun went down.

All of a sudden I could breathe again.
No more sun beating my shoulders down.

My foot pain eased.

I could spin the pedals and not cry in pain.

I was feeling good.

Dusk turned to darkness.

I called Tom to come.

I needed him near as I was biking in the dark.

At first he parked at a gas station to be near for my call.

As dark turned to black I needed him more.

He drove behind my bike for 10 miles - his headlights adding to my little bike light and his Highlander shielding me from wayward drivers.

On into Ohio - past where I'd ever gone before.

Going 16 mph -
-passing the 192 mile mark.
Hitting another small town.

I was going to do it!
Wind still behind me.
Slight downhill.

This was great!
I was speeding up.
I knew I could do it.
Just 2 miles to go.

I couldn't take my eyes from the Cateye reflecting the streetlights - watching the miles tick off one by one.

One mile to go and...

the road ended.

But see! there's a road into a park !

Sharp downhill! Yes!


And a gate.

The ranger was just closing the gate.

I stopped short - Tom on my heels.

"But can you wait?" I asked.
"I've just biked here from Illinois. I've gone 199 and a half miles...."

"Sorry," she said.
She pointed to the sign and locked the gate.

Down, but not out I turned the bicycle back and pressed those sullen shoes down on the pedals hard to force it up the hill.

Up - up - slow - keep going.
Watch that Cateye.
and ...

I did it!

A Double Century.

Three cheers and 2 full Gatorades!

I felt awesome!


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