It was windy. Wizard of Oz windy. I saw a witch go by on her bicycle. Even though she was a witch, there must have been some good in her because she was riding in the Tour de Cure, helping to raise money for diabetes research. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and let her pass me.
It was hot. Africa hot. Every time I inhaled, my nose hairs ignited, like a hundred tiny matches.
On my 40-mile cycling tour through Rochester's southern farmlands I passed:
an entire family riding together. The little ones were in a screened-in cart being pulled behind Dad.
an overweight woman in a red cycling jersey, riding a tour bike with a basket on the front.
a young woman riding a recumbent bike. (I don't really get the recumbent bike. You sit low to the ground, with your feet extended out in front of you, and your back against a pad, like a regular chair. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I am against the recumbent position, but when I am so situated, I want a glass of Merlot in one hand, the remote in my other hand, and a great movie in the DVD player.)
the overweight woman in the red cycling jersey again.
my husband Rick. I passed him a few times, he passed me a few times. We kept each other motivated up those long, hot, country hills. (I admit we exchanged dirty words here and there, a conversation that wasn't as much fun as it may have been under different circumstances.)
two teen-aged boys riding alone together. No girls, no cigarettes, just two buddies taking on a challenge together.
an older couple riding a bicycle built for two. (I could never do this with Rick. He'd put me in front, claiming that the back was the more difficult position, and then every time I'd turn around, I'd catch him with his feet up, napping.)
the tour monitors. They were positioned along the route, ready to help guide riders or offer water or technical assistance. As we glided by behind hundreds of other riders, Rick called out to one of the guides, "Are we winning?" The guide replied, "Yes, I believe you are!"
the overweight woman in the red jersey again. I must have passed her five times. Every time we pulled up at a rest stop, she gained on us, and then every time we hit the road again, there she was, cranking out a slow and steady pace. What a champ.
I must be in really good shape, because at one point I whizzed really closely past this guy, and I heard him say, "What an ass..." (OK - I made that one up, but it could've happened.)
I found the whole experience incredibly scary. I raced down unfamiliar hills at approximately 147 mph with nothing between me and the pavement except a whoosh of air. When you go down those hills, you have to hold your body in as horizontal a position as possible, keep firm and steady control of the bike. You have to continuously scan the ground for potholes, rocks, debris, sewer covers, and anything else that might send you flying (and be ready to respond. All this with people, cars, and an assortment of bugs streaking past. (I ate one bug that I know of.) But scary is good. It makes you feel alive.
I also found the experience incredibly energizing. I fought gravity, wind, my own doubts about my ability, and my mother's voice saying, "Do you have to do the whole 40 miles?" (If I gave up, would I be less disappointed in myself if I could I say that my mother told me to?)
I did not, however, find the experience satisfying. I want more. Next year, I am going to do the 62.5 miles, and then there's only one more level after that: the Century. 100 miles - just in time for my 50th birthday.
What I noticed is that hundreds of people rode. None of them were "typical." They all had different types of bikes, different speeds, different styles. They all just showed up and did their thing, their way.
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