I’m not fast and maybe I never will be. But I am fit. I can amble up climbs without imploding. I can roll out and sit in with boys. My recovery rides are two hours long with a couple thousand feet of climbing. I feel good on the bike. I want to ride all the time.
All the time.
Last weekend Jennifer Cree and I pedaled out into the west hills with a vague plan to kidnap a bunch of miles and put them in our legs for safe-keeping. An investment with a guaranteed return. We have spent a lot of time folded over our bikes, spinning nowhere on rollers. I’ve spent a lot of time cursing freezing hands and feet in Portland’s early spring snow-rain – a nasty product of gray skies that both soaks and freezes you, thwarting even the most technologically advanced of any gear.
Saturday cracked open and spilled sunshine on Oregon’s chip seal roads, so we went out with a mission to roll all day – and we made good on it. Up Cornell-Thompson, down Springville, up Old Germantown, out to Rock Creek, down Logie, up Otto Miller and a long an unknown, gated road called Smoke Ranch Road. We slipped down Pumpkin Ridge and soared into North Plains.
Over lunch we discussed the reality of this. Riding the 2012 Tour De France course. That sounds hard and big, right? Massive. Impossible?
Not impossible. The hardest part of riding so many miles in so many days is really the training. Unlike professional athletes, all six of us must work non-cycling jobs to pay the mortgage, feed the kids, keep food on the table. Where and how does 20 hours of training fit into a work week? Kym Fant manages a toddler among the miles. Maria has three children – teenagers and younger – to figure into the mix. We make this up as we go along, realizing slowly that we must cut things out, learn to say no, draw boundaries around recovery time, allow room for the mind and legs to rebuild and re-generate and grow stronger.
If anything is spectacular about this ride or magical about this endeavor, it’s this: the sheer will to create hours where none exist. This is not a feat of physical stamina, this is a feat of time management.
On Saturday we had time. And we had sun. So after a panini and soup, the two of us kept riding – up the death-match grade of Dorland (I was hurting in the land of black spots and the smell of frying brain cells and Jen talked me off the ledge) and then along the meandering, winding slice of ridge called Skyline. We were nearing our descent back into the city when I said it.
“We’ve got 8500 feet of climbing, don’t you think we should just go for 10,000?”
Jen sighed. 45 minutes ago I’d been on the ropes – turning gray and desperate to pedal to within striking distance of my house. Now? Now I was vocalizing shit that was going to have to be actualized.
“Well… you said it. So now we have to do it.” She seemed tired, but masochistically into it. We climbed Cornell and then she noted that if we turned up 53rd, we’d accumulate elevation faster.
Let’s be clear: 53rd is steep. 17% or so in many (many) places.
“We’re like boxers staggering around a ring, Jen. Smashing the shit out of each other.”
“I totally didn’t mean to one-up you by suggesting this climb!”
We staggered. And weaved. And smashed big gears.
And then we went to the next steep climb we knew nearby. Greenleaf. Pow. Biff. Zok. Boom.
We hit 10,000 feet in some rich-person neighborhood above Lovejoy and 23rd, about 15 minutes later and I’m not going to lie: we squealed like schoolgirls.
Then next day, I rolled out with Jen and a few of our roadie teammates (the ones who actually race as opposed to this little slacker lady), but left them 35 miles later in favor of following my coach and a gang of boys out to Vernonia in pursuit of another century for the weekend.
By the time I made it home it was 5:30pm and I could hardly think straight. Sal had a hot dinner on the table for me and after inhaling it, I showered and curled up in the bed, texting random requests from my post:
“I need a snuggle.”
“Please come visit. Very tired.”
MIraculously, he delivered on every front.
This adventure will not happen without the support of so many people; partners and husbands and families in particular. We will selfishly ride our bikes all week long. We will choose to pedal when we should be cleaning or working or paying bills or managing our mothers. We apologize in advance.
We are taking this thing by storm. And in the near term, that looks like a lot of asking for support and a few hail marys thrown deep into the chaos of every day life.