Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 37: Ludington, MI, to Mount Pleasant, MI

Today's Mileage: 113
Average Speed: 18.5 mph
Max Speed: 32.4 mph
Moving Time: 6:10

Today was our last century (100+) day. While many are rejoicing - including my legs - my heart is a little sad. It's the first of the "lasts." As a military brat, who moved every 2-3 years until I was 16, I have become acutely attune to "lasts." Soon it will be the last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (not that I even regularly know what day of the week it is anymore). Last mechanics hour, last RAP, last SAG stop.

All I kept thinking today is that I owe Michael more money. There would be no way that I could have had a good day like today if he hadn't worked his magic on my Achilles Tendon. The back of my ankle is still crunching when I flex or point my foot and it sorely swells occasionally, but there is no searing pain. It looks like it'll make it through Day 50.

I didn't feel like I had cycled 100 miles today. That may be due in part to the fact that this was labeled our easiest century on paper, I've been cycling for 37 days, and I took another ride on The Swiss Train - except this time I got my fair share of pulling over the 113-mile route. And Daniel and Bruno had time to rest when the train inevitably got slower with me in the front. I kept apologizing for lowering their ride average, but they kept insisting that it was a relief to get a break. So we hammered when either of them pulled, and we cruised when it was my turn. Well, they cruised behind me. Even though pacelines are incredible energy savers, I was straining the entire way.

I initially hopped on around mile 15, after Alison and Alex flew by on Daniel and Bruno's wheels. Just as I was watching them disappear around a turn about half a mile ahead and thinking about how much Alison and Alex have improved in 37 days, Ohio John appeared next to me and said, "Let's go catch them!"

Pedaling with Ohio John made me think about my own physical progression as well. A month ago, I would never have dared to even attempt to catch speeding cyclists. And as Ohio John and I joined The Swiss Train and pounded up short, steep hills, I realized that Alison and I are now climbing over twice as fast as we had back in Oregon, where we had averaged between 4-8 mph on most grades. Later, Alex said to me, "You know that song 'Slow Motion' by Juvenile? I think it's in my head because of that part that goes 'slow down for me, you moving too fast'" and then, on beat she continued rapping: "'My fingers keep slippin', I'm tryin to grip that ass' ... Ah! Such a good song!"

"I'm putting that in the blog," I said.

It was a fun ride into the first SAG stop, with all four of us in The Swiss Train's draft. But there were no more free rides after that. We each pulled our fair share to the second SAG, where Alex switched gears and jumped on with Jeff (ABB staff), who has two speeds: fast and super fast. I continued with Daniel and Bruno in a three-man paceline to the end, carefully studying their form whenever muscle fatigue wasn't causing my eyes to cross.

Daniel and Bruno are - in my novice estimation - two of the strongest cyclists on this tour, and by far the most humble - the latter of which, to me, equates to the utmost in self-confidence and self-assurance. After 37 days, I've started to recognize that the most talented riders on this tour are the ones who do the least amount of self-PR ... because they don't have to. You'll never notice Daniel or Bruno finding subtle ways to drop their average and maximum speeds or ride time into an irrelevant conversation, and they don't make condescending remarks if you just so happen to pass them. It's that kind of gracious demeanor that I aspire to genuinely attain though I admittedly haven't always succeeded in all areas of my life.

As a rookie among a wide range of skill levels on this tour, my personal observations of the attitudes and behaviors of the other cyclists has had me doing some soul-searching of my own in trying to determine what type of cyclist I want to be "when I grow up". I try to be as nonjudgemental as possible when observing the actions of individuals around me since it's presumptuous and unfair to assume that you know exactly what someone else is thinking. However, if you pay close enough attention, you can develop an awareness about the character of others and make an educated guess about what their actions or their words are really saying. Just don't always expect to be right.

And that is where my personal progression has continued to evolve. In an attempt to develop a more reflective awareness of self, I've tried to pay closer attention to the kind of energy that my actions and words project. Before this tour, I read an article in a recent issue of Bicycling Magazine about rookie mistakes - one of the biggest of all was being an arrogant beginner.

Cycling is a sport, in which dedicated individuals can enjoy rapid improvement. In a place where confidence in a new skill quickly builds, arrogance can easily be bred from a deep-seeded insecurity and thus nurtured on the road, especially with a good tailwind. Because of that, this is a suitable atmosphere for me to do a little self-exploration of my own. We are, after all, products of our environment, experiences and choices.

I'm nowhere near being one of the best cyclists on this tour - nor is it a conscious aspiration of mine. My primary goal between Oregon and New Hampshire was to discover more about myself. Embrace the things I like about my personality and change the things I don't like about my character. An equally valuable goal was to slow down my days and feel moments. There is no better way to feel time slowly passing than when your lungs are bursting and your thighs are burning. Trust me.

My goals as a cyclist are secondary on this tour. And they run a long second. Solely to soak up as much bicycle knowledge as I can from those around me. And have fun.

As a continuously evolving individual and as a beginner cyclist, I have the privilege of learning a lot out here about me and Maddy ... cycling across North America.

More images from Ludington to Mount Pleasant:

Hopping on The Swiss Train is not highly conducive
to an abundance of photo opportunities.

Click here to view my entire photo album from Day 37 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:

1 comment:

Monique D. said...

I want my days to slow down too but without the burning thigh part...