It was Saturday morning, about 2:00, and I couldn’t sleep. That’s normal; if there’s one thing I can count on when I do a long ride, it’s that the night before I will not be able to sleep. I will be so consumed with worrying about weather, the route, my bike, and the gear I’ve packed that I just can’t sleep.
You’d think that it would have been different for the MS 150 last weekend. After all, this wasn’t a race. It wasn’t for time. It was just the culmination of a fundraising event for a good cause. But I still couldn’t sleep.
The rain was keeping me awake.
I lay there listening to the rain on the roof, just knowing that a few hours from then, I was going to have the most miserable ride of my life.
Rain, Rain, Go Away.
My alarm woke me at 4:00 AM, so I must’ve fallen asleep at some point. I grabbed all my gear — emphasis on rain gear — and went to pick up Nick for the 90-minute drive to where the race began.
Halfway there, it stopped raining. And by the time we got there, we could see blue in part of the sky, with dark rain clouds in other parts. That actually makes for a trickier clothing choice than if it’s just dumping rain. Do you go with rain gear, figuring it’s going to rain soon? Or do you take the optimistic view and not go with rain gear? Most people were suited up like they were about to do the Iditarod.
I decided to be a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. I suited up in short sleeves and a short jersey, with a rain shell in my back pocket, just in case. After all, people had paid good money to have me write strange things on my legs; I didn’t want to hide those things if at all possible.
My right leg says "Phat Syklist," courtesy of the Gunnersons, who know that bad spelling irritates me to no end. My left leg says "Brooklyn Roolze," courtesy of my nephew Boone Campbell, who evidently has more money than I’d have expected. These were easily readable when I was on my bike. On the top of my (massive) quads is the phrase "Low-Fat Fatty."
Meet the Family
One thing that was cool about this ride was the number of people from Microsoft showing up to ride, and meeting the people on the team who we’d be riding with. And — vanity alert — I really liked having a few people notice the writing on my legs and saying, "Oh, you must be the Fat Cyclist." Yep, I am now super-famous. Wealth can’t be far behind.
Since Microsoft earned more money (around $50K) for this event than other teams, we got to go off the starting line first, escorted by a group (Flock? Troop? Gaggle?) of Harley Davidsons. I followed the motorcycles with the group for a moment, but we were dropping behind, and it felt like we were going slow. So, along with Nick and an IronWoman named Heather, I jumped and caught up with the motorcycles.
Hey, Everyone! Follow Me!
We were the lead group! I was the lead rider! I am using too many exclamation points! I decided at that moment I would never let a single person pass me the whole day.
The three of us rode together for a bit, then the motorcycles stopped at the side of the road and we were on our own. I kept looking back, wondering how we had gapped everyone so badly, so quickly. Oh well, that was their problem; we were clearly the superior riders.
That’s when a guy on a motorcycle caught up with us and yelled, "You missed a turn! Go back!" I looked back and sure enough, hundreds of people were turning left way behind us.
Note to everybody in the entire universe: I am not the guy you want to ask directions from. I am not the guy you want to follow on a route. I am the guy who uses Mapquest to get to the grocery store.
We turned around and got back on course, now sorted about 100 back in the field. Alas, we’d never regain our
Road Rage, Writ Small
Apart from my boneheadedness at the beginning, we had no real trouble, with the exception of one confusing moment. About 25 miles into the ride we were going through a residential area when we came across a left arrow pointing us into the neighborhood.
I slowed down when I saw the sign; it didn’t look quite like a course marking. This put me near an older woman in a Cadillac at a stop sign, going in the opposite direction. She couldn’t tell where I was going because I didn’t know where I was going. I smiled apologetically at her as I figured it out, then yelled at people ahead of me to come back. The older woman powered down her window and said in a voice filled with a surprising amount of rage, "Bikes are supposed to follow the same rules as cars," she snarled.
I smiled, shrugged, and said "Anteeksi kun en osaa sinun kieltää" ("I’m sorry, but I don’t speak your language."). Knowing Finnish comes in handy sometimes (like, three times in my life so far).
Go Long? Or Go Short?
Nick and I had agreed to be flexible about whether we’d do the 75-mile route or the 100-mile route for Saturday (both of us had family commitments for Sunday so were doing just one day of this event), depending on the weather. Amazingly, the weather had turned out perfect for the day. Cool and breezy, but not a drop of rain.
So as we got to the point where we needed to go straight for the 75 mile course or turn right for the 100 mile course, I proposed we turn right.
"No," said Nick. "I feel as if I might have consumption."
"Be strong," I said. "We can do this. We are manly men, and 75 miles are as nothing to such as we." I thumped my chest, for good measure.
"I can’t," said Nick, sniveling now. "I feel a sinus headache coming on, and the atmospheric pressure is irritating my adenoids."
"I thought you were from Australia!" I was shouting now, full of righteous indignation. "You guys are supposed to be tough! You guys are supposed to eat armadillos and have kickboxing matches with kangaroos? Are you from some hitherto unknown nancy-boy part of Australia that nobody speaks about?"
Nick didn’t say a word in response to this. He just hung his head and went straight.
"Fine," I muttered, and followed after him. "Just so you know, I’m going to make up an entirely different conversation about why we did the 75-mile ride today."
Which is what you just read.
Beautiful Day, Beautiful Ride
To my amazement, by 11:00 am, the clouds had cleared and it was sunny. I had made what turned out to be the exact right clothing choices. Further, I was having a great day on the bike. I felt very strong; the short hills on the course were a blast to charge up and then zoom down. The course itself was gorgeous; I still haven’t gotten over the beauty of Northwest coastal forests and coastline.
Nick at Deception Point Bridge.
For most of the ride, we were surrounded by riders of about the same speed. With about 25 miles left to go, though, the 75-mile course merges with the 50-mile course and we were now with riders who don’t really consider themselves cyclists — these were people who cared about raising money to fight MS, and so were willing to get on a bike for a day, if that’s what it took. You’ve got to admire people who are willing to go out on a long ride like this. I imagine it’s as difficult for them to ride 50 miles on a bike as it is for me to paddle 50 miles in a kayak. But I didn’t see anyone complaining about it.
Huge props, in other words, to the people who were out there for a person or cause they cared about. I have to say, I enjoyed being part of this cause much more than I expected to be, and I’ll plan to do it again.
Pull & Be Damned
With about three miles left to go, we came across my very favorite street sign in the history of street signs: Pull & Be Damned Rd. Hey, it’s not just a street sign, it’s a riding philosophy. "Hey, Nick, I would have pulled more on today’s ride, but I just didn’t want to be damned."
Shouldn’t that be "Pull OR Be Damned?"
Just after Nick took this picture, one of the spokes on his rear wheel broke. The wheel went seriously out of true and Nick had to release the brake in order to ride the last few miles to the finish line. Nick says it’s lucky we did the 75-mile course or he would have had to ride with a broken spoke for 28 miles instead of just three. I maintain that if he would have ridden the 100-mile course the spoke wouldn’t have broken at all.
Anyway, Nick and I finished the ride — true to the spirit of the thing, I didn’t check my ride time or when we finished — feeling good, and were evidently two of the first ’softies (yeah, Microsoft employees call themselves "softies," isn’t that sad?") across the line.
I suspect that the fact that we didn’t have to do another 75 mile ride the next morning had something to do with it.
Today’s weight: 168.2. For lunch the day before the ride, my old work team bought be a "go away, fatty" lunch (Malaysian). Then my wife and I went to dinner (Mexican, natch) that night. After the ride, Nick and I had big greasy burgers and fries. Yesterday, I ate nonstop. Gee, I wonder where that weight gain over the weekend came from?