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Recently, I asserted — using both convincing rhetoric and unassailable fact — that I am the best cyclist in the world. I stand by that claim.
And yet. And yet.
I — yes, even I! — have a chink in my cycling armor. And it is this: the final five miles of a ride.
Five Miles May or May Not Be Five Miles
By “the final five miles of a ride,” I don’t actually necessarily mean the exact final five miles of a ride. It could be the last two miles of a mountain bike ride. Or it could be the last ten miles of a 100-mile road ride.
The final five miles is really just my way of giving a number to the last part of a ride, where I’ve stopped thinking about — and enjoying — the ride itself and have begun thinking about getting off my bike and being done with it for the day.
Oh sure, every ride invariably starts out great. I begin with enthusiasm, thinking of getting away from the real world for a few minutes (hours, whatever). I then settle into the ride, happy as a clam (and make no mistake: clams are very happy indeed).
But then, around five miles before the end of the ride, something changes.
I no longer am thinking of the ride. I no longer am looking at the rocks and bugs and trees and the top tube and The Hammer’s butt and pavement and / or dirt and stuff.
Now I am thinking of getting off my bike.
What I am Thinking Of
So, if I’m not thinking of the ride, what am I now thinking of? Well, a variety of things:
- Food: Really, this is the most obvious one. Generally, I will start with an inkling: “I would like some food.” I’ll then probe around that inkling, trying to figure out what kind of food sounds good. “Salty. Cheesy. Some kind of tomato sauce. Big.” I will then go through my mental database of foods that satisfy the criteria I have set: “Enchilada — no. Ravioli — no. Omelette — no. Spaghetti — no. Carne asada burrito — yes.
- Getting out of bike clothes: For some reason, I seem to expand during bike rides. Seriously, I do. It’s measurable. I inflate by up to 10%. So by the time I near the finish of a ride, the jersey that barely fit me at the beginning of the ride is starting to cut off the circulation to my spare tire. Or, it’s also possible that I’ve reached the maximum amount of time I can hold my stomach in. Regardless, as I get into that final five miles, I’m starting to get really excited about getting out of my jersey and shorts. Not excited enough to start early, though. Fortunately for everyone.
- A shower: By and large, I am a leave-it-as-is kind of person, plumbing and faucet-wise. However, I have installed a particular showerhead that magically gives my shower enough force to cut through aluminum and other soft metals. It is wonderful beyond belief. So while I definitely think about showering when I near the end of a ride, I should probably also confess that I think about showering during a lot of the rest of my life, too.
The Tragedy of The Final Five Miles
But you know, to be honest, it’s not so much that I’m thinking about something that I’ll do after the ride itself. I’m just thinking about the end of the ride.
Yes, I am, somehow, looking forward to the end of the thing that I have been looking forward to the beginning of for the whole rest of the day.
Yes, I astonish myself with my own foolishness.
Especially since, within a couple hours, I’ll be back to thinking about the next ride.