I admit, I very nearly bailed out of riding the RAWROD â€˜05. The embarassment was almost too much to take. Consider: when I moved away from Utah 1.3 years ago, I weighted 158lbs. Now Iâ€™m 30lbs. heavier. When I left, I was one of the fast guys; now it would be questionable whether Iâ€™d even be capable of finishing the ride/race (technically, it was just a friendly ride. In reality, any time you have more than a few people in a riding group, at least some of them think itâ€™s a race).
And I was fairly confident at least a few of my old biking friends would try to jiggle my belly.
Still, I had bought the plane tickets, arranged for Rick Maddox to loan me a bike, had reserved a hotel room, and had professed enthusiasm for the ride. No backing out now.
Well, actually, I guess I could have bailed out. After all, Doug bailed out. Rick bailed out. Chucky bailed out. And none of them had better reasons than I. Maybe theyâ€™ve become fat, too.
Kenny Jones â€” who put this massive group ride-cum-massive event together, picked me up at the airport; he looks like he does nothing but ride his bike and shave his head. We made our way to Moab. It was rainy, windy, and cold. Moabâ€™s not usually like that. I began to wish I had stayed home.
Iâ€™m one of very few people who had planned to stay in a hotel room. I was ridiculed and scoffed at for not camping, but I smirked (choking back the tears), noting that it was â€” as just noted â€” rainy, cold, and windy. I went to my hotel room, got all my junk ready, and played Ridge Racer on my PSP for a couple hours. If someone had taken my picture for the newspaper at that moment, the caption would have been, â€œFat loser nerd, alone in hotel room. Self-perception as endurance cyclist very questionable.â€
Beginning The Ride
During the night, the wind died down, so it was no longer windy when we started the ride. Still plenty rainy and cold, though. The plan was to get going at 6:30AM. Around 7:00AM, we started going. Not bad for such a big group. Thinking how long it would take for this crew to regroup and get going at various stopping points, I loaded myself with enough food and water that I figured I could do the whole day with one stop, max.
I should note that while I was clearly having serious doubts internally about this ride, I wasnâ€™t saying anything bad about it. Kenny looked too excited; I didnâ€™t want to bring him down. One guy, though, who did look a little nervous about this ride was Ryan Benson. Heâ€™s proud to be â€œAmericaâ€™s Biggest Loserâ€ â€” in other words, he won a reality show series for losing more weight than anyone else. Still, losing weight is one thing. A ten-hour mountain bike ride is something else altogether. â€œIâ€™m giving you a â€˜good-time guarantee,â€™â€ I said, having no idea whether heâ€™d actually have a good time or not.
We started down Horse Thief at the beginning of the ride, which meant several miles of well-graded rolling dirt road, averaging slightly downhill. By the time we got to the bottom of Horse Thief, the rain had stopped. And, finally, I had stopped thinking about how far Iâ€™ve sunk and started noticing that I do, in fact, love to ride my bike. I mean, I really, really, really love it. So Iâ€™m slow. So what.
I picked aÂ flower, put it in my shoulder strapÂ â€“ closest thing I had to a lapel â€“Â andÂ decided that I was going to have a good day.