Thursday, September 27, 2007
I say to Gertrude: "Simon says... go put your pajamas on!"
And she fricking does it!
How long can I make this work?
The other night, she was in the bathtub fooling around as usual. I told her to please wash her hair. She said no. I told her, "Simon says, put some shampoo on your hand..."
She grabbed the shampoo bottle and happily squeezed some into her hand.
"Now scrub it into your hair!"
She paused, grinning, looking at me expectantly.
"Simon says scrub it into your hair!" I amended. She proceeded to scrub happily.
"Simon says..." I began. Gert sat there, with her head full of bubbles and her soapy hands held out in front of her, waiting for instructions.
I said, "... lick your hands!"
Gert's eyes got big and wide.
"I'M KIDDING!" I said.
I know. It was mean. But it was funny.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
It was funny how his expression seemed to change depending on the situation. On the ride Saturday, he’d be looking up at me with eyes that sometimes confidently urged me on, occasionally wondered how we were going to make it, at one point pleaded for it to be over, and then proudly shined with triumph.
The night before, he and I both looked a little like this:
Over a few of these at dinner, our entire team decided to take the 40 mile loop on Sunday. After all, we’d done the work. We’d raised our funds. We’d ridden like banshees all day long. For crying out loud, we’d earned the easier ride.
Breakfast was being served at the start again, but the Waffle House behind our hotel was calling us. I wanted to want waffles. Instead, I wanted the peanut butter sandwich I knew I wasn’t going to get. Anything else was promising to sit in my nervous stomach like antimatter.
I looked around at the handful of other cyclists sitting at the counter and in booths, us all in our brightly colored team jerseys and lycra shorts. I was wearing the uniform. I was in the club. Cool.
It was a beautiful morning, and we took off following the green 40-mile arrows up a smooth incline. Wheelie beamed. I pedaled. We were in perfect synch with the bike, the scenery, and the road.
And at the first rest stop... peanut butter sandwiches!
I elbowed Gary. “Let’s do this route twice!”
I was feeling good. The kind of good you feel when nothing hurts and you have nowhere else to be.
I was riding along behind Gary and another team member, feeling fantastic and full of energy, and then it occurred to me. I always rode behind anyone I was riding with. Always! Even if I felt like pulling ahead, I’d say behind.
Because apparently, I was a sheep on wheels.
With that, I stood up in the pedals and pulled past Gary and Jon, sailing over the crest of a slight hill and then down a long and fairly steep descent. I ducked down into the drops and felt the wind from the speed wash over me, so loud I couldn’t hear anything but the rush of air.
I didn’t touch my brakes. I didn’t think about what would happen if I hit an acorn or a hole in the road. (Or an armadillo.) I went with it the entire way down.
Wheelie grinned up at me with a slightly dazed and blissed out look. Yes. We were officially hooked on speed.
After that, the uphills didn’t phase me as much because there was usually a downhill to look forward to. When it got tough, I bargained with myself just to stay on the bike as long as I could before I walked.
I didn’t have to walk that often, but near the end it became clear I was reaching a limit. I started looking for the please-make-this-easier gear, and then soon, the Jesus-stop-the-madness gear.
Look, said my legs after a particularly heinous climb. We’re not sure you’re completely understanding our situation here.
I ignored them, and on we went.
I found myself making mental lists to keep my mind off the fact that I’d been on the bike for about 8 hours over the past two days.
One: The human body is not a perfect machine. There are going to be peaks and valleys of energy, and you have to keep pedaling through one to get to the other.
Two: There’s no point worrying how fast you should be going or how well you should be able to climb a hill.
Three: Lip gloss is nature’s gnat magnet.
Before long, we were at the finish line. People cheered and held out medals. I reached out and snagged mine as I rode past, and held it up in the air, total cheeseball style. Wheelie’s eyes were brimming with emotion. I actually think he was proud of us.
We ate a bratwurst and headed home, all stinky and unshowered, to pick up the kids.
If you’d asked me at the finish line if I was planning to do anything like this again, I would have said hell no. But now? Absolutely I will. It’s kind of like childbirth. The memory of the sucky parts doesn’t stick around too long. All you’re left with is the good stuff.
You wouldn’t believe how great my ride was yesterday.
Monday, September 17, 2007
At about 45 miles, I called up to Gary, "Okay, hold on a minute. I need to stop and gnaw on my own arm."
"You think I'm joking."
I kept promising myself that lunch had to be just over this hill. Okay, maybe this one. Or not.
Finally, after 50 miles, the rest stop that was serving lunch drew into view. It was a thing of beauty. Huge tents of tables. Shady grass laid with blankets. Volunteers handing out roast beef and turkey sandwiches, chips, and cookies. Hundreds of tired people relaxing, laughing, chatting, and listening to music.
I gladly accepted a bagged lunch from a volunteer and sat down with my team. "Good thing it's lunchtime, I'm starving!" I said.
Only suddenly, I wasn't. I stared down at my perfectly appetizing sandwich and chips, and it stared back at me. For some reason, the thought of putting food anywhere near my stomach made me want to hurl.
I did feel slightly better as I moved on to the turkey, but nothing even vaguely resembling hunger ever resurfaced. Not then, and not later. That would turn out to be a problem.
I choked down as much as I could and then stretched for a while as we waited for the rest of our team to finish up. With only 25 miles left to go, it was easy to feel like we had the day beat. This was officially my longest ride ever, and by far the most challenging.
Gary spent the next several miles flying up (yes, up) hills at breakneck speed as I chugged along at a steady but conservative pace.
"Too bad you got taken out on that hill," he commented, soft-pedaling alongside me. "You've seemed a lot more sluggish since then."
As soon as he said it, it occurred to me why. I hadn't shifted out of my small chain ring in over 30 miles. No wonder I always seemed to have fewer gears than I thought on the tough climbs.
Okay, it was time to get serious. Time to start acting like I knew what I was doing.
Mile 63 was where something seemed to switch. I was no longer riding along as part of a team. It was me, just me, against this evil, hilly bastard of a road.
My awareness closed in like a funnel, almost to a pinprick of intensity, where my breathing sounded loud in my own ears and my sight was always focused on the point just beyond the crest of the next hill.
Remember the killer hills at the start of the course? Yeah, now we were going back up the other side of every last one of them.
I pedaled. I breathed. I bargained with my legs to give a little more. That was all I needed, just a bit, just something, anything. Anything at all! And they argued back that I'd already taken them for all they were worth. So... sorry, but I was on my own.
We stopped off at the last rest area before the finish. I would have rather done anything but eat, which was unfortunately the one thing I needed to do most. And they had ice cream sandwiches! But I couldn’t do it. I managed to get down Cliff Shot and some Disney Princess fruit snacks.
Running on fumes, but still under my own power, the finish line appeared up ahead. Gary motioned me ahead so I could cross first, and then he pulled in alongside me.
Crowds were cheering. Riders were celebrating. 75 miles? Done! And now, free beer.
Up next: Well, it’s not like we HAVE to kill ourselves...
Friday, September 14, 2007
Highpoint Hill is true to its name, although I took to calling it Highlander Hill and muttering threateningly to people, "There can be only one!" for added drama as we drew closer to it.
But hell, it was just another hill. And I had plenty of gears.
By this point I was hitting my stride and was starting to take the route personally. I was going to kill this thing. I started up Highpoint with good momentum and started passing people. I stood up. I climbed. About two-thirds of the way up there was bit of a break before it pitched pretty much straight up, and at that point I knew I was going to make it. There was no question. This hill was mine.
I moved over to the left of the riders in front of me and called out that I was passing, preparing to launch up the side of this hill with everything I had. And then, one of those riders started to weave right into my path. I saw his knee jerk out and his handlebars twist.
I knew what was coming. I'd seen this before. I'd done this before. He couldn't get his shoe unclipped fast enough to catch himself, and he was going down.
His bike collided with my front tire, and we both hit the pavement.
You all know how routine falling over has become for me. It seems to happen in slow motion, in three distinct stages that my brain helpfully narrates for me. "Hey, look!" says my brain. "We're falling over. First we'll unclip." Click-click! go my cleats. "Now, we'll land on our side." Wham! "And now, our head will bounce heavily on the pavement like a bowling ball!" THUNK-thunk-thunk-thunk.
Lots of colorful metaphors exploded like sparklers in my head, and many of them probably escaped without my notice.
And then, the guy riding behind me landed on top of me, too. Frick!
Aside from a few scrapes, Pearl and I were uninjured. I disentangled myself from the carnage and pulled her to the side of the road. Oh man, I was pissed. Pissed! There was no good way up the rest of this hill now. I didn't want to walk. But I couldn't ride. Aside from having no momentum, I was a bit shaky from the crash adrenaline. Rather than be a hazard to the rest of the throng, I reluctantly joined the other walkers plodding miserably up the hill beside their bikes.
Mary from our team rode past me and asked if I was all right. Yes! But pissed! She looked confused, and I realized she probably hadn't seen the crash, she just assumed I'd tanked on the hill like everyone else. The injustice of that made me even more pissed.
By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was fuming. By the time I met up with my husband again at the next rest stop, I gladly let loose of a string of profanities that I believe called into question the parentage, legitimacy, cleanliness, and mating habits of at least three species of mammal.
Mary brought it all into perspective: "So HOW many men ended up on top of you?"
A trip to the medic tent properly fueled my need for drama:
Up next: The finish line, and other legal intoxicants!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
No matter. I could do this. I would have liked a little more warm-up, but I'm a big girl. I downshifted and pretty much kept the pace to the top.
And I was feeling pretty good about myself, too, as I crested that first hill, and saw… another hill.
Okay. I coasted downhill for a bit, shifted a few times midway up, really powered through that last bit to the top.
And then. Another hill. A big one.
Um. Are you shitting me?
The gap in our team was widening, with Gary and the other alpha cyclists speeding up ahead and me and the rest doing whatever we could.
At the top of the fourth or fifth major hill, I stopped for a breather. There was a small cluster of people doing the same. Some were leaning over their bikes and wheezing. One fellow proclaimed that he was quitting and seemed ready to walk away and leave his bike lying by the side of the road.
High-Maintenance Jenny sped past me with her team of bright, shiny sorority girls in cute, little bike shorts. I sighed and very attractively wiped sweat out of my eye with the palm of my glove.
Still, it wasn't too bad. Gary stopped to wait for me at the top of most hills. Lots of riders began walking up, and I was proud of the fact that I was able to keep pedaling, even when standing in the pedals and forcing all my weight down with each stroke barely seemed to propel the bike onward by a few inches. My energy surged on the descents and rebounded quickly after most of the big efforts.
About ten miles in, we were stopped by a wreck up ahead. Rumor trickled back through the crowd that it was an asthma attack. Then someone else fell over while waiting for the ambulance to get through. (It wasn't me!)
As we maneuvered around the sag van parked on a particularly nasty incline, I caught a glimpse of unmistakable blonde pony-tail sitting in a ditch with her arm held by a medic who was saying to his colleague, "... fractured collarbone."
The whole route was hills. Not the "mostly flat with a few moderate, rolling hills" we'd been promised. These were seriously challenging climbs, one right after the other.
And apparently, the worst was yet to come.
Prior to the ride, we'd received an email full of safety do's and don'ts. Do wear your helmet. Do signal with turning. Do not ride more than two breast in the lanes. And ominously, in all caps, a dire warning: "DO NOT attempt to ride up Highpoint Hill unless you are well-trained and experienced!"
If you didn't see that foreshadowing from a mile away, I can't help you.
Up next: Dominos!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
We got in to Columbia Friday night, hours later than expected thanks to some freak rain and a pile of accidents on the interstate right in front of us. I talked to Mary from our team and told her we'd see everyone in the morning. Team pictures were scheduled for 7, so we set our alarm for 5:45, figuring that would give us plenty of time to get our gear sorted out and head down to the main grounds.
Fifteen minutes later, Mary pounded on our door. I think I opened it still blinking and with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. They'd decided (and neglected to tell us) to meet in the hotel parking lot at 6. It's 6! Let's go!
So we hastily grabbed helmets, gloves, nutrition, shoes, water bottles, cell phones, and – oh, yeah – bikes, and everything else we could think of without the use of our caffeine-dependent brains and tried to pretend like we'd been awake for hours.
We entered a line of cars at least a mile long queuing up to park on the grass beside the expo center where tents were set up to house food, medics, bike mechanics, and team meetings. The chill air was damp and tingly, and I began to get a nervous fluttering in my stomach.
We walked our bikes down the wet, grassy hill toward the food tent for breakfast, which was an egg on a tortilla, a very frightening link of sausage, and a scoop of cheesy potatoes.
I very much wanted my usual pre-ride peanut butter sandwich.
The anxiousness inside my stomach wrapped itself around that slippery sausage link and formed itself into a hard knot that refused to budge.
I found the coffee tent. Coffee helped. This was normal, warm, reassuring, familiar. I could feel my equilibrium seeping back.
Walking our bikes to the start line, Pearl seemed to roll weightlessly along next to me, as if she were moving on her own. She was ready for this. Her tires were gripping the gravel drive as if they already knew what to do and where to go. My gloved hands fell naturally into place on her handlebars.
I overheard snippets of conversations from other teams along the way. One group of girls had gathered by the port-a-potties and were loudly teasing one of their own:
"Oh, that's right! It's High-Maintenance Jenny! Did you get all your make-up on this morning? Is every hair in place?"
The blonde with the hairsprayed ponytail perking out beneath her helmet and the impeccably applied make-up laughed through perfect teeth. I felt a flicker of irrational envy, but quickly put it aside. Everyone here was wearing padded bike shorts, the great fashion equalizer. What exactly was she trying to prove?
Cyclists were streaming, literally pouring out in groups, from the start line onto the rural road in the directions of the marked routes. The 40-mile loop started in one direction, and the 75- and 100-mile routes took off in another. Our 75-mile route was marked with a green arrow.
Okay. We straddled our bikes. Okay!
Out into the stream of cyclists, out into the road, matching the pace of a group that quickly broke into those moving slower and faster. It was nice and even and smooth. I clipped in and we rode over a smooth incline, through a few intersections, more or less staying together as a team.
And then, I think we crossed over into Hell.
Up next: "Rolling hills???"
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Wheelie shows off his medal!
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.
While I catch up on work, you can view photos if you so choose!
We had great weather and the ride was beautiful even though the hills were killer. I wish I'd taken more pictures. But I am glad I didn't take my camera with me because it would have surely been destroyed in the Highpoint Hill collision.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Wheelie the Cycling Weasel, ready to ride!
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.
See you in 150 miles!
Wheelie is going to be riding along with me in honor of all his adopted brothers and sisters who helped support our ride. (Hi, guys!)
I can almost guarantee you I'll fall over at least twice this weekend. It's kind of become my thing.