miles and miles from somewhere

June 10 had arrived.  I awoke with apprehension.  Had I packed everything I needed?  Would the weather hold?  Would my legs hold?  Would I make it back in time to play?  And probably most important, would they have coffee? 

It was time for the Tour de Cure; an annual ride that raises money for the American Diabetes Association.  This was the second year I was riding and a few things were different.  For starters, the event had moved from Mendon Ponds to RIT.  This meant most of the non-cycling activities would be indoors and probably most importantly, there are parking lots.  In addition, for some reason, in what I can only call a moment of insanity, I had volunteered our band, Sinzibukwud, to be one of the groups providing entertainment at the event.  This meant I needed to ride and play. 

The ride started at 7:30 AM, the band was set to play at 2:30 PM.  I had done the calculations in my head for two weeks.  16 mph average would net me 100 miles in a touch over 6 hours with no stops.  17 mph would get me 100 in just under 6 hours.  In fact, I had a spreadsheet.

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So really, if we left right at 7:30 and I rode 17 mph average, I could be back by 1:30 which would give me one hour to recover, change, eat, and set up my drums and play.  So I had that in mind.

Over the last month, I had been raising money for the event by asking my friends and coworkers to donate money to theADA.  My offer was to ride 1 mile for every $5 which would give me 100 miles at a goal of $500.  I named the miles after the donators so at this moment, I will walk you through the ride, mile by mile, donation by donation with as many memories as I can muster before they disappear into the ether of my mind.

The ride started with a nice four-mile jaunt along Bischoff Boulevard.  We had been treated to a great live version of the national anthem and were ceremonially led out by the Red Riders (riders with Diabetes).  We circled part of campus before heading out to the road chuckling to ourselves.  The announcer had reminded us that we needed to be mindful of vehicles and ride only two abreast, but as we rolled out, we were five and six people across taking up the entire right lane.  We all knew that wouldn’t last long and the Police at the intersections knew that too as they let us roll by with waves and shouts of encouragement.  The next four miles were some nice rolling short hills that the map called Zielinski Whitewater Way.  I’m not sure where that name came from by I stayed alert and kept pedaling as groups started to form.  Within the first ten miles you can sort of feel out who is going to ride hammer down (really hard) from the start, who is planning on spending the entire day in the saddle, and all those in between.  I still wasn’t sure where I fit in.  Fortunately we came up to Sample Street that was a five-mile section with a downhill grade and some nice flat sections.  I looked for my fellow team members in their Xerox International Cycling Team jerseys.  Want a unique way to network with coworkers?  Try introducing yourself while you pass someone at 22 mph on the flat.  I think his name was Keith or Kevin, but I guess it could just as easily have been Howard.  He was riding a recumbent bike and had ridden the last 7 highlander rides (I had done the last three) on that recumbent bike.  I’ve never ridden one of those things but all I know is it took all of my strength standing and mashing on those pedals to make it up some of the hills in the highlander so I figured this was a strong guy to ride along side.  We continued on to Lynch Lane and at some point during that stretch I started paging through my odometer.  I knew I needed to be somewhere around mile 16 by 8:30 but had told myself I would only check the total miles once an hour.  At the first check, I was at 13.7.  That meant, I needed to make up some time.  A quick mental note observed that we didn’t exactly start right at 7:30 so I was probably doing just fine but by the time we climbed the hill into Avon after turning onto Kent Hill Road, I had moved on from my new friend to stop at the first rest area. 

The rest areas at these events are phenomenal.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever gone on a solo ride but here are a few things you have to do.  You pack your pockets full of energy gels, snacks, sandwiches and water bottles.  If you are alone, you really have to plan your stops.  Where will I buy more water?  How will I walk in to a store and still see my bike?  What if I need to relieve myself?  Well on one of these rides, you don’t have to worry about much of that.  At every stop they have water, Gatorade, bathrooms, sandwiches, bananas, pretzels, apples, and energy bars.  That left my three back jersey pockets free to hold my cell phone (cozy in it’s plastic bag), contact eye drops, sunscreen (to reapply at least once so my skin would not protest), and my energy gels. 

I skipped the first rest stop and may have skipped the second too, at this point; I needed to refill the bottles so it was a quick hop off the bike, refill, back on and heading back downhill.

I had caught up with a few other Xerox team members who were ahead of me but were at the rest stop a bit longer.  We road through some of my favorite rolling hills through Avon including a nice five mile stretch on Korvin Way, two miles on DiPiazza Drive and a fast down hill on Adas Avenue

Another hour had gone by and I was now at 32 miles.  That meant I had made up some time from the first hour but was going to be pushing it to get back by my goal time.  I was still with two Xerox comrades and was happy to sit behind them to catch a bit of a break from the breeze.  Both are stronger riders so there’s really no shame in sitting back.  If only they were a little wider, they could have blocked more wind.  The five mile stretch of Burkin Boulevard produced my first real decision point.  Well actually my second.  Earlier in the ride I had the option to pull off the 100 mile route onto the 62 miler (metric century since it is 100 km), but that was so early in the ride I had yet to do my calculations.  At the end of Burkin Boulevard I would have to decide if I wanted to circleConesusLake or skip it.  Circling it would guarantee I would finish with 100 miles, skipping it would virtually (barring flats, bonking or other mishaps) guarantee I would finish with time to recover before we played.  At this point in the narrative, I submit to you the one act play of my brain talking to itself.

Aaron’s Brain:  Actually, what you need to do is use the length of the slide and the height of the slide platform to calculate how far out you’ll need to place the landing zone for that playground in the back.  When are you planning to order rubber mats for that thing anyway?  Oh, hey, I don’t want to interrupt your thought process here but you might want to think about skipping the lake up there.  You know how far we’ve gone?  About 37 miles, you realize that means you have 63 to go right?  And how are we feeling?  Legs good?  Feet okay?  Hands?  And how’s that butt doing?  Still comfy on that seat?  I didn’t think so.  Imagine another 63 miles of that, pal.  You want to do that to yourself?  Don’t forget, you still have to sit on your drum throne and move your arms and legs in rhythm when you get back.  Okay, here’s what you should do, you skip the lake, check the time when you get back and you can circle campus a few times to finish the 100.  Deal?  Good, now can I get back to my calculations?  Thanks.  (End scene)

It’s scary in there sometimes, but I think you got the idea.  I peeled off to the right as a group of riders went straight ahead to circle the lake.  I rode into Lakeville and stopped at the fire hall rest stop to refresh my drinks and sunscreen.  Every one that was there looked at me when I rode up.  “Hey, you’re the first one here, you must be really fast!”  “How come you came in from that direction?”  I had to explain my predicament.  I needed to finish the ride in enough time to play and was skipping the lake and there would be plenty of riders behind me that were happy to eat the subs but it was only 9:30 and I just wasn’t quite ready for turkey thank you though and you guys are great to be here helping and where is the bathroom and is this Gatorade and okay, I’m off.

Riley Road wasn’t any fun but I can’t blame Doyle for that.  Last years route gave us a nice long down hill to Lakeville and we were heading in the opposite direction this time which meant a nice, long uphill out of town.   I was alone now, no other riders in site.  They were all, including the fast guys who were way ahead, still circling the lake.  Either that or they had skipped the rest area and there wasn’t anyway I was catching anyone anyway.  So I settled into a rhythm and just started pedaling and thinking.  I’m not going to share what I was thinking because honestly I don’t recall other than “keep pedaling, you should have a gel, drink some water, remember that one time when you were riding the other way and a bug flew in your mouth, that was funny.” 

Phelps Avenue was a nice mix of hills.  I say nice because don’t forget, if you go up, you also get to go down.  I hit my top speed on one of these hills and probably could have gone faster if there wasn’t a stop sign at the bottom (I slowed down in an appropriate amount of time, no need to leave half my tire on the pavement).  

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  Not the fastest I’ve ever gone but still fun!

As I looked ahead before turning onto Stoll Street, I saw more riders.  I had met up with the metric century riders which meant I would no longer be alone with my thoughts.  Meeting up with other riders can be both good and bad, at this point, I was hitting mile 47 and 48 and approaching 50 while they were somewhere around 20.  I’m not quite sure what that means but the thought went through my head during a quick rest stop, only refilling water and eating a banana, then it was through Geneseo, down Ross Road, a quick turn onto Kovnat Drive, and a sweep right to Renault Way.  

The next few sections were a bit of a blur.  I usually hit a mental wall somewhere between 55 and 65 miles.  At that point, if you told me you would give me a ride back to the start, I’d hop off the bike and jump in your car.  If you told me I had to continue, I’d nod and keep going.  It’s always a weird section of any trip.  There is this point where you don’t think you can go on, but you know that if you can get past that point, you’ll be fine.  I’m sure runners hit that mark in marathons somewhere near miles 17 and 18.  I am not a runner.  On the occasion that I do a 5K, I hit that point between miles 1 and 2.  So yeah, not a runner. 

Weitzel Street made me sit up and exercise good riding position which included a fortunate stop at a fire hall in York for what would be my final stop.  This was at mile 76 for those who rode the lake or mile 61 for me.  Either way, 24 miles to go and I had found two pacers.  Soon after pulling away from the rest stop, two guys passed me wearing Genesee Beer jerseys.  I sped up a bit to see if I could stay with them and I could.  Now I had company.  I called a few “car backs” out to them so they knew I was sticking around and just rode third wheel.  Now I was watching the clock.  Candidori Avenue gave way to Palmer Hill which led to Werzinger Street and Blair Boulevard.  I had no idea we would ride down so many boulevards but there we were anyway.  I started checking my average speed.  I was at 17 mph.  Okay, now we can calculate again.  17 puts me at just under 6 hours, I have stopped four times I think, each for just a few minutes, that means when I get back, probably two circles of campus and I’ll have my century.

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 My new odometer gives me average speed which is nice so I don’t have to calculate it in my head. 

The only issue at the time was I had no clear idea how much further I really had to go.  I had estimated the lake was 15 to 20 miles around and my cue sheets had long ago been rendered useless due to some sort of dampness the source or which has yet to be confirmed.  So now I was just hanging on to the end.  We rode through a few more towns, skipped the last rest stop, rode through an impromptu misting station set up by some nice kids with a hose and as the temperature climbed to 92, we stumbled upon Blaber Hill.  

Over the course of the day, the temperature steadily climbed.  When I told people later that I rode this past Sunday the response was always, “oh man, it was so hot that day, how did you survive?”  The nice thing was, we started early and got a lot of the riding out of the way before the heat really kicked in.  I really only felt the heat when I stopped at a rest area, stop light, or when my speed dropped going up a hill and I felt it climbing those last few hills.  One of my fellow travelers announced, “Four hills to go” and they started.  

At this point, four separate routes had converged into one.  The century ride, the metric century, the 40 mile and 25 mile rides were all together.  We were passing families with kids on little bikes, people on mountain bikes and hybrids, all pedaling to the finish.  It was a moving parade of sweaty, tired people.  As I turned onto Miner Way with a few short miles to go I noticed a few things.

1.  it was windy

2.  the campus seemed a bit less flat then I recalled when we left

3.  I was rather tired

So I did what any sane person would do, I crossed the finish line.  85 miles complete, in less than 5 hours, and I was heading to my car at 12:45 with plenty of time to change, clean up, eat lunch, drink some water and relax before setting up the drums and playing a 1 ½ hour set of tunes for my fellow fund raising riders.

“What?  Only 85 miles?  Quitter!  What’s the matter with you?  You promised 100 miles!  I want you to finish!”  Relax, I had no intention of leaving it at 85.  We played a full set much to the delight of several kids who danced with balloons while their parents sat and smiled.  Most of the riders were getting ready to leave, just getting back from their rides or having lunch while we played.  I was done, toast, finished.  At one point I stood up between songs just to give my legs and butt a rest.  I struggled through one song where I had to hit high notes.  You would think that spending 5 hours in bike shorts would help you hit the high notes.  You would be incorrect. 

Now, let’s skip ahead a few days shall we?  On my birthday, I countered a lousy trip to the dentist and a decent (but not overly exciting) meeting by taking a half day and hopping on my bike as soon as I got home.  After all, I needed to finish.  So it was that a quick cadence ride on Marks Drive, Feliz Avenue, Maslin Circle, and Trombley Trail found a quick 15 miles to complete my century ride.

Image 100 miles 

Image   5 hours and 50 minutes

So what have we learned from this experience?  Get out as early as you can and find a few good pace setters.  The more you stop, the slower you’ll be (seems logical right?).  Don’t try to do too much in the same day.  Always wear a helmet.  You know what? I’m not sure we really learned anything from this experience.  Next year, we’ll just leave the band out of it; I’m riding the full 100 and will beat that time!

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One Response to “miles and miles from somewhere”

  1. Jennifer Gaughan Says:

    You ROCK!

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