Last week, 20 of us left Minneapolis and bound for Chicago on nothin but 2 wheels and a comfy seat (or not so comfy in some people’s cases).
I’m not going to lie, I honestly believed the 503 mile trip was going to be relatively easy. Okay maybe not easy, but very doable, ridiculously fun and I’d probably take lots of cool pictures of things we’d see along the way (for anyone who’s done a bike tour before you are probably laughing your head off right now). I mean, I’m athletic, I’d been riding my bike at least 4 times a week for several months (mind you I’d really just began road biking in March…4 months earlier), I’d done a triathlon the previous fall (the first time I’d ridden 18 miles consecutively in my life mind you) and I knew we’d be stopping every 20-30 miles for a snack and water break. Not too mention we were riding in the Midwest, quite possibly the flattest area in the world, right? What was the big deal??
Well let’s start with the lesson I learned day one, 50+ miles in to a 70+ mile day. After lunch I lead our pace line, cruising around 20 mph and loving the wind in my face, the amazing pace and the fun rolling hills (turns out the Midwest isn’t flat, at all…come to think of it I can’t even get out of my neighborhood without hitting a hill…I have no idea why I didn’t think of this earlier). Around mile 50ish, I was in the back of the pace line doing 30% less effort than the lead and suddenly we came along a long rolling hill and my back started spasming. Like, my entire lower back was convulsing (it was like there was an alien trying to push out my skin). Needless to say, I was not going to make it up that hill without stopping. I was stunned. What on earth was wrong with me? I mean, I’d done two 47 mile rides before this trip! So I convince Eric, the guy in front of me, that I was going to just stop and wait for sweep (the last two riders who made sure no one got left behind and helped with flats and that sort of thing) knowing I couldn’t keep up that pace any more cause my back was killing me.
I laid down in the grassy field, thanking God for a beautiful place to rest until I could join the end of the pack. Needless to say, I scared 2 passer-biers to death leading them to believe I had died on the side of the road (I’m not joking. I opened my eyes to a pale-faced man running towards me convinced I had died. I apologized profusely and suppressed my laughter since he was clearly in duress.). Two friends came back from the front group and convinced me to go ahead with them and not wait for sweep and that they would stop with me whenever I needed to stretch. Lessons from day 1: don’t lie down in a ditch on the side of a road and 2: true friends will not only come back and get you, but also go at your pace so you don’t go alone (on the bike…and in life).