Did it — I’ve biked my age in miles, and a bit more! Last Saturday’s training ride, starting and ending in Half Moon Bay and hugging the coast on Route 1 and swinging inland through farms and some rather gnarly ascents, went for 53.1 miles. And no, I didn’t bike around the parking lot at the end for that last 0.1 mile! (Though I probably would’ve if I’d entered the lot at 52.9 mi.)
There seemed to be a headwind for the entire ride, which I know doesn’t really make sense — given that our course was pretty much circular — unless you think of the wind as pursuing a personal vendetta against our cycle team, which I do. The scenery — especially along the ocean — was beautiful, though in my case the experience of beauty while cycling comes through a filter of lactic-acid pain: let’s say it was beauctical.
The coach of my sub-group (we are the slowest cyclists) is a legendary rider whose name is Susie — but, perhaps because half of the coaches and mentors happen to be named Sue, she goes by “the Bumpster.” The Bumpster is relentlessly, charmingly, impossibly cheerful. I think this is because the Bumpster is an incredibly sweet person, but her unfailing high spirits can seem, well, bizarre in the context of the extreme discomfort most of us are experiencing. “You’re doin’ great, sweetie!” the Bumpster will call out as you strain to inch up a ridiculous incline. The truth is, she is doing great: the Bumpster, who is older than me and exudes a grandmotherly vibe, is renowned for all the tough courses (with names like “Death Ride”) that she has repeatedly conquered. The Bumpster never stops; the Bumpster never falters. However, I must say: the Bumpster lies. Yes! I’ve noted a sneaky tendency on her part to make a claim that, say, the toughest hills of a course are behind us when, in fact, much tougher hills are ahead of us — as she well knows, having cheerfully ridden over all these hills many times before. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. After the 53.1-mile ride on Saturday, I heard the Bumpster talking to some coaches about a ride they were going to take the next day. “It’ll be easy,” she was assuring them — “just a nice, little 40-mile ride.” The other coaches rolled their eyes as she walked away; one of them explained to me that the Bumpster habitually understates the length and difficulty of the rides she leads: “little,” “easy” jaunts turn out to be quite challenging.
After we’d gone 40 miles or so, the Bumpster informed us that we’d already ascended about as much as we were going to climb over the entire Solvang Century in March. And just as I was allowing myself to relax into a small sense of accomplishment, she told me that I should join the quicker group ahead of us for the remainder of the ride, which was going to be taking a longer, and hillier, route back than our own group. “Really?” I said. I was shocked. Smiling (as always), the Bumpster said, “You have it in you.” And instinctively I realized: when the Bumpster tells you to do something, you do it. Because when it comes to endurance cycling, the Bumpster knows. Ask anyone who’s ridden with her, and they’ll tell you.
If you’d like to make a donation to Team In Training in support of my upcoming “century” ride in March — and thus support the fight against blood cancers — you can go to my TNT fundraising page.
Below is a map of last Saturday’s training ride; you can click on it for details.