I guess that a little over halfway through my journey I should pause for some sort of reflection. In the past month or so I have come so far and learned so much, about myself, about life, and about the lives of those so often pushed to the margins of society by the social stigma attached to a mental or physical disability. It seems like nearly a year ago, even though it was just a month, that I stood on the front steps of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento and listened to the director of People First of California talk about how bullying was becoming an increasing problem for children with disabilities and that budget cuts from a legislature that has become increasingly hostile towards disabilities awareness, are the biggest threat to giving people with disabilities a chance to demonstrate their plentiful abilities. It breaks my heart every moment I spend with these wonderful people knowing that the cards are stacked against them everywhere they go, and yet they offer so much to society.
Thats only half of it though. I have also learned so much about myself. Tomorrow we will be riding one of our last century rides of the year. So far I have finished all but one of them, and that was only because of equipment failure that I had to rack at mile 91. When you ride in excess of 90 miles, the battle becomes way more than just a physical challenge. A lot of this difficulty comes from the shear amount of time you have to spend on the bike to complete a ride this long. Occasionally the wind is in your favor and you can pull excess of 20 miles per hour, but an inevitable fact about a true century day means that you will be on the bike at least 6 hour and sometimes up to 8 or 9 hrs depending on wind and mechanical issues. To put things in perspective, the average day is about 75 miles on this trip, and on a day that long the last 20 miles are always tough, so imagine on a century day when at 75 miles you haven't even entered the last 20 miles of your ride and then the numbers hit home.
Thus as I mentioned earlier, mental preparation is essential beyond what it takes to complete some of the shorter days. At about 3 hours of saddle time and no matter how well you stretched, or how well you ate the night before, your physical strength begins to fade, your muscles get tight, and every muscle feels like it is on fire. The sweat buildup on your eyebrow stings your eyes, and your fingers start going numb from pressure on the handlebars. However, for all the pain and physical challenge of a century ride, I always seem to dig deep and find the will to finish the ride.
So as a point of reflection I will take you through the typical day of a Journey of Hope cyclist. Every morning, wakeup comes way too early and i stumble out of bed with bleary eyes and residual soreness from the previous day. My mind races for excuses to rack for the day, but somehow I quiet those voices down and put on my cycling uniform. From there I somehow get all of my belongings for the summer outside and into the vans in 30 minutes, and then somehow manage to stomach a tortilla liberal slathered with peanut butter and wash it down with a tall glass of orange sugar water called Tampico which passes for orange juice. All of that is topped off by a bowl of 2 orders removed off brand cereal and suddenly the voices lucky for excuses to rack almost get there way as this breakfast attempts to make a bid for freedom. I keep it down though and begin my daily pre ride ritual which involves putting on sunscreen, cycling cap, and sunglasses. At this point we have finished circle up where Nick briefs us on the ride and road conditions. Now groups are assembling to start the ride. A quick check of tire pressure and on go the cycling shoes and helmet as I roll my bike to the starting line. As the vans leave to mark turns and set up crew stops, the groups start leaving. One last check of my email on the iPhone and off I go. The next two miles are spent getting my legs warm and working out the soreness from the previous day. All in a blur the voices from earlier fade and my thoughts wander to life, the deeper questions about existence, and my prospects for a job post JOH. All the while the crew stops float by and barring the occasional flat tire the miles roll by one upon the other and fade away into the aether. Pretty soon my paceline is rolling into stage up, sometimes we are first sometimes we are dead last but we finish. I sit at stage up and laugh at myself for my thoughts earlier in the morning as I realize that I was actually considering racking. The days of this trip are hard, and try me to my breaking point time and time again, and yet I finish strong.
In the past 2000 miles I have learned a lot of lessons, like the fact that lodging is always on the other side of town, and always on top of a hill. On a day when time is of the essence and you nee to make rack point you will inevitably encounter every mechanical problem imaginable and on the day when you want nothing more than catastrophic failure as an excuse to be off the bike, you ride without a hitch. Programing rarely happens when planned and if you don't roll with the punches you will end up falling behind or becoming discouraged. The biggest lesson I have learned is that even on my worst day on the Journey of Hope, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else.
Speaking of century days, sleep is one of the best ways to be mentally prepared for the ride so Im gonna knock off for now.
9 years ago