Monday, May 10, 2010

100 miles of the mind



Saturday I did the 100 Miles to Nowhere, a quasi-fundraiser spearheaded by Fat Cyclist/Team Fatty for Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Brief thoughts: 'Stuff White People Like' should certainly include 'adventure challenges'--triathlons, marathons, 'extreme' sports, fun runs, fundraiser runs: it's great stuff but people are safe and able to spend time & money (often quite a lot of both) to train for wholly artificial challenges. I'm no exception. The success of Kenyan runners isn't because they have a super-tight-knit fixie culture that forces the non-skinny-jeans crew to run rather than ride. It's a way out of their hard lives.

It IS an interesting and valid challenge to put oneself into mental discomfort (physical, too, but it's the mental part that limits the physical). I struggle with this some with my daughters: old-school football coaches did all sorts of damage, but the virtues of 'sucking it up' DO make one better, tougher, less inclined to quit. I've never ridden 100 miles. I've been working up to it. Last Monday I aimed for a century but wind was in my face first 35 miles, temps were cool, and the rain was coming at me. Mentally, I caved in. I stopped to piss and said, 'Sure, I'm alone on a beautiful trail. I've got 15 more miles out, about an hour of riding, then I'll turn around, ride the same 15 back, another hour--only to be standing right here, with another two-plus hours of return monotony facing me. MENTAL failure. As I turned around and headed back, I felt lighter. It was the release of worry, of uncertainty.

I'm 43 and a very late beginner for cycling. The hours necessary to develop a base, a reserve, not to mention the actual handling skills--let alone the ability to ride well, ride hard--it's all out of reach. Doesn't mean I can't ride because I enjoy it, or can't push myself because it's a good thing to do.

Annie's bemused by my fervid immersion into cycling. I don't do anything half-assed, and really throw myself into things I'm interested in--wine, women, & song. Wait: I don't drink (for that very reason, no moderation); I'm passionately faithful, but intense (to extreme) about my desire for Annie; I can't sing but the music that moves me strikes deep into my core.

When I drive long distances, I get focussed. If it's X-hundred miles somewhere, I'll drive there, stopping for gas only. It's a challenge and a mania. It's not an effort: any other way is anathema to me.

So, Saturday, I went to the basement, sat on my bike, popped 2003 Vuelta de Espana in the dvd player, and pedaled. I had lots of water and snacks and whatnot right beside me. I sweat. I sweat a lot. I changed my shirt/jersey four times; my bibs thrice--and should have changed them at least once more. Ended the day with saddle sores largely caused by the swamp in my shorts, plus shifting my body artificially on the trainer, lots of grinding rather than balancing.

I was aiming for 20 mph while pedaling, which would give me 5 hours, plus breaks. Except, of course, there's no coasting on a trainer, so whenever I needed to pause or shift or adjust myself, I slowed down or stopped. The ride got tedious, random joints barked a little, I sweat an awful lot. And that was it. Finished in toto just under six hours, with four five minute breaks and one or two shorter stops.

I explained to my (many) skeptical friends that it was a fundraiser that was also an analogy writ small for the frustrating labyrinth of cancer treatment: spinning wheels endlessly, going nowhere, suffering mentally from the tedium and the endlessness of it. It is NOT akin to cancer--about that I'm very clear, but a good-natured parallel.

I sweat hard, my skin tears easily, I need to hydrate a lot, I get bloated with hydration. Muscles a bit sore. Ass cheeks chafed from shifting on the seat w/ sopping bibs. Taint chafed, because that's what cycling is. Lycra abrasions on prick, again from sweaty bibs. Minor stuff for a good cause.


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