A friend of mine says I have an uncanny ability to make even the most mundane things sound exciting. She means this as a good thing (I think), but this past weekend was anything but mundane.
If you ever do a bike ride like this, be sure to remember to bring the essentials: replacement tire tubes, tire pump. tire lever, sunglasses, and if you’re in the medical field like my husband a first aid kit.
This wouldn’t do. Bob declared long ago that anything short of a spraying artery or a broken bone below the waist (not counting phalanges) we weren’t stopping. So he crammed our little three by three box full of this:
As I mentioned on Friday, it was forecasted to rain, so we went to Academy and bought two rain coats to put over our seats to keep it protected from the rain so the foam in our seats didn’t soak up the water.
Then we went to downtown Tulsa to the Hyatt Regency hotel where Bob and I circled the block like vultures for almost thirty minutes, arguing about where to park. We finally found a place and unloaded our bike, two sleeping bags, clothes for that night and the next day, and air mattress then walked nearly a mile to put our luggage in a trailer. That’s when the drizzle stopped and we decided to take the seat covers off and take our chances that it wouldn’t rain for the day. Then got on the bike…
About this time, we realize all the other riders have already taken off, and we’re like a block from the starting line… Oh, and we’re on a hill! Nothing like starting the bike ride on a hill. So we struggle up the hill and can’t figure out which way to turn. The backwards hung START banner really confused us. (Sorry, no picture. I was too busy trying to convince my husband we were going the right way to snap a picture at the time.) But the guy with the microphone calling for us to come on down, announcing us as “the stragglers” gave us some direction. Yep, as it turns out, by the time we located the starting line we were already 15 minutes late! Let me tell you, that was a promising start to the day.
As we were leaving downtown Tulsa, they were actually taking down the signs and barricades that were directing the riders where to go. I’m not overly familiar with downtown Tulsa so it was a miracle that we found another straggler and between the three of us found our way out.
To make up for time, we skipped the first rest stop and zipped right on to the second where some friends of ours were already there. They’d all already rested up and were ready to take off just as we stragglers arrived. But we had to eat and drink. Being on the back of a tandem, it’s usually best to wear shoes that have clips that attach to the pedals. I’ve only been using them about a month now, and the very first time I used them, my husband forgot I was literally attached to the pedals, stood up, and me and the bike fell to the ground. (And that’s all we talked about the whole 15 miles back home that day!) So now I remind him, “I’m clipped in. I’m clipped in. I said, ‘I’m clipped in!'” as we pull into a rest stop so we don’t have to relive that particular fight. The only problem this time was:
A guy had to take apart the clip that goes on the bottom of my shoe, then unscrew the pedal to release it, then reassemble both the pedal and my shoe. It was quite grand.
After that we had no real drama for the majority of the day. We just rode and talked. Rode and sat quiet. Ate lunch. Rode and discussed that we were nowhere near trained for this ride. Then stretched and put on happy faces for the other riders at rest stops. Then we rode and cussed under our breaths as we struggled up the hills that neither of us knew existed in Oklahoma. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I’ve mentioned here before that I could stand to lose a few pounds and I certainly thought this our help (side note, it did not. I weighed the same when I got home as I did when I left). So in thinking this long ride would help some, I was determined not to eat a lot as one of my fiends warned me that it’s actually possible to gain weight on this ride because of all the food available. As we pulled into the last rest stop for the day, I decided to forgo any snacks. Huge mistake. About eight miles later, I started getting light headed. Then a little after that, I had the strangest urge to cry and I am NOT a crier. Very few things can make me cry, but I was on the verge of it. Then I images of people who don’t exist started appeared and were waving at me, making me want to cry all the more. That’s when I knew it was time to stop! With a simple sentence that went like this, “I’m about to faint,” my husband pulled over the bike on the base of a hill and helped me find something in our pack to eat. Fortunately, I’d swiped a bag of cracker chips fifty miles before and had those to eat.
Half a bag later, the tears were gone and so were the “people”. Reluctantly, I got back on the bike and started to charge up that hill at the speed of a slug chasing a turtle. Halfway up, I started singing. Two notes later, my husband joined in. For the next three miles, Bob and I sang (at the top of our lungs, no less) every song we could think of. Since we have little kids, the majority were little kid songs: Jesus Loves Me, Father Abraham, Redeemed!, Dare to be a Daniel, Deep and Wide. On and on. All through the city of Chandler, Oklahoma we sang off-key and proud. As silly as it sounds, it certainly took our minds off the overwhelming pain.
When we arrived, we were certainly relieved we’d finished 72 miles, but nearly groaned thinking we’d have to get up and do it all again.
We started on time on day two but still managed to be at the back of the pack. In fact, only three more people came in after Bob and I! Yes, that’s right, out of 600, we finished in the last 1%. But in all fairness to Bob and I, there were about 50 who straight up didn’t ride the next day and dozens more who were “SAGed” in, meaning they either decided not to finish or had mechanical problems that didn’t allow them to finish and one of the Safety and Gear vans had to drive them to the finish line. So really we weren’t that bad.
Here are some pictures of the starting line for the second day:
(I took them far away so you could see the number of people.)
Blessedly, the second day had few hills, but a little more drama between me and Bob. Not the bad kind, though. Just the awkward kind. For example, we were “powering” up a giant hill singing Farmer’s Daughter by Rodney Atkins when anther couple comes up to pass us, and of course they’re laughing. Or a little later when an old guy caught me digging a granola bar out of my bra. Hey, I’d learned the day before that I might need snacks in between rest stops. With no pockets, where else would you store it?! Another time I was tempted to ask Bob to stop on the side of the road so I could pee in a bush (seriously). The thing is, I HATE outhouses and of course that’s what they had at all the stops. At the first one I tried to use, some guy was on my left groaning as he was doing his business and to my right there wasn’t another “house” but there was this person beating out a rhythm to their favorite song on the side of it. TMI here, but I just couldn’t go. I teasingly told my husband I got performance anxiety. The next three stops were much the same and after two bottles of water and countless cups of gatorade I was about to go in my bicycle shorts if I didn’t get somewhere and quick. To my good fortune, there was a rest stop in the horizon and I didn’t have to embarrass myself by watering a stranger’s bushes. (And believe me at this point, I’d have chanced it.)
Just as I exited the pot-shot, we were informed we were in the last group of eight riders and asked if we wanted to take a shortcut that would take off eight miles, or about an hour for us. My husband said no before the woman could get the words out. We didn’t go out there to make good time or be the first ones done, we came to have a good time, support a good cause and ride our divorce on wheels halfway across the state.
The guy directing the riders had a different idea in mind though and told us the long way was closed and we had to take the shortcut. My husband was furious! And on the other side of the turn we found a bike Marshal who said we could still go that way, if he wanted to. I’m sure you can guess where this is going…
Having no handlebars, I have no real control over where the bike goes and I soon found myself gripping the bars on the back of his seat as he did a U-turn in the middle highway as we turned back to go on the long way. Though I couldn’t see it to be sure, I’m fairly certain my husband scowled at that other fellow as we and two other bikers rode past him to take the long way.
We might have been toward the back, and still finished toward the back, but I do believe those eight hilly miles were the fastest part of the race as my husband pedaled like a cougar was on our heels, forcing me to pedal just as hard.
Before this post gets long enough to rival the bike ride, I’ll sum up the rest. We rode every mile of that bike ride. We didn’t walk, take the shortcut or SAG. We rode together, hardly had any arguments, discussed our kids, our lack of training, the need the pee, men with raunchy gas, and many other obscure topics. I did wave to a girl in Oklahoma City as if I were the queen. We sang all sorts of songs. We told a few naughty jests. I even threatened to cut his curls off if he didn’t slow down on the hills (this was when I wasn’t pretending to be an airplane as we zoomed down). Altogether, we had a great time and at about 3:15 pm Sunday we crossed the finish line.
Many have asked if I’m sore and the answer is yes. Very much so, but as one sign said, the pain we felt on that bike ride is the same pain those living with MS feel all the time. That puts things into perspective for sure. One last thank you to everyone who gave support. I appreciate it and so does the MS society.