Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Only after 8 ½ hours in the saddle does one truly appreciate the finer things in life. Things like Saturdays at the Farmers market, sitting on a couch, scrabble, Tivo, air conditioning and any time spent not wearing bike shorts.

The weather forecast called for sunny and mild as the bag pipes signaled the start of the National 24 Hour Road Challenge. My job was to serve as a domestique and sidekick for Brian as he embarked on an epic endurance testing adventure. I was going to make him drink before he was thirsty, eat before he was hungry and inspire him with positive words of encouragement and toilet humor.

We rolled out of Middleville where the headwinds were stiff, hills steep and people watching was stellar. There is something about the endurance cycling culture that attracts crazies from all walks of life. Recumbents, $10K TT bikes, tattoos, grandmas, grandpas, road racers and other wack jobs with only one goal which was to beat their previous year’s mileage. No sponsors, no cash payout, only motivation and pain.

We arrived in Lakewood after 35 miles and Laura got us through the first pit quickly and we were back on the road for another hilly 35 miles. By this time the sun was above the tree lines and we could appreciate the silhouettes of barns against the blue summer sky and a traffic free rural landscape. As the temps got warmer, the roads got rougher and the hills got relentless. At one point in our sweaty suffering a Harley rumbled by with perfume soaked passenger and we enjoyed her strangely motivating scent for a ½ mile before turning back into the wind for more gear grinding towards checkpoint number 2.

We took a quick pit to re-fuel re-apply butt butter and eat free bananas. We were feeling the burn of 70 confidence testing miles and needed to regain our focus for the next 25.

Between mile 71-96 I got some relief on the front when we latched on with a 30 year old riding a Dyno BMX bike with mag wheels. He had a leather bag draped over his shoulder, a walkman tape recorder and cubic zirconium earrings that rivaled the shimmer of the sun. We settled on his wheel for a mile, holding a solid pace of 17MPH. I contribute a majority of our success to his efforts at the front.

We came into checkpoint 3 with plans for a short rest, some Cheez Its and cold water before watching our odometers roll over the first century ride of 2009.

During miles 96-121 Brian and I learned the definition of hurt. My bum ached, his quads burned and we both were looking forward to no more pedaling. We mashed, coasted, and reminisced about road trips, trail rides and what it was like to not ride bikes up and down the hills of Barry County.

After 121 sweaty and sun burnt miles I remembered the December phone call when Brian asked me if I was interested in this event. I had no idea it would change my views on what it takes to make a ride epic and give me a finer appreciation for endurance.

A very special thanks to Laura for the cold water bottles and flawless pits.

As always, thank you to all the supporters of the Traveling Circus.

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