Like old Fred’s (paraphrased) perspective up there regarding challenges and how they might, (dare I say), build character, the last couple of weeks have offered up enough character for a lifetime.
But before we get into specifics, please allow me to again offer this post as a preface.
The short version for those who perhaps missed it previously, is that roughly ten days ago, I was half conscious in the back of an ambulance not only not able to recall my name, but even how to say it.
So what better physical condition to fly to Minnesota for the whateverth annual Almanzo 100?
Granted, if I was on my own in this directive, I would have shined the event faster than overtime off the clock. (I just came up with that adage. Feel free to use it liberally.)
But alas, Shimano America has committed to putting their money where my mouth (ass, legs, meandering will power, sporadic attention span, etc.) is, and I was to be damned before I would let them down.
“Can I ride 100 miles off the couch?” I asked myself.
“Of course I can.” I answered.
“Can I do it having just had a complete physical meltdown?“
“If I do, I’ll get tough guy credit forever” was my final answer.
And with a hop, skip, jump, and $150.00 worth of bike bag handling fees paid, I was in Minnesota with my squad.
Day one found us building up our whips, and getting prepped for a little shakedown ride to ensure that the airport gorillas weren’t too heavy handed with our babies;
So rearing to go, we all loaded up our bodies and got to skedaddling;
Which naturally concluded with this;
I figured that if I could do a two hour shakedown ride off the couch, and out of the hospital, then the main event would only be a slightly longer walk in the park.
Later that evening we headed to the lovely little town of Spring Valley to register, pick up our numbers, and take a look at the collection of entry postcards, where I was happy to find my own;
(Naturally, it’s the one featuring His Burt Reynoldsness.)
From there we buggered off to dinner and drinks where we fueled up for the following day, and continued to enjoy one another’s company;
While we’re on the topic- Truth be told, and in the sake of full disclosure, upon first meeting this group, I spent the initial part of my engagement with them with my guard ever so slightly raised. One thing I don’t care for in my life is dead weight. For example- I have to be friends with my friend’s husband simply because he’s her, or his husband? No, screw that. I want to be friends based exclusively on their merit as a human being, our and our general appreciation for one another.
Similarly, I was reluctant about developing relationships with this group of people simply based on the fact that we’re all involved in this particular project.
So it was at about this time in the weekend’s activities that I glanced around at the faces surrounding me, and felt both an equal degree of pride, and humility to have been included in the ranks, as well as adoration of the faces looking back.
As luck would have it, and as impossible as the odds would seem, it turns out that I sincerely, and throughly enjoy the company of these people, and I now at this point feel as though we’ve developed an honest love for one another.
I tell you what- I wouldn’t trade that place in this gang of misfit toys for anything in the world.
The following morning I woke up feeling about 20% shittier than I usually do, which was promising for a hellish next seven to ten hours. My plan was to partner up with my Hodala compatriot Ben, who you might be familiar with from his infamy atop this here exercycle and dung pile;
And my brother, cousin, team mate, and dear friend, Eugene Paul Oberpriller;
After a quick team meeting with my Shimano compatriots;
We all rolled together to the start, but somehow Ben, Geno and I again ended up headed back to the truck to get some last minute strategy finalized, when we heard the starting shot ring out;
This is not the first time I found myself standing in the parking lot during the race’s start while wearing an orange jumpsuit mind you, but unlike the actual first time that happened;
I didn’t reckon I was going to wind up with a top ten finish.
So away we rolled, taking in the sights as they came;
After a time, (I’m going to guess around the five or six hour mark) I see an olive drab vision charging hard in the opposite direction, and coming at us fast.
Do my eyes deceive me? No they do not. Right there in the flesh was Hugga Potato himself, Hurl ‘CrC’ Everstone;
It seemed as though he had no interest in the ass-crack of the day departure, and instead opted to eat a leisurely breakfast and make his way to the 70 miles mark and come find us the reverse way;
We finally landed in the lush environs of the biggest aid stop on the route where we drank some beer and ate hotdogs, and pickles, and if memory serves, I even held a new baby.
It was there I was invited to a Wizard Staff party, and once again crossed paths with this human, whose image we initially met at the head of today’s post;
When we first came upon her shortly after her crash, we weren’t entirely sure if she hadn’t broken her collarbone, and fearing she was potentially in shock, we called in the cavalry to get her back out of the middle of nowhere.
Satisfied with the knowledge that she was safe, (not to mention clearly tougher than nails), and with our hearts and bellies filled, we posed for a team shot by Hurl;
-Before finally pressing on;
Now, at this stage in the game is where all of the climbing and fresh, duffy gravel beds began, and the dark thoughts began creeping in with consistency.
I know this for three reasons.
One, because there are no more photos from that point forward. It was all a matter of survival. The best way I can put it is the last 20 miles were 100% worse than the first 80.
The second being that I remember hoping my previous week’s affliction was actually a mystery aneurism, because at that point I at least could lay down.
The third was Ben’s desperate exclamation once we actually seemed to be nearing civilization of, “WHERE THE FUCK IS THE TOWN?!“
Eventually, we began seeing evidence of the race’s end, and the three of us squeezed across the line as one.
Gene bailed to take a pee, or go make sure his ride hadn’t left or something, and Penn Cycles was there to document the fact that neither Ben or I had died;
From start to finish we were out for nine hours, but we reckoned we dicked around for at least two.
Considering the fact that winner knocked it out in five hours and fourteen minutes, and the 162 mile winner nailed his victory with a time of eight hours and fifty four minutes, I guess that means we didn’t win;
But at the same time, we pretty much did.
Ben and I slapped hands with Gene and sent him on his way.
In conclusion, I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden 100 miles before, because I haven’t had a computer on my bike with a working battery in it since the 90s;
I’ll say maybe I have. Or maybe I haven’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
One thing I’m sure of is that despite my wavering initial reservations about just why a gigantic entity like Shimano would want anything to do with me, about my own strengths and/or weaknesses as a cyclist, and how I fit into this beautiful, rag tag gang of humanity, after this last week, I recognize I’m exactly where I belong, and couldn’t be prouder of the fact.