Wednesday, June 04, 2008

day 4: the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory

after getting rubbed out on day two and taped up on day 3 and riding 42 miles the day before, i thought i'd be okay today. but not so much. after about 4 miles of very shallow up hill, my left quad was in agony. beyond belief. on a pain scale it was probably a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, so i found myself on the side of the road crying in pain, waiting for the sweep vehicle to come by and pick me up and take me to the next rest stop, or rather, the first rest stop.

another rider, clearly not okay with leaving me alone on the side of the road crying, stayed with me until the truck came. Pulling into the rest stop 20 minutes later, i iced myself up, put on the biofreeze and considered what to do. with "the evil twins" ahead followed by mostly flats along the cost, in the afternoon, i wanted to go on. Plus, the twins represented the half way point in the ride -- and it seemed that would be good for my mind at least. but there were 23 miles between this rest stop and the next and only 2 hours to make it with those two nasty climbs. the decent off the second twin, i was told, was something like the decent coming over 92 on the first day which was a 7% grade and kind of scary. and this one i was told had more cross winds. But i really wanted to enjoy the second half of the day... so... i pulled it together and headed out of the rest stop with only 2 riders behind me and the caboose (this is the vehicle that follows the last rider to make sure everyone pulls into camp at night) hot on my trail.

I walked the first climb, talking to Jo (yet another wonderful woman who really made the experience seem so much easier) who got out of the caboose to keep me company. we shared stories... i told her almost immediately about why i was riding... for my friend who was diagnosed HIV+ and then 20 days later in the hospital on what we thought might be her death bed. Jo shared her nightmare -- one i've also had -- of waking up one day to find myself infected. It was clear that this ride, as much of a personal challenge as it may be, really creates so much more in the numbers of people who see us out there and the education that arises from it.

as i went and when i hit the peak, Jo encouraged me to ride it, and ride it hard i did, going as far as i could before my quad gave out. i passed a few riders, so i was no longer last, but then i hit the second twin and they passed me right up. as i was nearing the peak, i figured i'd ride over the top... Just as i was gaining momentum, up ahead i saw one of the most beautiful sights of the ride. this woman, who was struggling to ride, was being pushed on either side of her by two other riders on the Midnight Ridazz team. it was so beautiful i didn't even try to pass, thinking if i did i would break their momentum. i knew i could start again, but i really wasn't sure if she could... so i got off my bike, walked and waited till they past the peak before getting on again.

And then the big downhill. wow! intense. beautiful. 6% grade, scary stuff at 30 MPH... again confronting my fears of the downhill as well as the cliffs on the sides... and cross wind gusts picking up here and there... geez... what a scary thing. I continued along, going through a few rollers and then i hit the flat at the bottom where there was a cross wind so intense i actually kept getting blow into the lane. with the caboose hot on my ass, i got off the bike and got swept up into the next rest stop. it was closing. quick pee and water refill plus a super fast snack and boom, on the road again for one of the most beautiful legs of the trip along the coast.

I was surprised i'd made it this far, and with only 6.1 miles to rest stop three, i decided to try and meet up with Jim and Frankie again.

My first scary moment of the day was with the cross winds, but that pales in comparison to the treachery of the car who mistakenly got in the on ramp lane to our right and wanted into our lane, somehow not really seeing a string of bicyclists i guess. There were probably about 18 of us in the pack... all but 4 of us pulled out in a line, but the person 4 up from me didn't pull out with confidence and the BMW just started going. I was glad i had extra space between me and the rider in front of me because it was everyone stopping quickly with no time to call out.

I met up with the riders at rest stop 3 and assured them it wasn't their fault -- i'd seen it all well since i was at the back of the pack. the drive just wasn't yielding the right of way to us as s/he should have.

having broken yesterday's record for the 2nd longest ride i'd done, pulling in a cool 47 miles, i decided to head in on the SAG bus and give the quad a break. with three more days of riding, i wanted to save up for day 5 and actually complete a day, since it was the shortest ride of the trip. Pulling into camp, i went back to see Cha and got more taping, then met up with the Mills (former students from years ago) and had a great conversation with them as we rolled ourselves out. shower, conversation with Atreyu and bed... ready for red dress day!