It Was the Kind of Ride…

23 Sep

To say that I was apprehensive before this bike ride puts it mildly. Although it was just that – a ride – it was a ride with 6,000+ other people. Which is very different from a ride of the same distance with a close friend.

Luckily, between work and the past few weekends of running craziness (a half marathon two weeks ago, Reach the Beach 200 mile relay last weekend) there was no time to stress about it. I’m also a firm believer in not educating myself on the route/hills/general scariness of what is to come. I wish it was because I’m tough but it’s simply laziness.

So I went to bed apprehensive but having done my best to hydrate and eat a lot, and pretend that I hadn’t run 9 miles, walked another 6 and lifted that day. And then…I had stress dreams.  I couldn’t find my biking shoes. I couldn’t find my biking outfit. The race had started and I was still in some rental house with my family frantically digging through piles of crap trying to find my gear. (I woke myself up at this point because let’s be real, the thought of my Mom or me or my siblings existing in a house full of crap where we can’t find something is way too ludicrous that even dream-state-Liz knows that.)  Then I woke up starving at 4 am. Yay, body!  Thanks for taking me literally when I said “I will feed you whenever.”

 

6:00-7:00 AM
Ate breakfast (yogurt and dried fruit/nuts). Showered. Peed. Put on all my biking gear and asssembled my supplies (2 water bottles full of ice, 2 PowerBars, one key and ID in a pocket, arm warmers). Peed again. Threw together a Moroccan Chicken and ChickPea stew in my crockpot. Peed again. Headed downstairs to wait for a friend.

 

7:00-8:00 AM

Made biking friends waiting at a stop light just getting to the race. My friend went through the orange light, I stopped. When he came back, I was happily chatting away with three new friends. Bikers are a friendly lot.

Stood waiting at City Hall with thousands of other bikers. Bikers take up a lot more space than runners.  And have pedals and handle bars to contend with.  There were all kinds – rental bikes, hand bikes, tandem bikes, road bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, even the pedal carriage bikes used to chauffeur Red Sox fans to the games. And there were all kinds of people – flashy jerseys, work groups, men wearing sandals, men wearing Crocs, road bike clips, mountain bike clips, pedal cages, pedal straps, flat bar pedals, matching outfits, too many layers of clothing, not nearly enough clothing, neon clothing, muddy tri suits, I-just-bought-this-off-the-rack spandex. For most of the hour, I stood with two bikes propped up on my hip, lusting after the gorgeous colors on the Giant bike next to me (until the woman asked to add the bike to my collection and I suddenly was juggling three bikes on my hip while attempting to snap IPhone pics of their group for them).

My bike was unique. I didn’t see another one like it and that made me happy.

 

8:08 – 11:22 AM
And then we were off.  

And I expected to be terrified. I’d even made an agreement with my friend – he stayed with me on Storrow Drive when it was most crowded, then he could race ahead to the finish, we’d meet up after we showered for lunch.

The first mile or two was fraught with stopping and going, darting in, unclipping often just in case I had to put a foot down. But I never saw a bike accident for the entire ride (this surprised me) and I loved the rhythm of darting in and out of traffic (this really surprised me) and I had fun on Storrow. So much fun that I thought “Rats, now I have to do this again next year just to get to ride Storrow Drive again.”

Everyone was having fun. Everyone was happy. The weather was perfect, the route was perfect, the company was perfect. I have no complaints.

I’m scared of crashing. It’s this singular fear that keeps me from bike races. And yet…I have to admit…I have a unique biking strength: I can see open pockets of space and instinctively know where and when to bike around people.  I probably passed 500-1000 people on Storrow just by darting in and out, weaving my own route through the crowded road. It was great fun. And realizing that I am good at something helped me stop obsessing over my biking weaknesses (shifting and being scared to draft).

Soon enough, those riding the 10 miles only were gone and the “real riding” began. We biked past my apartment and out past Jamaica Pond and then the Arboretum. I reached the first rest stop and realized that I felt good – no need to stop for a bathroom break or to stretch my legs. So I kept on peddling.

Miles 12-18 (or thereabouts) were pretty rough.  There are two horrible hills in the Arboretum and we biked them both. I managed to climb them at 11 miles per hour which is some sort of record for me. Hills and I do not mix. Then we reached the Beast of a Hill.  It went on and on and on and most of those I was biking with (the faster, elite types) were walking their bikes up the hill. But I didn’t.

When I reached the top, I enjoyed a 35 mph ride down the hill…and some bites from an energy bar. I actually fueled my ride. I am notorious for eating nothing during long rides and today I managed 400 calories while biking and it made all the difference. I tucked in between a group of guys that was biking a manageable but slightly daunting pace and drafted off of them.  We took turns drafting each other. One Northeastern student was using this bike ride as a “training ride” before his “long bike ride” later that day.  If a 50 miler is a training ride, I shudder to think what his long ride is like.

I grew in biking confidence as we pedaled along. The mechanics of shifting and how and when seemed to finally solidify in my mind. I handled the hills well, passing people every single time. We crossed the Finish Line in 3:14, which was better than my “best-possible-outcome” goal (taking into mind how slowly we had to bike the first jam-packed miles and the fact that we had to obey traffic rules and stop at red lights, of which there were plenty). Then I biked back out and in again with a friend (it was that kind of day and I was in that kind of mood).

I was in a good mood because I conquered a fear.  And because I beat all my goals. And because it was a gorgeous day and I love my bike and I love my community and you can’t be around that many smiling people without feeling good about life. And because biking 50 miles is an achievement.  And for those who biked 30…0r 10…that is also an achievement. And I was in a good mood because I fueled better and wasn’t sore at the end and really, really, really wanted to go bike it over again.

But mostly I was in a good mood because I saw a new side of Boston and it was welcoming, stunning and diverse. I biked on Storrow Drive along the winding Charles River. I biked the RiverWay past Jamaica Pond into the Arboretum. I biked steep hills and fast descents. I biked through towns and street lights and traffic circles and neighborhoods. Through Forest Hills and through Franklin Park. We biked through a cemetery so beautiful (and endless) that it made me want to cry. And we zipped under a stone bridge in that cemetery while bikers behind us whizzed above and it was picturesque and I wanted to stay in that moment forever. We biked on a roller coaster trail through the woods and I felt like I was home in NH.  We went up and down and zipped around and it was only 2 miles of trail but it was adventuresome and so different from standard road biking that I found myself enjoying the scariness of it. And we biked along the ocean and I could see the Prudential building so tiny on the horizon. And I saw sailboats and sea foam and giant ocean cruise ships and bridges and more bridges and I biked in sand without freaking out and along another trail and passed Pleasure Bay. And if you think I was disappointed when I got back into the city and left the beach behind, then you’ve never enjoyed this view before:

(It wasn’t night time but you get the idea.)

It was the kind of ride where you immediately go home and demand that people do it with you next year…where you meet your friend for burgers and to recap the ride and you say “Can we please do it again?” and he thinks you mean next year, but really you mean at 4 pm…after food and a nap. And you know you’re being crazy and that your poor body can’t handle sitting on a hard bike seat for any longer but you really don’t want to lose that feeling of being a part of such beauty.

I fell in love with Boston. Again. Or maybe I never fell out of love, I just needed to renew my vows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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