This is my 3rd time riding and writing about this 100+ mile ride. My first year I rode my brothers rusty Bianchi & had a blast, last year I had a flat very early in the ride, and had a hubris filled day..
This year I wanted to have a different experience. I wanted to see how fast I could ride the distance. But life has been challenging recently, and this koan came into my head as I spun to the start through cool 7am air.
You must learn how to ride, to learn how to ride.
There are so many ways to wrap the mind around this, and as several thousand people clipped into their bikes like a thousand single hands clapping, it made sense. How to ride? How many ways of knowing riding multiply into each other?
Low angle sun, cool, still air. Shadows & humming gears. I love these big organized group rides.
A mass century is not a competitive event. It’s not a race. But in a group this size, there are always people who want to ride the distance as hard & fast as they can. That infers a certain amount of drive & weight to the pack.
I wanted to be a part of that drive. To reach as far & hard as I can to see if I will crack. I call this fun.
My father has ridden so many organized centuries; I wanted to make him proud that his son can ride a fast one. I want to take that competitive part of me, and batter it into happy submission.
The front pack of several hundred was clipping along nicely at 25-27 mph in absolutely perfect conditions. No one fighting for position, just solid fast riding in the shadows of the Wasatch
I encounter a co-worker of mine in the lead pack. “R” has lost over 120 lbs and gone from 35% body fat to now about 13%. He is smiling and spinning the big ring. I admire his effort and accomplishment tremendously. He works harder than most Olympic hopeful speedskaters I know.
The miles clip on by. 40 miles seemed like a warmup. The first year I did this, I wrote that the pack reminded me of fish. I wish I had seen these jerseys then. This is a custom bike builder in Salt Lake. Fishlipz,
But the weird jersey, shorts, and logo winner has to be the DZ-Nuts folks. This is a saddle sore cream.
Some people peel off at the rest areas to eat. I munch an apple from my jersey pocket & keep riding. Maybe 100 people are still zipping along at 25mph most of the time, surging to 27-28 at times. I used to be a speedskater who raced bikes occasionally, but in the last 2 years, I seem to have turned myself into a cyclist who speedskates occasionally. I feel at home on the bike now.
We come to the Antelope Island Causeway. It’s an absolutely gorgeous, awe-inspiring place that if you ride across it, you will never forget.
This image does not do proper justice.
However, the Great Salt Lake does stink in places, this is one of them.
A breeze picks up from the fetid waters, echelons form, and people start riding very intensely. 27-29. 30, 31, back to 27. This is what is called fun? During my turn at the front I do 38 pedal strokes, one for each year of my life. I can be weird like that.
Near the Island itself. There seems to be pillars of faint smoke rising from the waters. No wait!! Those are not pillars. Those smoky tubes are millions of FLIES.
We ride right through several, people start yelling, “look down!” “close your mouth & breathe through your nose” “Yummy!”
Looking at the pavement, I see this living snowstorm pouring all around me. I am being pelted by millions of tiny bits of life, My arm hair is full of squirming bugs. One richochets around between my eyeball & glasses.
We exit the causeway and hit the rolling hills of antelope island 75 strong & leave the flies behind. I follow several who are in a mood to big-ring the uphill rollers. This is not a race, it’s just how we roll, & it’s a good pace.
Leaning through turns, popping across the rollers, speed builds on speed. Dropping off the backside of the island onto the causeway again, there are only 7 of us left.
Sharing the work, we fly along. Spinning big gears. At my turns at the front, I take pedal strokes equal to how many years I want to live. 80, then 90. over and over.
We see big packs starting up the hills we are leaving.
No time to ask someone to take a picture of me. We are going way too fast. But this self-portrait is accurate to this moment. Not big pain, but using all the oxygen I can suck in. (and rocking my fat cyclist jersey ,the Jersey has a Clydesdale on it. Clydesdales are traditionally 200+ lb riders. I am seeing about 198 on the scale these days, do I still qualify? Maybe only after a big breakfast.).
There is a major rest stop 67 miles in. This is the one with the best food. Someone says we have been averaging 24.1 mph so far. 4 turn into get some food. 2 keep riding and urge me to come along. I hesitate.. Then U-turn back for some food.
Riders from many of the distances are collecting here. Bikes are everwhere.
I inhale oranges, bananas, stuff food in my pockets, refill bottles, This is the only break I take all day, and it’s less than 10 minutes.
Back on the bike. I am alone. Still able to turn a big gear, all my body knows how to do is go hard. I ride alone for 10 miles, before hooking up with one of the original 7, a nice fellow by the name of Mike
Going the other way, on a shorter route, I see an inline speedskater whipping out a pro-level double push (It’s Josh Wood). As I whip by, I see all sorts of faces I know in a blur of bikes. There are the Speed skaters out for a training day. I miss my friends.
Around mile 85 Mike and I are caught by 3 more of the original 7. Two of them are stupid strong. How about “WRONGSTRONG”.
The pace is now a steady 27mph. I pull when I can, but 3 of us are just passengers. Wrongstrong in action.
The miles zip by. Mike is dropped. My mind fixes on a gold ceramic bearing in a fat Cervelo, bottom bracket glintings in the sun in front of me. Metallic red rear derailleur cable housing.
Gears, driving legs. I am just starting at wheels. Suddenly it’s a hot day.
One of the Wrongstrongers says “hey those pills, this morning, they don’t do SHIT” really? Hmmmm… Probably they are just talking about electrolye replacements. These are talented guys though. No matter the pharmacology.
I hit a deep pothole and my right quadricep goes into spasm. Don’t get dropped… not… Now… no..
The last few miles, we travel faster than the first few of the ride.. Blur.. effort… Blur…
We dive through afternoon traffic, and suddenly its over. Pulling into the finish. Two guys who have computers start discussing the stats for the ride. 105 miles, 23.9 mph average, 4:39 time.
Wow… that is the fastest I have ever ridden for the longest. I’ve ridden farther, but never at this kind of speed.
Aftewards, I take advantage of the post-ride creamsicles and massage. Being one of the first to return has its advantages. As I am leaving I run into the speedskaters I saw earlier. Heather Richardson, Josh Wood, Derek Parra, Ryan Bedford. Chad Hedrick. Chad is a new dad as well, his daughter is 7 weeks old, and he is happy as a clam.
Life is good. I get a text message from jess. “Lunch with the Kraans, be there”. I earned my chocolate Éclair today.
You must learn how to ride, to learn how to ride.
So many layers to this idea, and like most Koans, the answer is not something you can explain, but after a long, fast ride, your intution tells you that you somehow understand it deeply.
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