We pulled into the Royalton Town Hall parking lot to cheering volunteers. As we walked over to the food tent a woman announced that “the ladies are here.”
Turns out, Mary and I were a bit famous. People had asked if the ladies had come through yet. The ones wearing the sleeves. The ones who came in laughing and singing and cheering. Yep. We were kinda famous. Even if just in our own minds.
It was a few months ago when my friend Mary and I had a text message conversation about doing a 100-mile bike ride. Mary wondered if I thought she could do a century. Of course she was capable of it, I said. She would have to train. But most importantly she would have to believe she could do it. I quickly agreed to register with her for the Buffalo Tour de Cure 100 mile route to benefit the American Diabetes Association.
My goal was to help her through her first century, though as the event drew closer I realized that I had only done 100 miles on my bike one time before — and that was in my Ironman. So this would be an adventure for me as well.
The day began and ended at Niagara County Community College and we started in a mist which turned into a light drizzle which lasted through the first 50 miles or so. The route was pretty, interesting and relatively flat. We were cruising along nicely until someone in an official race vehicle told Mary we were riding too slow and were in danger of being pulled off the course.
Wait, what? We were 25 miles into the ride. We were just shy of two hours on the road. Sure, we weren’t setting any speed records and the rest of the 35 or so people doing the century were well ahead of us. But even I could do this math which told me we had plenty of time to finish the course in under nine hours — the course cutoff. Despite our certainty that we were OK our joy was replaced with anxiety and anger. We used lots of bad language (thankfully it was early and rural so our cursing offended no one) and started peddling harder. I knew there was a 10:30 cutoff where the 62-mile course and the 100-mile course split. But no one at the start could tell us where that was. And that raised my anxiety level. I didn’t care about our overall time, but I didn’t want us diverted off course either. My goal was to get Mary through a 100-mile bike ride. And damn it, I was going to do that, even if we had to turn in our numbers to be no longer officially part of the event.
We pulled into the Krull Park rest stop and I asked the volunteers if they knew where the 10:30 cutoff was. “It’s just up the road, about 20 minutes. What time is it now?” It was 9:40. “You’re fine,” he told me. We were a bit relieved, but I was still unsure and we peddled hard with Lake Ontario on our left. (Cue my rendition of “Oh Canada.”) As we prepared to pull into the next rest stop at Mile 42, I pulled a Honey Stinger Waffle out of my bento box, and it promptly flew out of my hand.
Really? Are you kidding? Big sigh.
We pulled into the Hess Road Wesleyan Church parking lot to the friendliest bunch of volunteers ever. I asked if they knew about the cutoff. “You have 20 minutes to go up to that corner,” they said, pointing to an intersection about 200 yards away. “You could take a nap if you wanted and make the cutoff.” These people were awesome. They wiped off our handlebars and bike seats while we used the bathroom. Heck, two people in a support vehicle saw me drop my Honey Stinger Waffle and they picked it up and brought it to me. I mean, really, how cool was that?
As we made the cutoff turn to continue on our 100-mile journey, I did a slight reality check for us. Yes, there was one guy who was a bit mean to us and caused us unnecessary panic. But everyone else we had encountered had been fantastic. Why were were letting one person ruin our joy? Why were we giving him that power? Why would we ever give one person that kind of power over our day?
We continued telling stories and singing songs. (Our medley included an eclectic mix of old-school rap, Lady Gaga, LMFO, Madonna and the Erie Canal Song for good measure.) At the next rest stop we ran into the guy who originally told us we were too slow. “You ladies made the cutoff, I see,” Doubty McDoubter said. “Indeed,” I replied. “With 15 minutes to spare.” For the record, he became our biggest supporter the rest of the ride and couldn’t help us enough. By the end of the ride, I thought he was a little awesome.
The first half of the ride we cruised along but the second included a few hills. Nothing horrible, but it definitely slowed us down. We pulled into a rest top with about 18 miles left and were slightly taken aback by the long line of people with lawn chairs. Turns out, the fire hall was also hosting a gun raffle that day. So along with my peanut butter sandwich I could possibly get a firearm. Interesting.
The last 18 miles became slightly frustrating from a combination of fatigue, being covered in road grime, cycling into a head wind and well, you’d be be punchy too after 80-plus miles on the bike unless you’re a Tour de France rider. We also ended up dealing with a grumpy pus and a wheel sucker, who not only drafted off me for five miles without taking a turn at pulling but caused me to lose Mary. I pulled off at the final rest stop to wait for her and worked hard to pull her in the final eight miles. She struggled and I attempted to encourage her, though she was fixated on the fact that the 100-mile route was really 104 miles on her odometer. I understood her frustration at this point of the day and I was a bit wacked out myself. I love her enough to have tuned her out those final few miles as we peddled on and crossed the finish line.
Along with the fantastic volunteers we met some awesome fellow cyclists. And my parents provided a personal SAG wagon for us. At nearly each rest stop there was my dad, toting around a brown paper shopping bag filled with Gatorade, water and bananas in case we needed it. It wasn’t even so much about the Gatorade fill-ups (though those were greatly appreciated) but seeing familiar faces offering support and encouragement.
I was ridiculously proud of Mary. I tracked her progress on Facebook and through texting over the last few months. She had worked so hard to get herself in a position to do the 100-mile ride. She set a goal, a hard goal, and she accomplished it. She is committed to doing the things which intrigue her, challenge her and inspire her. And being around her energy, passion and compassion makes me want to be a better person.
To be honest, I felt a little badass myself. Over the 100 miles I realized that I could let little things bother me or I could see the million other little things which were pure moments of awesomeness. And in case there was ever any doubt, I am still ridiculously in love with my bike.