I wasn’t even all the way through John Hollywood’s door before being hit with a barrage of questions about how my crotch felt. Which was about as expected as all the beer and banana offerings that followed.
Twinkletoes was refusing my refusal of her throne and not giving up on the status of my hoo-ha. Hollywood was offering me amino acids and other lovely surprises like top secret macaroni and cheese and stuff that would stick to the walls if you threw it. I praised baby jeebus for the blessing of friends with Kraft connections and stretched out on the chair Twinkletoes had been reining the city of Austin in for the last few days.
I finally confessed that yeah, my biscuits hurt something fierce and that I had some weird phantom helmet thing going on, but mostly I just wanted to chop my legs off. And if they had a problem with my 2 day long exertion-related aromas then they could just dereleek my balls. Because with all their generous macaroni/beer gifts I would be difficult to be rid of now.
Everyone wanted to hear tales of how it felt to ride a bicycle 153 miles, aside from the obvious biscuit pains. By this point, shouting “I WON!” to anyone who asked how my ride went had lost it’s novelty, so I sucked down a Lone Star and indulged.
It was bananas. Bunches of bananas, every day all day. Good sources of potassium/simple, fast-digesting carbohydrates every 8-10 miles with lots of flats and happy tailwinds in between. Frolicking in tall, dewy grass, epic poos, 9 turnarounds, desperate searches for pickle juice and 13,000 other people on bikes yelling their every movement aloud.
Because I’m bionic or masochistic I’m always landing myself in these shenanigans. First Kim says “I want to ride my bike 153 miles” then I say “I like your ideas. Keep having them.” instead of: “I’ve got to go. I cut my toe earlier and my shoe is filling up with blood.” The last century ride I completed left me bedridden for a week plus with deteriorating muscles, so my decision to tackle the ms150 was met with a fair amount of understandable uncertainty.
“You said you’d never ride 100 miles again, so now you’re doing 153? Maybe that’s not a good idea.”
“Too late! I’m already getting that hot feeling in my head!”
This ride was different, though. I had a gut-draw to it like it was an epic something I desperately needed. I figured by this point my body had forgiven me for the previous year’s epic ignoring-it fail. Plus I was silently promising to listen this time around. You know, stop in the case of any electrical shooting pains that happened to zip up and down my legs. (I.E. – have some common sense)
With that settled it was time to spend the next 4 months slugging out all the miles of training. I followed plans to a T, gave myself plenty of rest and fun and electrolytes and sandwiches. My Jimmy John’s delivery man fell in love with me, I learned every crack in pavement between the Veloway and the Autobahn like the back of my hand and slept like a rock every night. It was a lovely 4 months of building and restructuring that resulted in a humming body and the development of a bit of a skip in my step.
So you can imagine why I was a bit frazzled when the weathermen started using the “R” word for the big weekend. I cooked up some anti-rain dances, asked everyone to appeal to their higher power on this matter and spent Thursday night trying to not worry about things out of the realm of my control. This came fairly easily because Twinkletoes had returned from Japan and Hollywood had plenty of Gato. Meaning I woke up the next morning revving and ready to turn around 9 times.
Because to get from H-town to A-town you have to turn around a lot, apparently. Friday night before the ride there were logistical nightmares and plenty of displeasing the GPS dot, but we eventually got where we were going and everything fell into place just as I kept reassuring Kim it would. Slow down, daytime emmy. This going to be just like senior year except funner. On the inside, though, I was buggin’. Especially when the genius idea to taco-load instead of carb-load became non-negotiable. (I think you can see where “epic poos” start to fit into the story now.) (Fatter sure picks weird things to brag about.)
I had Xanax for dessert & Lindsay’s couch went from vintage to warm womb in no time. We slumber partied away, woke up ready to roll and scared the rain away at the start line. The first day was magical and all divinely orchestrated like that. We picnicked at an hour none of us have ever lunched before. There were ice cream sandwiches and Backstreet Boys. I found Taco Deli friends. There were people on the side of the road in neon wigs/inflatable sumo suits with giant speakers blaring Chubby Checker and entire small towns cheering and blowing bubbles for us to ride through. The sun even made an unexpected appearance, forcing me to break down and buy a pair of sunglasses/tell strangers in the porta john line about how my future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
Somewhere between the bubbles and Chubby Checker and ice cream sandwiches, ah-ha moments began to force their way to the surface – went from tip-of-my-tongue to all-up-in-my-grill like they’d too long been renting space up in my noggin and needed a good airing out. Something about the repetitive pulling up/pushing down that jars the muscle memory and dislodges these sort undeniable realizations. I decided then and there that it was better to create life space rather than carry around the weight. How only this actual moment is life and the only things that will move it forward are motors, not anchors. The past got vanishingly small with every mile that passed and my serenity was like: See yaa!
By the finish line of day uno, this was cemented in certainty/monumentally final – my mind slammed shut doors and opened a window. Because like I said, taco-loading was not a good idea.
I celebrated an 84 mile day by hunting down team Taco Deli’s tent, which was quite the feat in and of itself. The campgrounds were a massive maze that took a map to navigate, but there was a keg of 512 Pecan Porter at the end of the tunnel – so you can bet your booty me & bike navigated with a quickness. I had recovery beer with Team Taco Deli, admired their view and skedaddled when the karaoke was busted out, because mom was waiting nearby with Alicia Silverstone treats and I don’t like fun, I guess.
Mom and I survived a tsunami on the way back and I told her everything that happened on my bicycle, twice. Because the levels of various brain neurotransmitters had been altered by strenuous and exaggerated activity I was like: I RODE MY BICYCLE THROUGH BUBBLES, MOM, BUBBLES. A LOT. Then I ate the biggest muffin mom has ever seen, got pregnant with a fettuccine baby and entertained Pancakes & Hubby for a hot minute. Coma time totaled 4 hours and then I was up and at’em all over again (Read: yawning/complaining about biscuit pains with Team Turnaround.)
Day dos was all like: hang on to your panties, this is about to get nasty. I tried keeping the mood light by asking Fatter “#1 or #2?” at every port-o-let. Team Taco Deli was nowhere to be found. (See! This is why I don’t trust karaoke.) And rest stop #4 had no cookies. What the french, toast? Yesterday you gave us ice cream sandwiches and Backstreet Boys at lunch! People will riot in the streets!
Luckily the next stop had cookies and trail mix to the max. That shit was correct/made up for the too-high bar of day one. Kim was even finally united with the elusive pickle juice she had been pining for the entire way. We rubbed Biofreeze all over our jellolegs and left rest stops with police escorts who challenged me to lay it on a little thicker.
Rest stops always ended in adventures like this. Perhaps because rest stops are chaotic and slightly rave-y. People wandering around wide-eyed/confused-looking mindlessly gripping water bottles, others dancing with bananas, people approaching you for drugs because you look like a “nice group of girls”, massages, porta-potties, chapstick, bright clothing/people removing bright clothing, people napping in mud, people pointing at a pair of gloves on the ground and yelling “GLOVES!”, everyone thinking it’s funny, losing everything in 5,000 pockets, phone calls from friends on a completely different plane of existence who make no sense to you and vice versa, everyone wanting gum but it being as rare as rocking horse shit, naturally magically gravitating to your crew in the mass hysteria, and exiting glad you made it out alive, with a new appreciation of what you needed a break from.
Needless to say, we stopped at almost every rest stop.
The road itself was another story – a source of adventures but also anxiety, the brunt of its turmoil being the conundrum of 12,999 other cyclists sharing it. A place to yell your every move/observation. MERGING!, SLOWING!, STOPPING!, WATER BOTTLE!, ON YOUR LEFT!, POTHOLE!, GLASS! Because if one goes down you’re all doomed little dominoes. And that can get ugly real quick.
We managed all 153 miles with only one man down incident, though. I narrowly escaped it because I have the reflexes of a cat and must have pleased some god that day. Fatter wasn’t as lucky and learned that if you’re falling you should take the time to stop falling and let everyone know you’re falling, apparently. FALLING! FYI! This is according to some snide cheesedick whose panties were obviously very wadded about something. But because Fatter has the mindset of a champion, we were back out in the chaos in no time. She shook it off like it weren’t no thang and this, my friends, is some classy stuff.
The terrain changed somewhere along the way and I relished in the appearance of climbs. They’re my strength and it felt good to stand. Pressure off the biscuits, you know. On one never-ending hill someone’s bike radio began playing REM’s Everybody Hurts and someone tucked away in the mass had to say it: “How appropriate.”
At the second to last rest stop I spread rumors that we were in Georgetown and made friends with a caterpillar. By this time Team Turnaround was fading slightly so Kim urged me to quit saving some for the wedding night and just go. Despite the jellolegs & biscuit pains I still felt pretty slick and polished, so although I wanted to cross the finish line with the team, I agreed to go off and just kill the last 20 miles.
Not a single person passed me in those last 20 miles. I was slightly airborne, feeling pretty at-home on back roads I know like the back of my hand and fueled by re-channeled desires. I was getting tired of yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” but at the same time savoring the realization that this was one of those somethings that starts for one reason and continues for another, like galaxies that spin into a rolling boil. The heart energy was running the show and I was stopping for nothing, not even Christmas/remembering what former coach used to say 24/7/365:
Anyone can stop.
According to the Opes, God speaks in whispers before you get the brick wall. I feel inclined to believe because you know homegirl built an empire. And a school in Africa. Methinks there’s some weight to her credibility. This year has been one whisper unfolding after the next and my ride was like the big brick wall I was sorta psychically expecting it to be. A metric fuckton of pushing and pulling and climbing and descending miles upon miles brought me back to things with fresh eyes, reminded me of who I am and what is possible.
I spent much of the past few months establishing equilibrium, removing limitations and picturing the finish line – because I know nothing can exist unless we think we see it and you sure as hell can’t ride a bike without balance. And as much as I loved watching that actual finish line materialize, more than anything as I crossed it I could see something much more significant; the need to continue thinking of myself as some kind of science experiment – with hands, feet, a heart, mind, lungs – all these moving parts and the things they can do, where they can take me. Because it really and truly is “always the journey.”