I miss the euphoria of seeing the Cape May lighthouse after a day on the bicycle. Two-hundred and eight miles. The last eight counted, too. I never said, “a two hundred mile ride”, it was always the exact number of miles.
Donna ringing that cowbell and laughing all day, “you got this, bro…”
We did it in 12 hours and we did it in 20 hours and all times in between. One year it rained in an unrelenting deluge. The lightning got so bad we had to stop in Egg Harbor and take shelter on some strangers front porch. The poor people inside never come out to confront the smelly guys in spandex standing there sweating. An unplanned stop, just long enough for our legs to stiffen up like boards.
We had 16 flats that year. With 105 miles to go, I was out of spare tires. We stuffed a five dollar bill in the sidewall. It held. We made it to Cape May.
The ride evolved into a crew of three, John, Franko and me. Why these guys continued to be friends with me, to this day, is beyond me.
One year, after a shower I ate so many eggs and hash browns the waitress was concerned for me. John just said, “keep feeding him, he’s quiet when his mouth is full.”
I got really mad at John one year. At 180 miles in he told me we had almost thirty miles left to pedal. I flipped and called him, “a goddamned pessimist!”
John had a spreadsheet in the SAG car. If you stopped to piss he would punch in the numbers and remind you that sunset was 8:34 pm…
Another year I told Franko of my plan to kill him and hide his body in that big field along the route before we got to that last WaWa store. When I stopped there I’d tell everyone I just lost him.
Franko said, “shut up and pedal…”
The season ended on Christmas Day and started on New Years Day. Riding in temperatures below zero. Skinny road tires in the snow and ice, because “fitness,” everything was fitness, everything was geared to the “doubles,” a double-century. People think 100 miles on a bike in a day is a lot, so you double it.
Franko called a 100, “just a long ride.”
By now, mid-May, we’d be doing 400-mile weeks, 140 to 160 training rides on weekends. 120 Saturday and 120 Sunday and 120 Monday – “triple witching weekends.” One year I rode nearly 15,000 miles. That averages about 55 miles a day and I did take a day off now and then.
It never occurred to me the absurdity of riding 160 miles on Saturday, so you would be ready for 200 in a few weeks.
It was always about fitness and sleep and lack of sleep. Worried so much about not sleeping enough you’d not sleep.
Thinking any family trip within 100 miles was “rideable…” I’d just leave 4 hours ahead of anyone.
Then I stopped.
I think the broken bones and the injuries finally caught up.
It was hard for a time.
Something wasn’t right
Then one day I rode my bike for an hour – just one hour – less than 20 miles. A local loop. It was kind of awesome. Then I ate a cheeseburger and didn’t worry about the fat content or carbs in the bun
Then the next day I rode 20 miles again.
I liked my bike. I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t a torture machine. It was fun.
Then one day a group of young studs swarmed me and I just let them ride away.
I got back to the shop three minutes after them. No one died. I wasn’t humiliated.
I miss the euphoria of rolling across a finish line running on fumes.
I don’t miss the life.