Saturday, April 24, 2010

I completed the Wildflower 50 mile bike ride

I drove up to Creston for the San Luis Obispo Bike Club Wildflower ride. They had three rides, a 50 miler, 75 and 100 miler. I signed up for the 50 and brought my recumbent trike, a Catrike Pocket.

I signed up back in January or February or something like that. I really expected I would get more training in, but I didn't. I think the Widlflower ride was something like the 4th ride I've done all year.

I drove up on Friday afternoon and slept next to the Fire station. The whole little town was full of RVs and tents all over the place. Seems they don't really mind since all these riders converge from everywhere and spend money. There's a spaghetti feed the night before the ride that is run by some organization in town, so they get that money. Then there was a bake sale in the morning that benefits the elementary school and later the lunch helps the fire department. A hundred people camped all over town? No problem.

I camped with a fellow recumbent trike rider who I sometimes ride with. His wife was there, too. They had a little utility trailer to sleep in and I just camped outside. In the early morning, our other trike riding friend and his two trike riding brothers met us. It was very foggy in the morning. And very cold.

We set off for the ride through rolling oak woodlands scattered with wildflowers. What I could see out my fogged up glasses in the fogged up landscape was beautiful. We climbed just barely into juniper and pine country.

I had eaten a fairly light breakfast, no dinner the night before. A couple of cups of coffee had me scrambling for a bush on the side of the road. At the first stop I made sure to drink something hot as I was freezing and I ate a quarter of a bagel with peanut butter.

I was glad I brought a bunch of layers. In addition to my riding attire, which was a pair of capri running pants and a long sleeved Patagonia base layer (no bike clothes for me) I had a colorful vest I bought at a previous Wildflower ride, my fleece balaclava, my Houdini jacket, my cap and some arm warmers. With all that on I was barely warm enough at stops. I took some of it off to ride.

The fog didn't want to let up. It was still foggy after we rode through Shell canyon to the lunch spot in Shandon. Shell canyon had lots of great wildflowers. It was a little past their prime, or maybe there had been too much rain that favored the grasses which were long and starting to turn brown. Still, there were tidy tips, owls clover, lupine, pin cushion and mustang mint amidst the rolling hills and cattle.

The road in the canyon was in poor condition. It rattled me so much I could hardly see where I was going. The flag on the back of my trike fell off somewhere. My rear view mirror dangled, having come unscrewed. It felt like my sinuses were going to rattle out of my nose and it was so cold and jiggly that my feet become numb. It looked flat but felt like hard work.

At the lunch stop I made sure to eat light again because there were big hills coming. Just as we were leaving, somebody on a bike got hit by somebody on a motorcycle. I didn't see what happened, but I hoped everybody and both bikes were okay.

I began the after-lunch stretch at a slow pace. I usually ride with some of these guys and they have a tendency to kind of push me a bit. They don't try to, I just feel like I have to go faster than I really want to for various reasons. I decided I would do this whole ride at my own pace and if they happened to be around me fine. I think they kind of waited for me here and there. Anyway, I went at my own pace and waited until lunch kicked in when I got my energy part way up a big hill. I cruised easily, spinning my legs quickly and easily. Not that I was fast. All day I think I heard the words "on your left" about a million times. But I was faster and feeling no pain at all. I enjoy the big hills better than anything else.

The first big hill went through soft hills of green grass and owls clover. It looked like the Carrizo Plains. At the top, I was looking forward to a big downhill, but it was too short. Still, it was fun.

Then the final really big hill loomed. I felt great. About 50 really cool motorcycles went by as I chugged my way up to the top and the day's last rest stop where they had lemonade, snacks and chairs. The sun had finally come out, my feet thawed and I could feel my toes again. I drank some water and ate some sodium Clif Shot Blocks. Those are really yummy.

Then the final descent back to Creston. My knees were starting to feel a little tired. But I was joking during the final miles that I should have done the 100 miler because I really expected for my 4th bike ride of the year to be bleeding and crying and feeling like I might not make it. Instead, I pulled in to the end feeling better than I had on any of the previous bike rides like this that I have done.

They had a barbecue chicken 2nd lunch at the finish. I sat and talked with the others and with another friend from Santa Barbara who happened to be there. Then it was time to go back home.

My PCT hike seemed to have taught me a lot of things. One is to just go at your own pace always. If you do that, you can climb any mountain. You can climb mountains all day over and over and climb more mountains tomorrow.

Another thing was how to feel comfortable just about anywhere. I have this gear that took me to Canada. I use it for bike riding and it works just as well. I know how to switch layers around and work with what I have on to stay reasonably comfortable. Maybe not always perfect, but I don't feel that bad when I'm a little miserable. I'm used to that. There's a difference between discomfort and danger.

I guess the last thing I learned is that when I am in decent physical condition, I feel free. Unlimited. If this weekend I want to bike ride, I go bike riding. If tomorrow I want to run, I will go running. I'm not athletic, I'm never going to win any races, but I'm physically capable of what I want to do.

On the drive home I thought about The Man. He might be on his way up the Apache Peak section of the PCT. I hope he's having a great time. I hope he comes back feeling free and happy and wants to do more of the trail with me. Maybe if he makes it to Kennedy Meadows, he and I can hike together from Kennedy Meadows to Lake Tahoe someday.

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