This story begins in the hospital. I am in labor with my twin sons, I am 24 years old and I am alone. At 8.5 and 7.9lbs, I’m having some difficulty pushing them out. I turn to the nurse and whisper, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to do this.” She laughs, “Well honey, you don’t have to do it again, but you do have to finish this now.” This memory came to me several hundred miles into the PA600km, and I was bolstered by the realization that I had, in fact, completed that labor successfully and I could, in fact, complete the ride and become…drum roll please…a Super Rando!
Now, if you asked why I would want to ride hundreds of miles over every hill and dale in Pennsylvania just to get a silly medal I would tell you…hang on…let me think about that.
First of all, unlike the first labor of this story, for this one I was not alone. When I met Victor a year ago, we rode two hundred miles over three days, from Boston to New York (Read the first post of this blog for the story). He had some experience with long distance cycling. But I was very new to riding. I had completed several sprint triathlons, but had put in very little mileage on the bike. We found we enjoyed riding together, and a few more things, and have been doing it ever since. He introduced me to Tom and the PA Randos for a 200 km last fall, and we rode again in the early spring 200km through Lancaster. I really enjoyed those rides, and when I heard about the medals, it seemed like a challenge I wanted to take on.
Last year I completed several short and long course triathlons, placing second and third in my age group and even winning the Harlem Valley Hill Climb time trial overall. I discovered that I enjoy going fast and pushing myself to the limits. It's especially rewarding to find I am actually really good at something athletic. And, I love the way the medals go, “Ching, ching,” on my bedpost when I knock into them accidentally. So, I was determined to complete the series and win my Super Rando status. Plus, Victor convinced me to sign up for the Endless Mountain 1240km in the fall, and we had to do this in order to qualify.
This last ride of the series was a gift of perfect weather, incredible scenery, good company, and a healthy body and mind. At one control, George saw me take out my bag with the brevet card, a credit card and an iphone and exclaimed, “That’s really all you ever need.” I think that is a perfect metaphor. We all need challenge, the means to accomplish that challenge, and human connections to make it all meaningful. I guess that is the answer to the question of why.
The memories of these long rides become like impressionist paintings for me. There are some clear images, but often there are just memories of smells and feelings, and songs in my head. The most fun was the last part of the first day, when Victor, Eric and I linked up in a fast pace line trying to beat the dusk. As we rolled by other riders I would shout, “Express Train to Weisel, all aboard!” The least fun was the last part of the second day, when my knee gave out and I had to crawl up all the hills. I worried that I was not going to make it. I thought, how tragic, for the story end this way. But, I remembered those words in the hospital room all those years ago, and pushed on. At the Weisel, I was greeted like a celebrity and almost wanted to cry with joy and grateful admiration for the folks who were there supporting us. 38.25 total hours- 27 hours in the saddle. 25,949.2 feet of climbing, 13.8 average speed. 374.89…no 375 miles because Victor picked up the bike and spun the wheel a few times. Thank you.