What: I’m training for the Hotter ’N Hell Hundred, an endurance cycling race/ride.
Who: Dad is in on this gig, also. So, Dad and me.
When: We started training in June. The race is the last weekend of August. (No, that’s not a responsible, well planned timeline.)
Where: North Texas.
Why: Because we didn’t finish it the first time.
For the last five years, this incomplete goal bothered me. The year that my newfound interest in cycling and our mutual challenge to not eat sugar for a year resulted in a reward trip to Oklahoma and Texas to ride 100 miles with 14,000 other cyclists was the only year that the race officials decided to close the race due to extreme temperatures.
We were at mile 80 when the pick-up truck and long, flat trailer came through to pick up cyclists. I think I would have finished. I felt like I would have finished. But as I watched the man across from me, sitting against the tire well of the truck bed, sink his face in his palms and cry, I knew I’d always wonder. It felt comfortable to blame the incomplete goal on someone else’s decision. But there would always be the nagging question.
Last week, we set out on a 40-mile evening ride. In the first 10 miles heading south, a dark band to the southwest turned a typical Southern July evening into a gray whirlwind of unpredictable weather. By the time we circled back, the road was littered with small branches.
Around mile 25, we hit the rain. The kind of downpour that soaks everything. For the next ten (very soggy and cold) miles, I thought about the concept of training for a race (or, really, for anything). The last five miles would be the miles to break my quads, leave my knee caps burning, and make me question the price of finishing the ride in August.
Actually, the purpose of the first 35 miles was to wear my body down so that the last five would be hard. Of the entire ride, only the last five produce growth.
To me, it’s frustrating to complete that first 35 miles without out doing the last five that push me. In any situation. To start and then stop before or around the last leg…man, it’s one of the most disappointing, unsatisfying feelings. Maybe that’s why I so badly want to try the Hotter ’N Hell again.
The rain moved on, the sun cast glowy hues of pink across the clouds, and we started the last five miles. My quads burned, my knee caps threated to pop off, and I debated whether finishing the ride in August was worth this.
Like every long ride so far, my knee caps stayed intact, my legs kept pumping, and I decided that, yes, it’s very worth finishing. We’ll discover the answer to that nagging question.