Monday, September 15, 2008

What it's like at 50.35...

I told myself yesterday that I would write about the whole ride today. But details slip from your mind as quickly in real life as when you wake from a dream. The thing that remains most clear to me now is the pain.

And the hurting.

And the misery.

And the pain.

So, let me tell you about it.

I woke up early Sunday morning, giving myself plenty of time to check my bike out, loud up my gear and my food, and dress in my new cycling clothes. Vicky had gone with my down to REI, where I found another pair of cycling shorts, to save my fat ass, along with an orange shirt (that we thought was made of spandex but is actually bamboo!). I had second thoughts about wearing a shirt over that - it was cold out - but decided to let my body temp take care of me. I'd generate enough heat on the road.

As soon as I hit the trail, I began to have my doubts. Cyclists, and there were already plenty of them out there, were wearing these sleeves on their arms. Not attached to their clothes, they looked like 80's leg warmers for your arms: Arm Warmers! And sure enough, I've since found them online - what will they think of next? But I was sure things would warm up eventually and I was making good time. I hit the beach in less than 90 minutes and took in the increasingly familiar sight. Now, the first time I rode to the beach, I was already tired when I got there. This time, hitting the beach was only half the job. Looking up the misty, overcast coast, I was anxious for part two.

The beach was already becoming crowded, even that early, and I veered in and out of groups as I rode. There's a speed limit on the beach of 10 mph and I observed it just as I observe every speed limit... I tried to keep it under 12... Getting to the pier was no problem but, from there, the path narrows significantly and I realized why so many riders were on the street. They were doing 15, 16, 17 mph or more and I was stuck waiting on slowpoke crowds that couldn't go any faster than their feet - seven miles per hour... six miles per hour. Finally, I had to put the brakes on my impatience. It wasn't for speed that I was riding but for the thrill of riding.

Once I started taking in the scenery instead of wondering when I'd reach that spot ahead or how I could increase my speed, I began to enjoy just how beautiful the beach really was. Sure, the western horizon was littered with oil rigs and the east side of PCH has spawned an ugly new growth of oil pipelines and I had to narrow my focus a bit but then I began to see new things I could never see from the street. Flocks of surfers and armies of children, beautiful little parks, stretches that looked right out of some old movie with their squat, little, wood fences, an array of life and story that made being there the best thing possible. And I shared the trail with other cyclists, with joggers, with roller-bladers, and I saw how un-cynical we all were, such a change from everyday life. How can you be cynical when you're trying to improve your life by getting just a bit more fit?

I reached a zone, a whole stretch of coast, where I felt oblivious to any weariness, any fatique both bodily and existentially. I realized I was "that guy". "That guy" is the guy you watch on TV or see in a movie and think, "I wish I could do that. I'd like to do that." I was doing that and everything was good.

I stopped just past the 25 mile mark for an asian pear, some beef jerky, and a few Jelly Belly Sport beans. I had a 20 minute break, enjoying the sea air, the cool morning, the women surfers pulling wet suits over their bikinis - hey, I'm a guy - and then, I was back on the road. I was surprised at how fast the coast passed me by or visa versa. As I neared the Santa Ana River, I thought, "I should find a bathroom and take a leak before I get on the river trail. You don't know how long it'll be before you find another bathroom." Only, I thought that after I'd passed the last bathroom - and I turned onto the river trail without taking a bathroom break!

Dammit. Oh well, I thought, there's a park by the 405 freeway. I'll use the bathroom there. Only, that park had no bathroom. Oh well, I thought, there's a part just after 17th street. I'll use the bathroom there... or pee my pants! Now, in case you're wondering, 17th street is about six miles from home, 10 miles up the trail from the beach. I covered most of the ground on the way home having to pee!!!! On top of that, I was getting very tired. By the time I hit Segerstrom, not yet halfway home, I was losing my grip (my hands sore) and having a hard time keeping up the pace. When I hit the 17th street park, I raced to a place to park my bike, locked it up, raced inside... and realized I had just left my backpack with all my gear laying on the grass. "Hurry up! Hurry up!" I thought. After all, I was back in Santa Ana, my home town, and I knew better than to trust anyone!

But my backpack was still out there and my bike was fine - I'm such a fucking cynic. The sky was still overcast and it was nearing 11am. As I passed beneath the 22 freeway, however, I went from cool, overcast sky on one side - to sunny heat on the other. How the hell does that happen? I knew I was getting close so I gobbled more beans and poured on the speed.

I made it home after about 3.5 hours of riding... in pain... a lot of pain. But I did it. My first half-century. It doesn't matter how much I hurt today or how much I'll hurt after the next time. Pain isn't important; it's just inconvenient. I'll do this ride again and again and maybe, later, I'll go even further.

I just gotta stop hurting first...

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