It is hot and I'm pretty much spent. Slumped in a lawn chair under an awning, I take in the snow caps of the Cabinet mountains at Bull Creek, the fourth of five rest stops on CHafe. My gps says nearly 97 miles. I have 53 more to today.
The heat is bothering everyone at this point. We've all had the same wet spring to limit our training. The crew at this stop have fashioned themselves MASH 4077 complete with a man in a dress who met you as you rode in and offered to take your bike.
A medical emergency sounded kind of good at the time.
Last year at this point I was at least half an hour earlier and nearly alone. I had hammered much of the second and third legs of the same 150 mile route and was feeling pretty good about an 18 mph average. I stood to power over the small rollers without slowing and wondered a bit that I might have over-done. In fact the fourth leg heading south into a head wind would hurt me a bit but I would maintain my average. 18 mph.
This year I failed to diet in January and find myself at least 15lbs too heavy. Everyone of the lbs count on the hills and rollers. I have the mileage but the weather has prevented riding many centuries and I have nothing over 104 miles.
I guess I was ready though. Chris appeared magically at Bonner's Ferry. "Have you ridden a century this year," I asked.
"No." Chris hadn't done much more than 60 miles this year. "Why do you do this to yourself," I asked.
"Maybe next year I won't," Chris groused, "if I can't get more training in."
Chris was speaking pretty much for all of us.
I couldn't help but note how I felt compared to the same place on the route the previous year and it wasn't favorable. I chased a pace line, caught it, worked my way through it and finally dropped it on the climb into the lunch stop last year.
This year I chased another pace line. Caught it, rode for a bit in its wake and then faded. "I can't do this."
Chris wasn't the only one out without proper training. Jack and Sandy from Moscow were here riding the 80 miler along with Linda and Lee Bauer. But their son, Dan, on a road bike borrowed from Sean planned to ride 150 miles. Dan road a century last year but not this. 60 miles seems to be the magic distance that makes someone think he can jump to 150 miles in one day.
Just for the nay-sayers, though. Dan finished and looked pretty good doing it.
I began taking on more water mixed with heed and somewhere in the midst of the fourth leg, I found some reserve. I played with a small group I had passed and re-passed throughout the day. Tired, struggling into a head wind, I saw them coming in my mirror and could do nothing about it.
"How're you doing?" the leader asked.
"I'll finish," I offered without much enthusiasm.
Satisfied I was done, they didn't power through and I surged to catch their draft once again. I had been doing this all day, and each time the pace would slacken or the hill would steepen and I'd find myself riding through.
I had no intention of pushing the pace this time. I just wanted to hang on. A pull into the wind is priceless and I was willing to pay just about any price if I could just hang.
My legs didn't ache. My breath was strong and even, but I lacked energy. The hills grew steeper. I no longer saw a rise in the pavement as an opportunity to rise up and challenge. Instead they now made me reach deep to find an answer.
And then it was there. Perhaps it was the water and the heed. Perhaps it was just guts and experience, but once again I found myself spinning out of the draft when the hill turned up. And then I was over the top and gone.
But alone is not a good way to ride into a wind. I slowed, struggling, again. And there they were again. But wary, this time. They wouldn't pass. So I pulled or stayed just out of their reach for a ways to Clark Fork where a 9% grade dropped them off my pace.
I was feeling more confident by Clark Fork and there'd be huckleberry icecream on a stick dipped in chocolate.
Jack and Sandy were there looking for Dan who hadn't made an appearance. I headed out with them but soon found myself alone. Last year 80 mile riders were spread out ahead of me and I enjoyed exchanging encouragements with them as I passed. This year, the 80 milers were mostly well ahead of me.
I caught Lee about 16 miles out of Sandpoint and we rode together for a bit. He looked strong and stepped up the pace to stay with me for a time until a hill turned nasty and I lost him.
Leaving Clark Fork, I saw Chris just turning in. "Stick a fork in me, I'm done," he said. And I had to wonder why we thought this was recreation.
Does it feel good? Hard to say that about the last 27 miles. Sometimes I could get into my aero bars and still hit 18, but mostly riding was an exercise in avoiding pot holes and pavement cracks and pickup trucks in a mad rush to somewhere.
At one point I looked up to see a car in the travel lane and another in my lane. The shoulder was 6 inches and badly broken. I wasn't going to ride into the ditch, but I did pull up and stop. The passing vehicle didn't even slow. Likely his concentration was on the car he was passing. He probably didn't see me and may not have noticed if he'd swiped me enough to blow me off the road.
Road conditions everywhere were worse than last year. A rough winter has left longitudinal cracks in the pavement and mysterious little holes. Add to that bright sunshine and numerous cast shadows and you have a very nervous weak0eyed cyclist.
On the plus side, this is a famously well-supported ride with rest strops vying to out do one another in service to the riders. Dan had a flat and didn't have to change it himself. SAG did it.
The barbecue on the lawn at the Edgewater resort with the blue of the sky matching the blue of lake Pend Oreille with snow capped peaks in the distance completed a day spent in verdant greens and rushing streams.
But just to keep us honest, we had a steady wind the entire day--not hard but discouraging. "Where I come from," I told a volunteer, "the wind comes out of the east in the morning and the west in the afternoon."
"Does that here, too," she said.
If only I had dieted in January. If only I had had a couple of rides over 115 miles. If only I had some companions for long rides.
And where were my riding companions today? Yeah, that's right. When I'm away the all come out and want to ride a century. Jim Kenyon called for the Tekoa Century. McCracken and Stephenson were going for 112 through Wawawai and Kendrick. Al Coons wanted to do a century but had to start later. Lee McCarely chimed in with his intentions as well.
While the cat's away, everyone wants to ride a century. Of course you'll all be busy next week.
For the Ride of it