I have a standing rule which also does duty as a running joke; this rule is that I never go more than 23 miles from our farm. The truth is-I do go outside this perimeter, in fact I recently breached this self-imposed barrier on bicycle.
We have a pretty solid group who attends a cycling class at the gym. We’ve all become friends and have even enjoyed a previous outdoor cycling trip. We recently breached the perimeter of our indoor home and the surly bonds of my circle of security and cycled Itasca Park.
I have never cycled the park, the same could not be said for most of my companions. I imagined the trip to be one of those relaxed, picnic-lunch sort of endeavors in which you come together with nature. The reality of the trek was that it was more like a bobsled run than a mid-morning, crunchy-granola cruise.
I wore a camo pack filled with highly-nutritious hotdog water with extra pulp. The camo pack has a little tube with a valve you bite when you need a drink. I included a couple of energy bars along with my keys and cell phone in the zipper pouch and off we went.
The first four miles were awful-basically like climbing a ladder to 20,000 feet. I had the seat on my bike set so low that my hamstrings had to perform all the work. I adjusted this on our first stop and again at the next. If you set your seat higher, more of the work is done by your thighs as opposed to hamstrings.
The next 12 or so miles were either crazy-difficult or thrilling with short incidents of level pedaling. I would start pedaling up a hill and believe I was about 30 seconds from the crest. 45 seconds later, I would realize that there was still another 30 seconds of low-gear hammering to summit the climb.
Katie led us at a pace the is recognized by the Geneva Convention as cruel and unusual. I believe our pace averaged 13 miles per hour which is a fairly brisk. Tom was kind of an inspiration as he was so consistent and really never changed his pace as we traversed hill and dale. I was climbing a particularly brutal hill and considering how true cardiac-arrest manifests itself when Christopher fell back and started a conversation with me. I mean, I am pounding away trying to tread water and grasp any lifesaver floating nearby and he wants to talk about how nice the water is-just let me slip below the waves with some dignity.
About mile 15 we met a family traveling the opposite direction. We were traveling downhill at breakneck speeds so the little family was making a pretty hard climb. Trailing behind mom, dad and the baby buggy was a little boy pushing his new, white bicycle. He was crying, really crying. Our eyes met as we passed on this very different portion of the same trip and knew we were both kindred spirits-bicyclists looking for a little cruise who found themselves instead part of a forced march. At least I didn’t cry-I mean outwardly-at least I didn’t cry.