Sunday was the last day of camp.
I woke up feeling like a truck had rolled over me. Like a giant Tow Truck. Someone should probably touch me. Enter about 4 days of getting up far too early to feel human, many miles, go go go, lots of laughs and still another 50 miles to go and I was feeling ragged today. Danni noticed – you seem off. You are right. I woke up with my on/off switch completely off and broken. But there is one more bike ride to go. I’m going and I’ll give it my best. I’m tired, I’m crabby, I’m way undercaffeinated. But I reminded myself you did Ragbrai. I’m used to this. I just need to get on my bike to feel normal again.
The weather forecast was turbulent. There was a 50 percent chance we would get rain and a 50 percent chance I would fall asleep on my bicycle. Both are a big risk. We had chosen to ride out in St. Charles this morning. Correction: start in St. Charles and ride west. If a storm rolls in we’ll have to crawl under a cow for protection. Or if we’re lucky enough to be on Dittman – crawl under a llama. If I fall asleep at the wheel of my bicycle I will take down 3 other girls. I grabbed the French press and prayed it had more coffee. It did. And it was gritty.
We arrived in St. Charles to an overcast sky and growing winds. Today we would have to ride single file and everyone would need to stay together. It was a no-drop ride but I also made it clear that we wouldn’t poke along … know what I mean? I knew they would be tired. I’m tired too. But I also knew that the breakthroughs you make when tired, in a group, pushing through that wall of fatigue or your own expectations – well, that’s where you really learn something. You are out of your comfort zone, in a place of discomfort and do something you’ve never done before.
I love this ride. It’s about a 40 minute drive west but once you are out there you find few stop signs and beautiful Midwestern scenery. Silos, barns, corn, soybeans, cows. All things that make me feel at home. The course starts in small rolling hills then heads out to the fields. We make a right turn on to Dittman and get one of the several helpings of tailwind we had in the first hour. Tailwind in the first hour is great – until you realize that you have 2 hours to go and as soon as you turn around it’s going to turn into a headwind.
We rode past the llama farm, up Plato to Tower Road. This is the part of the ride where I always feel like we are truly getting out there. Cat asked where we were and all I could say was “west.” If you showed me a map I wouldn’t know. I just know that if you ride north you hit Hampshire, if you ride further west you might hit Rockford, south to Elburn.
We stop at 1:17 into the ride to make our first turnaround. Pulling the group I could feel the wind doing all sorts of things so I grabbed a tuft of grass, let it go in the air and confirmed that somehow we would get tailwind again. The wind shifted.
At this point, Danni says something about being tired or feeling slow. Me too. Some days you set out and you know that the toughest part of the workout will be just finishing it. You can’t win every workout. You can’t set a personal best every time you’re out. Sometimes you’re just tired and you just do the work without worrying about how far, how fast. Danni later tells us she had a little pity party for herself there. I told her it was a good thing we were all there to crash it.
We ride back and the wind shifts again. From the southeast, from the southwest. All I know is that by the time I got to Peplow I was fighting a nasty headwind pulling the group at 14 mph with my heart in my mouth. I was wrapped in that sweatyhumidsweat you get on days like this, the wind was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think and I was starting to feel nauseous. Eat wind eat wind eat wind. I’m full thank you but what can you do. You can get all worked up by the wind or you can relax, be patient and trust the time will pass. It’s not like I would ride into the wind forever. Maybe it was another 15 minutes. The time will pass. Eventually we will turn.
And we did turn. Once we did, Cat says something about popping (could have been her energy, her ego, her rear tire…I don’t know) and I see a stop sign ahead knowing it was like an oasis. I had to stop there. Give myself a moment to collect my thoughts. The group is weary. The wind had to be blowing at 20+ mph and it was hot. We needed more water. I told them we would ride up a bit further to the park where sometimes the water spigot is turned on. When we got there, it was not. Cat almost raged but Danni gave her some water to save the day.
It was brought up whether or not we would keep the same intensity. 10 miles to go and…yes, yes it would be at this intensity. 10 miles is nothing compared to where we’ve been this week. These 10 miles won’t be pretty but let’s just get it done.
Danni has gotten her second wind. She’s right with me now and is smiling. We descend Empire and then it’s time for Town Hall! I hammer the hill because it’s unwritten law – you always hammer Town Hall. Danni and I ride together down Campton Hills. You can really build up speed and just fly down this road. I tell her to stay right on my wheel and be confident.
When we go to Peck and LaFox and told Danni it was a job well done. In long rides you go through so many highs and lows. One hour you feel like you are scraping the bottom of the ground, the next hour you feel like you can fly. You just ride those waves out. Trust that the lows will pass and take advantage of the highs.
After lunch at Jimmy John’s (I literally was freaked out by how fast they made my sandwich), we headed home. Got ready to take Danni and Cat to the airport. Convinced Andrea to relax and stay another day. No need to start a 9 hour drive home just yet.
Andrea, Chris and I went over to Downers Grove to watch the US Pro Criterium National Championship. As a wicked storm rolled into town, it was put on rain delay. We hung out in a wine shop. While I obsessed about needing to get home to do work, Chris obsessed over a pint of beer with Shawn. Remember Shawn from Ragbrai? He had done the men’s elite race and survived the downpour and introduced me to my new favorite race strategy. When he realized he would have been better off with less air pressure in the rain, he thought about putting himself into a controlled crash so he could let some air out of his tires while waiting at the Mavic tent for this free lap. Now THAT’S strategy (and stupid but then again….this is crit racing…it’s a different animal).
I tried to get a glass of wine but my license has expired. Well crap. Guess I’m going to need to do my favorite errand – a trip to the DMV!
Chris had a better idea: Go outside, do something to piss the cops off so they’ll give you a ticket.
Shawn’s reply: now that’s Ragbrai thinking!
We watched some of the race but honestly it got boring. It was raining and some guy went off the front and had a 90 second lead on the peleton. Great strategy in the rain but not so exciting for the race.
We went back home and Andrea offered to cook dinner. I was able to get my work done and enjoyed talking a little more with Andrea. If you have an unusual swim workout on your schedule this week, you might want to blame Andrea. She gave me some great new ideas. And she made a delicious dinner for us!
Monday morning camp was over. I was tired and there was lots of laundry to be done. The house was quiet but it didn’t feel right. I had spent the past 5 days living in what felt like dorm-life. The constant company and chatter of friends that keeps you up too late at night with too many laughs. I’m 13 years removed from dorm life but it felt good to go back to it again.
I was talking on the phone with someone on Tuesday when they asked me a good question:
Why did you do that?
In other words, why did I let 3 people into my home for 5 days, to share my space, my time and to work out with me. There was no fee involved, no formal camp, no lectures, no freebies, no guest speakers. Sure it was draining at times but really it was more invigorating. Sharing what I have learned and what I love about the sport makes me feel complete. I might not be that good at competing right now – but sharing, I’d like to think I’m becoming the national champion of that.
So to answer his question – why did I do that – it just felt like the right thing to do. Nothing is more meaningful to people than when you give them your time. Nothing shows them you care more than when you take the time to work with them, to talk with them or just to listen. If they walked away learning one thing to help them enjoy or do the sport better then I feel like it was worth it, it was a success.