The night before the ride, I was irritable, disorganized, and wondering why I was doing the same ride for the fourth time. This is typical of how I deal with "pre-event jitters." Better than it used to be. The morning of the ride is much better. I am usually focused and calm. Sunday was just this way. The drive to Cottage Grove was slow, and calm as I knew I had plenty of time. I got to the start line in plenty of time, only to discover that for some reason they would be starting 15 minutes late. I took a few photos, and a video, checked out the bikes, and noted, that as usual, most everyone was significantly younger than me. I have yet to be the oldest, but I am consistently among the oldest. Tadyatha (Just the way it is).
The start was typical. I don't trust a group like this, with unknown riding skills. I start at the back, and stay to the right side of the road. As usual, there is much starting, and slowing. Somebody calls: "Slowing," everybody slows, you hope, and trys not to run into the guy in front. This thins out with the first climb. This is enough of a climb to thin out the pack. The front runners are already gone. I never even know who they are. The first descent is uneventful, the second climb easier than the first and the second descent a little nervous. It is fast, however, and with a flat section before the next climb, I am actually at 15.1 mile average by the time I hit the third climb, the King of the Mountain, which is of no interest to me at all. I know it is going to be hot sometime today, so I stop at the top, the first aid station for drinks.
From here, following a descent, the Medio riders leave the route, and we enter the woods, deeper and deeper, and start the 50 miles of chipseal and narrow roads. In the deepest part of the woods, on a one lane road, I stop to take a video. This is the first stop, of several, that will eventually cost me a personal best. But maybe India has changed me, and the priority is different.
When we finally leave the woods, and start the eternal climb over South Sister Road, it is hot. The couple of steep climbs on Siuslaw River Road are tiring, and I am about one GU short. By now I have to stop with "hot foot," and the bike is not shifting right, I make a stop at an aid station to see if a mechanic can improve the shifting. These all contribute to my slowing. On the final climb, I am feeling pretty good-unlike last year when I suffered up this climb with fatique due to a thyroid issue. Along the way I find another rider off the side of the road, head on the handlebars. He tells another rider he is sick, but okay. The other rider goes on. I stop to talk with him, firstly to see if he is allright, secondly because it is the right thing to do, and also to pass on a little motivation. We talk about things that altered cyclists talk about this far into a ride, and I leave him for the descent into town.
When I get to the finish line, Sue is sitting on the curb. I think in this moment, we both know why I do this, though we probably couldn't put it into words. There is the history. Brian finishing when it looked like he was dead along the road two years ago. Sharon and Sue waiting for him. I look up at the time clock. It says: "9:01:54." The goal was to do it in under nine. It is also about eight minutes off of a personal best, less than the time I threw away along the way trying to make this memorable. I laugh. Which is more important?