Here are some things I learned from another gran fondo, this time more about myself than others, as it should be:
1. I have talked in the past about being ready, about planning, about acutally having a checklist to make sure that there is not something you have forgotten that might make it difficult or impossible to finish, keeping in mind that I have also said that the real success is getting to the startline.
So what did I forget-my keys, when I had locked the bike in the bike rack on the car. This meant a drive back home, a stressful morning that had otherwise gone so well, and a fifteen minute late start. This didn't make it impossible to finish just harder.
2. I have also said that a flat tire should not mean that you need to be rescued. This did not happen to me, but to a friend. He had to walk five miles, he said, and it was clear that he wasn't going on. He had forgotten both pump, and CO2. He said: "There goes my jersey," meaning the triple crown jersey that is awarded for finishing all Oregon Triple Crown events. This mattered to him, and yet he was defeated by a small mistake similar to the one I made.
3. Sag drivers, the guys who follow along in cars to make sure we are all ok, are wonderful people. I had a guy in a black SUV, Shawn, check on me everytime he went by. Another guy in a white truck followed me up the last climb just to be sure I made it-I am sure it looked questionable. Both of these guys said I was inspirational- so are you! You're being there made it possible for me to finish a very hard ride.
4. The final climb back into Cottage Grove was one of the hardest things I have done. My bike computer was telling me it was 100 degrees, likely less, still very hot. It had been hot for awhile, and no matter how much I drank it was not enough. The rate at which I climbed that hill, according to my GPS was about half of some of the earlier climbs. This is an experience I have had before. It is not the dreaded bonk, but something worse. It is a physical and psychological crisis. The body is sending out those signals that it has to quit, though far in advance of real trouble, and the mind is it's biggest supporter. I knew I was in trouble. I also knew it was early stage. I also knew exactly where I was on that climb, thanks to GPS, and that the descent into Cottage Grove is a blast. Though my mind was not helping, still some aspect of me was sure of the result.
5. Even though I am now a five-time finisher of this event, each one has been very different, and there is never a certainty of success. It is just over two months after a serious bike accident, and while I am still in good shape, 117 miles on rough roads, enough climbs to add to the difficulty and the heat were a real challenge. I know this event challenged me. I don't yet know if I will do the other two events, but somebody has to get that jersey.
6. While my competativeness has decreased over the years, my determination to finish a ride has not, and while this can be viewed from a positive perspective, it is not all so. During my moment of panic when I could not get to the startline on time, there were feelings of failure and inadequacy that were all too familiar. In my previous post I referred to the thought of: "It's because you're not blanking good enough anyway." That thought was there, though obviously not paralyzing as it has been in the past. I powered through it, and yet I wonder couldn't the meditative, compassionate being that I am capable of being managed this a little better. Why the panic? Why the fear?
I am sure that there are other things that will occur to me later, but for now, I know that I am better for having done this "event," had this type of heightened experience, for it is these types of "livings" that bring focus to our being, both the flaws that are exposed, and the remarkable resilience and tenacity that make us who we are. If I do choose to do the other two events of the triple crown there will be more of a challenge in many different, and at this time unknown ways. See you on the road.