Filling out the post-ride survey, one of the questions I answered was: “What motivated you to do this race?” The answer was simple. I wrote something like “My father-in-law has MS, the fundraising goals were attainable, I wanted to challenge myself…” But the truth is, it came down to wanting to take part in an adventure.
Before the race even began, the opening ceremonies were met with the opening up of skies overhead. A torrential downpour sent hundreds of cyclists scrambling. Some, like myself, quietly and casually sauntered over to an uncrowded tent. Knowing that we could only hide for so long, and that we would be riding through this same rain, and would eventually end up soaked to the bone, we wanted appear tough and nonchalant about being able to handle a little soaking.
Then, with the first rotation of my pedals, months of anticipation came to a screeching halt. I had no idea what to expect of this course – aside from the rain, of course.
Despite only averaging about 15 miles per hour, most of the first day was a blur. Breathtaking coastal views, tiny quintessential New England towns, cars, potholes, and other cyclists whizzed past my eyes in an instant.
About 55 miles in, I encountered a stretch of about 15 miles of roads lined by woods, where I found myself alone with my thoughts; no cars, no route markers, no cyclists behind me, or ahead. Did I take a wrong turn? And just as a hint of panic began to set in, I made it to the next rest area. I rested long enough to catch my breath and hear other arriving cyclists verbally wonder whether they also had become lost.
I also learned at that stop that my phone, which was stored in my bike pouch, had succumbed to the rain. Dead… and… that the course was actually 78 miles, not 75 as billed. I had 10 miles left. Undeterred, I hopped on the bike and did what a couple thousand others did – finished the first day.
I spent the remainder of the day relaxing. Getting to sleep was not a problem.
My alarm clock sounded at 4:30 a.m. I was outside in five minutes, waiting to hop the shuttle bus and be on my way. The shuttle bus arrived 40 minutes later. Pedaling over the Bourne Bridge at sunrise was going to be the highlight of my day — aside from finishing. So, I grabbed a quick breakfast and made my way to the start line.
Despite occasionally watching cycling on T.V., for some reason, the concept of drafting had escaped me for much of day one. I trained solo and had never ridden in a pack before, so I did not fully understand the benefits of it until the final stretch of day one. Day two I decided to take much more of a team approach, despite not being on an actual team. I found people to ride with for much of the race. For one stretch of 20 miles, the line I was in averaged 28 miles per hour. There were many high fives exchanged at the end of that stretch.
After many more miles of hitching a ride with others, a rest stop on the beach, and one final monstrosity of a hill, I finished strong, with energy to spare. Waiting for me at the finish line was — well, no one. I managed to get there so quickly I actually beat my wife and daughter, who had to battle a bit of traffic and look for parking. When they showed up, I hadn’t stopped smiling ear-to-ear. The sense of accomplishment lingered, but most of all, the memory of the adventure I had just embarked on would stick around for a long time to come.
I expect next year, with a different perspective, will mean a different adventure. I’m going to join a team, with hopes of being able to partner with people throughout the race. I can’t wait.