A few things happened during this ride that I wasn't prepared for. It was really intense to do such a large group ride. I had never been a part of something like that before & I should have taken advantage of the opportunity offered by Bike MS to learn how to ride in such a large group because about ten minutes into the ride, we approached an intersection with a red light and I stopped. This is how I ride my bike. If the light is red, I stop. Well, immediately I could hear a man behind me yelling furiously "DO NOT STOP" & the group rolled through the light with guidance of the local police who waved us through. This mistake shook me. I was embarrassed & bummed out that I had already made a mistake and we were only a few miles into a long day. I was mortified that this man yelled at me. For a second all I could think about was how much I wanted to ride my bike into the woods & disappear.
But that wasn't the point of this ride. I learned very early in my cycling life (which ok, is only like 1.5 years now) that I have to leave my ego behind. Riding a bike can be the most fun ever & yet, the most grueling & demanding thing ever. Some days all I want to do is ignore my bike & sleep in late but I get up & get out & after my ride I feel totally pumped. Even on days when my ride is hard & I am struggling, I still am thankful I did it. This feeling is something I have never experienced before I got a bike. I heard people who go to the gym or run talk about it but it, but it never resonated with me because it just sounded way too far-fetched. Like, how could anything that required so much physical activity feel better than just cuddling my dog for hours in my blanket fort?
Up until this ride the longest I had ever ridden my bike was 50 miles & I had just accomplished that a month or so before with a friend of mine. But my half century ride was on gravel so I assumed 100 on pavement couldn't be much harder. The truth is, it really wasn't & that was pretty awesome. The BikeMS ride was fully supported & every 20 miles or so there was a rest stopped stocked with snacks & water & porta-potties. There was music & swag. It was a celebration, a distraction, a welcomed rest from the physical & emotional strain a long ride can take on you (at least, on me, a new cyclist). At one rest stop a main approached me while Brian was getting a snack & said "he is an incredible rider. I saw him pushing you & he was riding so fast" & suddenly I was overcome with conflicting emotions. I was totally proud of my dude for being such a rad cyclist but also, I was totally bummed that part of my ride he was responsible for. I couldn't claim those miles because it was his hand on my back, his speed that got us through them. I was a fake, a phony. Suddenly I was embarrassed again & as the day progressed I refused to let him help me anymore. I had to do the rest of this on my own.
Since we missed the century cut-off Brian looped around to get his own 100 miles in. I knew trying to do that at my speed would take another two hours & I didn't think I had it in me, so I just kept riding towards Ocean City and as I came around a corner & saw those bridges that would lead me to the finish line I got incredibly emotional & began to cry. I had turned Beyonce on my phone which was perched on my handlebars, Lemonade was my soundtrack for those final miles. I was riding alone at this point, not able to keep up with any groups but still riding at a pace I was comfortable with. I rode past a ghost bike of a bmxer who had lost their life & was overcome with emotion again. I think I spent a solid fifteen minutes crying & pedaling because life is so fragile, so special, so incredibly difficult. Being such a new cyclist & a Scorpio & in recovery, I often spend my time crying over things that maybe a normal person wouldn't. Surprisingly, that's actually one thing I am not embarrassed about. My sentimental heart is what keeps this machine going & I was amazed at what I had accomplished so far that day & the ride wasn't even over.
Eventually I approached the finish line & finished the ride with 82 miles ridden in six hours & thirty-seven minutes. My dad & his wife were there waiting for me at the finish line. I parked my bike amongst hundreds of other bikes & found them, walking on jelly legs choking back even more tears because it meant so much to me that they had driven all the way down the shore to be there at the finish line. My dad was so proud & that was pretty rad. Even at almost forty years old it feels good to do something that makes your old man smile so big. Brian was still a few miles out since he had circled around, so we waited for him at the finish line. It was really special for me to be there when he finished his first century ride. It was even more special that now we were in Ocean City New Jersey, a city that held such a special place in my over-crowded heart. When I was seventeen I ran away from home & spent a summer sleeping under the OCNJ boardwalk, spare changing for money to get french fries & bathing in the ocean. I made friendships that summer that are still some of my most cherished. I had my heart broken that summer. It was only a few months but it was the most important time in my life & I hold that town very close to my heart. It was really nice to walk down the boardwalk & share those stories with Brian after such an incredible day, eating dinner & watching the sunset. I couldn't have imagined a better ending to the day.
I have already registered for the 2017 ride. I will keep you updated.