“We are powerful beyond measure.“ –Marianne Williamson
This was my mantra as I continued on my 25-mile route. I began to tell myself if I could get to this one spot, this small town with the one flashing yellow light and a bridge over a river bank, 25 miles out, I would prove that I was powerful beyond measure. I knew this break-up couldn’t break me and I’d be OK.
So I pedaled on. And on. And on.
I was sweating profusely but enjoying the smells of the tall pines, bakery being cooked in someone’s home; I passed a campground where I smelled not only campfire, but bacon. I saw some baby ducks following their mama on a pond and then some flattened road kill shoved off to the side of the road, quite a few black birds that I tried not to view as bad omens. And then I came upon the hill. The longest hill I had ever encountered while biking, must less some 20 miles in.
This hill had no end in sight. I virtually could not make out the end for any foreseeable future. I hunched down and began the ascent. The first song that came on the iPod was appropriately entitled “Warriors” by White Pines.
Let’s paint our faces just like warriors, for the battles we will see.
Finally the even surface of the top of the hill appeared. I pedaled for only a few moments when I saw that the enormous hill that went up, also went down. I was downright gleeful as I was starting to second guess my need to make it all the way to the aforementioned town. I knew there was a park at the bottom of this hill and thought maybe I could just turn around there. That wouldn’t be so bad. I still would’ve gone much farther than I originally intended.
As my bike picked up speed while I cruised down the beautiful slope toward the base of the hill, I saw that the view ahead of me was entirely worth having grunted my way all the way to the top for. I could see ridged lines of mountains and trees unfolding before me as the wind whipped me so hard that my bandana almost flew off. I clasped it while I slowly applied some brakes, because I was gathering what felt like dangerously fast speeds.
Once I was whipping past the park on my downhill coast, I had acquired a false sense of confidence that I didn’t need a break or to turn around and could simply power through the last few miles to my destination. That is until I had to start pedaling again, realizing how tired and sluggish my legs were getting. I thought the town had to be right around the corner though. Which is true when I am driving, it’s just right there, but little did I know I had another seven miles to go.
By the time I spotted the flashing yellow light I was euphoric. I had made it.
I pedaled into the center of town and over to the bridge just as it started to drizzle. I walked my bike down to the riverbank, let it fall and laid down, closing my eyes. I lay there feeling absolutely spent and wonderful for several minutes until it occurred to me that I had to bike all that way back. It was like when I ran my marathon and couldn’t wait until I got to the halfway point. But as soon as I passed mile 13, I felt unbridled joy followed by instant horror that all I had just done I would have to do again.
That is how I felt: Really amazed that I had biked this far and really distraught that I had to do it all over again. I stood up to get going and suddenly my head began to pound. I assessed why that could be as I sipped on my water. I looked at my watch. I had been biking for three hours and 36 minutes. Which meant I hadn’t eaten in over four hours and had already burned nearly 2,000 calories. Food. I needed food. And probably more water.
Since I hadn’t planned ahead of time to do a 50-mile bike ride, all I had brought with me was my two-liter backpack of water, my heart rate monitor, watch and an iPod. No cell phone, no money, no food. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I thought as the drizzle got a little heavier. I got back on my bike, telling myself I got into this mess, now I would have to get myself out of it.
All my feel-good vibes about what I had just accomplished jumped off my bike and ran for the hills at the prospect of going back the way I came. As I biked back I realized my now throbbing head was accompanied by an intense throbbing and numbness in my nether regions. I didn’t understand the people who wore those bike shorts with the padding attached for their rumps. My lady parts were suffering the worst, not my ass. It was so painful that I kept having to stand and ride to give it some relief.
I came upon a restaurant. I sipped the last of my water and made a snap decision to turn in and do one of two things: barter with them for food that I could devour for the energy to ride home or call someone to come and get me. As I stumbled into the restaurant out of the rain, I caught sight of myself in the door. I looked like a crazy person. My bandanna was askew, sweat had turned my hair into deranged curls flying out from every angle and my skin looked pale and gritty, while the rest of me had large splotches of wetness whether from the rain or sweat or a combination of both.
I walked up to the bartender and asked if he had a phone I could borrow. He took one look at me and went off to find it. I dialed my best friend’s number and when she picked up after about seven rings, I quickly explained the situation and pleaded with her to come get me as I was out of water and weak with exhaustion. She’d be there soon.
I sat down and waited, realizing my thighs were shaking. At first, I felt mild disappointment that I hadn’t followed all the way through, but the disappointment was quickly dismissed as I still felt a thrill having made it to the town and then back a ways to the restaurant. I consoled myself with the fact that had I planned ahead and brought more water and food I absolutely could have done it.
Nearly an hour later my friend arrived, seeming horrified that I had ridden so far while I loaded my bike into the back of her SUV. Though my head was threatening to take me out from the pain, I couldn’t suppress my sheer pride that I had just biked so far. I am powerful beyond measure, I thought over and over again until I dozed in the front seat.
Upon returning home I shoveled leftover omelette and potatoes in my mouth and chugged water while I calculated the actual mileage I had put in. The town was in fact 33 miles away not 25. I had biked 33 miles there and another three miles back to the restaurant. Plus I had biked around the park and a little in town, so I tacked on another mile for good measure. 37 miles. I had biked 37 miles. Though I had gotten feeling back in my thighs and nether regions, my head continued to pound all day until I re-hydrated. It did nothing to detract from my mood. I was on a high and thought, ah the best of times. I biked nearly 40 miles today. Now I could do anything.