“It’s a great personal challenge and you’ll have that good feeling of knowing you’ve made a difference,” said Amy Hinkemeyer, Bike MS Event Manager, in our interview two weeks ago.
When Amy spoke these words, getting involved in the event quickly became my motive. Thankfully, I have no close friends or family with Multiple Sclerosis, yet hearing about the disease was enough reason to hop on the bike and join the movement. After signing up and beginning to fundraise, questions started rolling in.
“You’re going to bike HOW far?” A long way.
“Have you done any training?” Nope. (How do you train for something like this!?)
“Two days in a row!?” God willing.
While the comments were intimidating, I figured there would be over 250 other bikers pedaling just as far and hard that weekend. Even after the realization that 175 miles was further away than my hometown (a 2 hour, 15 minute drive), this was not an impossible mission.
I began the route solo. Most riders had a partner-in-crime or a team with logos plastered on their matching jerseys. With a sticker embarrassingly marking my status as a “Rookie Rider” and nothing but a music player to keep me company, I began counting down the miles and debating whether to take the 75- or 100-mile route. It was going to be a long ride either way.
Somewhere in the 30th mile I began feeling lonely. As I searched for some indication I was still on the route, I heard some yelling. To my surprise, a group of 14 experienced, coordinated guys in grey and black jerseys were passing me.
“What an operation!” I thought, watching them slowly pass by. They made it look so easy, drafting and working as a team. The heat must have been getting to me, because it took entirely too long to figure out joining the group would be in my best interest.
“Maybe nobody will notice,” I thought, as I crept back up on the group and started pedaling in sync with much less effort than riding alone. Sure enough, nobody said a word, even though my florescent jersey was about as obvious as a huge zit on the nose of a fair-skinned beauty queen.
Then a guy wiped out.
Good timing, dude. Now the misfit, rookie-riding slacker in the back of the pack was sure to be noticed! Thankfully, the guy lying face down on the highway served as a temporary distraction. Leaving a large portion of his forearm skin on the road, he picked his bike up. Soon after, the slacker, wipeout boy and the rest of the gang were on the road again.
Eventually, I began chatting with the other riders, all seemingly very friendly. One man was nice enough to share his water bottle as well as continuous details about his injured hamstring and what type of candy his daughter enjoys.
I felt pretty tough being the only gal to keep up with the boys. With each mile, the guys felt more like brothers. With the same jerseys and helmets on, I began to get them all confused and was forced to start asking weird questions instead of the typical what-do-you-do-where-are-you-from jibber jabber. Pretty sure they all knew me as weird joiner girl but were nice enough to call me by name to my face. When our 100-mile ride was coming to a close, one man filled me in on what to do that night to feel the best the next day. He advised lots of food and chocolate milk. The easiest advice I’ve ever followed. He also recommended some type of cream to rub on your bottom to prevent chafing. I skipped the cream and instead drank an extra gallon of chocolate milk.
Joining their team meant more than they probably realized, especially on day two. Although it looked like rain in the morning, the day turned out to be very warm and windy. This is no small hassle when trying to spin your wheels on some (unknown) country road in efforts to get the lengthy ride over as quickly as possible. With the combination of putting in nearly six hours on a bike the previous day and trying to average about 18 miles per hour on the second day, I was exhausted.
“ZZZZZZZZZZ,” I thought, mesmerized by the spinning bike tire I was following. Debating whether it’s possible to fall asleep while pedaling, I began to think of ditching the group: hang out at a rest stop, phone a friend and catch a siesta in their back seat while they drove back to Fargo. A friend with good air conditioning in their car who would bring me a very large bottle of water without me having to ask. A strong friend who could carry me up the stairs to my room, bring me three large glasses of chocolate milk on a silver platter and rub my legs with the skill of a professional masseuse.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a friend off the top of my head who would be willing to fulfill my checklist. It was no use anyway – the guys were a bunch of team players who wouldn’t press on without the whole group. I had no chance of breaking free without someone noticing. I would either have to steer into a ditch with tall weeds and hide or continue to haul my bum to the finish line with the rest of the guys.
Thankfully, I chose the latter, and Amy was right. It was a good feeling. In my heart… not my legs.
Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.