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Friday, May 30, 2014

Kentucky 600 K Brevet 2014

 "Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel.
TRUST. LOVE. HOPE. WISH. BELIEVE.
Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey
and appreciate where you are at this moment instead 
of always focusing on how far you have to go."
Mandy Hale


From the first pedal stroke of the 600K, something does not feel exactly right.  Maybe these are not the right words to explain what I am feeling but they are what come to mind:  a certain lack of commitment or enthusiasm for the task ahead.  Sometimes the vocabulary I need to express myself, to define myself to myself no less to others,  eludes me.  I have no doubt that I will finish this ride  if I decide to do so and if I do not have a mechanical issue or take a tumble.  After all, the weather is perfect for such a ride since the rain prediction abated.  Temperatures are supposed to be mild and there is supposed to be very little wind. It will be a tad cooler than I personally prefer and with less sunshine, but the conditions are truly ideal. And while I am not in the best shape of my life, I am fairly fit and had no trouble finishing the 400K.  The course, while terribly difficult, is quite doable.  and it is only 600 K. But there is just that intangible something that is nagging me, that feeling that you have forgotten something that might be important, that feeling that you should be somewhere else doing something else.

I try to define why I am feeling a bit off kilter. Perhaps it is the course? Certainly the course is challenging, particularly the last 200 kilometers, but I have ridden it before. It just means that you must grit your teeth and dig a little deeper into the well of your determination. Indeed, the difficulty of a course seems to directly correlate with the sense of accomplishment upon completion.  Perhaps it is my husband just telling me he does not think his health will allow him to accompany me to Maryland to visit our son?  I intend to tie that visit in with the 1000K there and that has certainly been a motivator for me. I am not sure that I want to go without him.  Perhaps it is  the rather characteristically stupid decision I made to partial fast twice this week despite the upcoming brevet?  But I am used to partial fasting and it normally comes easily to me so long as it is not the day before a ride.  I did leave myself two days to glory in unbridled gluttony.  Perhaps it is that I headed out a tad too fast and I am now paying the cost?  But this sense of discomfiture has been apparent from the very beginning. Perhaps it is that it is the first brevet I have ridden where neither Bill nor Steve are riding? While we don't always ride the brevet together, normally don't ride the brevet together, I gain a certain comfort knowing they are on the course and look forward to sharing our experiences of the ride.  Or perhaps it is just my attitude and perhaps I should quit my childish sulking and remember to enjoy every moment of the journey.  Because in the end much of the success of a brevet rider is determined by his or her attitude. Life is just too short not to enjoy the journey. You might ride one brevet or even a series of brevets if you find you dislike the journey, but you will certainly not continue to ride them.

Sixteen riders from five different states roll out into the darkness.  All but five will finish. As usual, I am at the far back of the pack and I wonder if this time I will actually be one of the last or the very last finisher. I wonder if that would bother me, being the last finisher when brevets are not competitions. I have finished last before, but not in a brevet.  I smile to myself remembering a road race in a small local town where I was the only woman and the only one over the age of 20 that was running.  While this then forty something year old woman did her best and finished with a respectable time, the young track team was out of sight within the first mile.  Indeed, I was last by quite some margin, and rather embarrassingly escorted to the finish line by a police car with sirens wailing and lights flashing.  I survived. In fact, I found it rather humorous and took pride that I was brave enough to be out there. And quite suddenly I realize that starting any brevet does take either a small amount of bravery or foolishness. More likely, it is a combination of the two.

Sometime during all this rather redundant pondering that seems to haunt me at the beginning of a long ride, I come upon someone I know. I ride for a bit with Steve Meredith and we share some conversation, but I remember that I have set a goal to be in by midnight so I can catch some sleep before taking off to finish the last 200K and I quicken my pace when he says he does not think he will be finishing that early.  I also remember that I want to be past "the scary place" before dark if at all possible and I dance on the pedals even a bit more quickly. Alex Mead and Todd Williams both raised their hands when Steve asked if anyone was planning on riding straight through as nothing is open along the route once it gets late, and I think for a bit what it would be like to have the talent to ride that quickly and not have to worry at all that you will be swift enough to get through "the scary place" before darkness falls.  But soon I remember to be thankful that I can ride at all, and I know that I will be more than thankful to have a few hours sleep after riding the first 400K of my journey.  When you live with someone who can barely breathe at times and sometimes walks around tethered to an oxygen tank, you get a whole new appreciation of what it means to breathe and the true value of oxygen. When I lack sympathy or get compassion fatigued, I just try to imagine what it would be like to climb a steep, never-ending hill knowing that if you quit it means death but that you will never, ever reach the top no matter how hard or how long you pedal.  I take a deep breath of appreciation noting how my chest expands and my lungs stretch and are nourished.  How thankful I am that I stopped smoking.

Soon it is just the moon, stars, road, and me.  I see no lights behind me or in front of me. On Pea Ridge, what I think is a fox starts to head out onto the road, then slips away into the shroud of darkness leaving only a whispery, rustling sound as a reminder of his presence in this world. Shortly thereafter, passing a home, the homey scent of fabric softener wafts  through the air and blankets itself around me for just a few minutes.  Someone has started those early morning Saturday chores; someone whose life conceivably has a bit more normalcy about it. But then I am old enough to have learned that normalcy is an illusion we use to soothe ourselves with. Most of us are "crazier than hell," to quote a friend.  I think about how there is comfort to be found in routine, that when we are out of our normal routine, however  much we may bitch about it when we are in the midst of it, we eventually miss our ordinary lives, like when you go on vacation. And I feel my attitude begin to improve, though it will be a constant battle the entire ride.  I have that conversation that all brevet riders have with themselves intermittently about whether or not they really want to continue doing this.  Meanwhile, wispy patches of fog slip by and dawn slips up on me taking me by surprise, a delightful pink and purple tinting accompanied by raucous birds still seeking breakfast and a mate. 

At the top of the long climb on Oregon Road, I come upon Dustin Tinnell and Steve Mauer at the side of the road, stretched out.  I ask if they have what they need and ride on when they say that they do.  I think how it reminds me of  PBP, this resting alongside the road, though the ride itself is very young.  I catch Dave King just leaving the first control as I roll in.   He pauses and I know he thinks about waiting, but then he moves on.  We pass again later at the turn around for the 400K and he says something, but I don't quite catch it. We will not ride together this brevet.  Later, after the first meeting with Dave but before the second,  I meet up with Tim Argo and we ride most of that day and part of the next together, though he is much stronger than me and it impacts his finish time.  I feel badly about this, but all I can do is to tell him to go on: I can't make him go.  At one point, the wind picks up and Tim pulls relentlessly as I wonder where in the heck this unpredicted wind came from.  I thank him and ask if he would like me to take a turn, but we both know I am not as strong as he is.  Thankfully, that section of head wind, unpredicted and unappreciated, is short.  Thankfully I have made another new friend during this brevet series.

Sometime during the day, Tim comments upon how the course has changed with each ride.  I think it is odd as I have been thinking the same thing.  Stark, gray, leafless trees have given way to verdant greenness, no longer tentative but audacious and bold, transforming the world into a visual feast of color.   White daisies line the fence rows and honeysuckle wafts sweetness into the air titillating every sense. The first of the honey bee beloved yellow sweet clover is in bloom, delicate and lacey, and I understand yet again how the contrast nourishes appreciation, how without the contrast even this lush, fecundity would seem mundane and ordinary.  Sometimes the things we dislike are so necessary for the enhancement of those we do like.  Still I wonder how so much of the season change eluded me and I am struck with a  sharp pang of  longing for what is already gone.  No matter how hard I try to capture it, to remember it, spring passes much too quickly and slips through my fingers like the wind, much like my children's childhood did.  

Do we eventually lose the ability to do brevets because we quit making the effort, or do we quit making the effort because deep down we know we no longer have the ability, that the demands it places upon not just our time and our loved ones, but our bodies is too much?  And how very much of a brevet is mental.  All day I use every mental game and trick in my bag, but for some reason it is a constant battle. Tricks that normally move me miles down the road work only for a short period of time or not at all.  I finally just accept that it is going to be one of those rides that I struggle with, the kind of ride that makes me appreciate other rides that are just easier for some reason. No matter what routine I come up with and painstakingly try to replicate when results are good, each ride seems to be unique.  I think that is one of the very things I love about bicycling and why I don't seem to tire of it.

I worry at the turn around when I am not really hungry as I have found that is never a good sign on a brevet.  But I force myself to eat and I am able to keep going.  I briefly mention to Tim how much it pains me to not feel hungry when I should eat, have earned the right to eat.  I think of my first PBP when I stopped at a bakery on my return journey and limited myself to two pastries despite feeling absolutely starved.  Duh!  Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why?  For once I could have eaten all the pastries this greed gut could hold. Old habits do die hard. But I do learn a valuable lesson. Still, despite forcing myself to eat, I dd not eat enough and I feel light headed when I dismount at the next control.

Back on the road, Tim and I come across a friend who headed out at the start as if Satan were after him, but he is done.  I can see it in his eyes and face, the resignation, the bowing of the shoulders,  and I wish there is something that I could do or say to help, but while you can assist others with a flat or fixing a mechanical or maybe encourage them  through a slight mental down time,  you can't give them the strength to finish the over two hundred more miles that we have left to go.  I steel my heart and move onwards knowing he is safe at a control and can rest and move forward later or call in the sag team. Later I find, as I suspected, he DNF'd.  It humbles me for he is normally so very strong, and reminds me that sometimes you just have a bad day.

All day I remind myself that I want to be through "the scary place" before dark, so even when my legs begin to beg for surcease and mercy I ignore them and demand more.  The "scary place" is a busy section of road with little shoulder that leads out of Lawrenceburg, and I always worry on that stretch.  It is the place where Tim Carroll waited with his fixed gear that night so very long ago not wanting to ride that stretch alone.  You just feel the danger pressing in on you when you ride that short stretch, cars seem like angry entities, affronted at your temerity in being on in their domain; however, it must be ridden to get to and from the store.  I don't like riding it in the daylight, but I like it even less at night.  Somehow we make it during daylight hours with daylight to spare. Tim Argo, the other Tim, shares this stretch of road with me today, then speeds off ahead.  I think of how many men I know who ride who have the same first names: at least seven or more Steves, two Gregs, four Tims, and a number of Daves.  It does make things confusing. 

After riding Pea Ridge as if Dave King were by my side, working the downhills to ease the uphills, I catch back up with Tim and we ride the rest of the way in. He asks if I had brought anyone with me.  I passed another rider prior to catching Tim and quickly tried to explain the irony of Pea Ridge:  it is truly easier to work hard on the down hills to ease the work on the uphills.  But he either did not hear me or did not believe me or did not have hard riding left in his legs, so he is not with me. In my rear view mirror I watched as his headlight was swallowed by the night. We pass Todd and Alex heading back out to do the last 200K as we turn onto Zaring Mill.  We all yell at each other, but the darkness hides our identities.  I only know it is them because nobody else plans on riding straight through. Night masks identities.

And after what seems like forever, I am at my motel.  I am so very ready to sleep.  Prior to going to bed, Tim and I decide to meet at Waffle House the next morning and start the ride together.  I feel guilty saying I do not intend to leave until 5:00 a.m., particularly since we arrived before 11:00, but I know how difficult tomorrow's route is and that my body needs rest. I hope sleep will light my face with a smile until it cracks wide open in a belly jiggling laugh.  I hope sleep will improve my attitude, that I will "dance, smile, giggle, and marvel."  Alas, it is not to be.  I slit fitfully and awaken several times with my toes and feet cramping.  Weird.  My toes and feet have never cramped before and I hope they never do so again.

Darkness still clings to the earth restlessly waiting for dawns warm embrace when I meet Tim and we take off.  I repeat what I told him the prior evening:  he should not expect to stay with me today.  The hills are just too steep on this route for me to climb swiftly.  Yes, I can and do climb each and every one of them, but at my own pace which happens to be, at least today, snail like and without rhythm.  On Figgs Store Road he disappears gobbled into the darkness and I am alone.  I remember riding this section of road with Dave, Bill, and Steve and how a deer skittered between our bicycles, beautiful and dangerous.  I believe it was lightly raining that morning, a warm comforting soak, the kind that gently caresses and nourishes the earth.  And there may have been lightening, jaggedly crossing the sky. And then I am near the top of the long climb out.  Suddenly I am startled at hearing Tim's voice behind me, shaking me out of my reverie:  he had missed a turn.  Again I watch him ride off, his legs acting as if tomorrow never even happened, and I am envious of his power and speed.

Turning onto 1066, one of the few number roads I remember because of the Norman conquest, we see Todd and Alex cresting a climb, making their way back to the motel and home.  Dawn has not been too long upon us, and I am envious that they are almost done.  I am worried because they look tired.  No, not worried about them, but about me.  They are too strong and have finished too many brevets not to finish this one.  If it took this much out of those two; however, what will it do to me.  But then I have slept and they have not I assure myself. We exchange greetings without stopped. Other than occasionally seeing Tim, I see no other riders after Todd and Alex until the turn around when Ken pulls in behind us.  Occasionally I think how very beautiful the scenery is, one of the gifts that hills seem to give us because the land is not easily farm-able and not easily built upon.  Mostly, though, I am caught up in pushing one pedal after the other, trying to keep my rhythm.

When I pull into the motel to finish, Ken, who passed me on the way back in,  looks at me and says, "You will feel better when you have been off the bike five minutes."  Strangely enough, I do.  Steve, Tim, Ken, and I share the pizza that Steve brought, and I head homeward to my own little bed where I sleep without cramps in my feet or toes and I have two furry bed partners purring a soft soothing melody that screams of home.  This ride was a rough one for me, mentally as well as physically.  No matter how much I tried to focus on the journey rather than how far I had to go there were times when I looked at my odometer every mile for miles on end, thinking surely it must be broken, that I had surely had ridden farther than I had.  But I will remember this ride, or parts of this ride because of the struggle, because of Tim's kindness pulling me through the brief section of disheartening wind, because of my toes cramping.

The words of Kelly Cutrone come to mind:

"This is an important lesson to remember when you're having a bad day,
a bad month, or a shitty year.  Things will change:  you won't feel this way
forever.  And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones
your soul needs the most.  I believe you can't feel real joy unless you've felt
heartache.  You can't have a sense of victory unless you know what it means
to fail.  You can't know what it is like to feel holy until you know what it's like
to feel really fucking evil.   And you can't be birthed again until you die."






Friday, May 2, 2014

Kentucky 400K Brevet

"Love only what you do,
and not what you have done."
Adrienne Rich

The weather promises to be gorgeous, as if apologizing for its temper tantrum on the 300K.  Yes, there is wind, but it is not the cold, punishing, in your face wind of the 300K but a kinder, gentler wind that will test us on the way out but will also reward us by a push home. More importantly, at least to me, there will be sunshine, glorious sunshine, in the world today; and there will be color from leaves and from flowers stirring, shyly pushing up through the ground, glorying in their rebirth.  Spring has finally graced us with her presence after the winter that would not quit.  Greedily, I anticipate a sumptuous feast for my eyes and my soul.  The world is callow, fresh, and like a newborn baby, there is something quite special about it:  a whole world of possibilities lies ahead and each bend of the road could conceal a surprise.

Susan is kind enough to ask me to stay  the night so I do not need to rent a room the night before the brevet or drive so far in the morning.  As always, she is the soul of hospitality.  Only a midnight phone call from the motel I had cancelled reservations with on Wednesday asking if I was still coming left me befuddled and  marred my sleep once it finally arrived.  I still haven't figured that one out. I decide not to let it upset me for there is nothing to be gained in that direction. While I have found that it is quite nice to get some solid sleep the night immediately preceding a brevet, it is most important to sleep soundly the night BEFORE the night before.  Realistically, leaving at 4:00 a.m. how much sleep can one get?  I will my body to lie still and rest and prepare for the effort that will be asked of it the coming day.

Riders gather in the chilly darkness outside the hotel room where the sign in is being held.  17 of the 18 who registered are here, and all but two will finish. Four states are represented: Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. Some of the riders I know, and some I don't.  I am the only woman riding this time, and yet again I think of what Steve Rice said when I once wondered why more women don't participate in brevets. "Most women," he said, "have better sense."  I grin to myself thinking of a past on-line discussion on this issue  and how that discussion was dominated by men, most of whom seemed clueless and not at all receptive to the females who posted ideas of why more women do not ride brevets. The men seemed to think they knew why women rode or did not ride better than women themselves. Dan Driscoll, if memory serves, came closer than any man who posted to at least finding a solution though I don't know the man and have no idea if he really had an  understanding the need. I briefly wonder if any of the other women or men reading the thread noted the irony. I wondered if any of of the other readers noted that the lack of African American riders at PBP and other brevets, male or female, and other minorities was not addressed. But that, perhaps,  is another discussion for another time.  How often we, and I include myself in this group, fail to listen.

Briefly I wonder why I am here and not tucked snugly in my own bed lost in dreams.  But as lovely as dreams are while you are sleeping,  pursuing dreams and living dreams while awake is much more satisfying.  And I realize that there is a part of me that loves this: the anticipation of effort, of laughter, of introspection, of companionship, of loneliness,  of desperation, of all those emotions and thoughts that happen when you are riding 252 miles even if it is lovely day and it is finally spring in Kentucky. And I have an entire day to do nothing but ride my bike. The words of Adrienne Rich, quoted above, come to mind.  Perhaps she is right and it is the doing that is the thing.  And while I can't say that every time I prepare to ride a brevet I am brimming with anticipation, it will be time to quit when I no longer love riding them the majority of the time, at least until the pain and weariness kicks in and changes my attitude so that I vow I will never ride again.

I wonder who, if anyone, I will ride with or if I will make this journey alone.  As always at the start of any brevet, but particularly a longer brevet, there is that tinge of self doubt and of worry haunting the dark recesses of my consciousness that I must shoo away before my imagination takes hold and inflates them into something much larger than what they are.  And the only thing that mars my contentment today is that Bill Pustow is not here, for I have traveled many miles with Bill and we often match in pace and temperament and I was hoping he would ride and share today's adventure with me.   I respect him: his commitment to his daughter and family let me know that his priorities match my own, maybe even serve as a role model for me upon occasion. And he is such a wonderful story teller and he makes me laugh.  As Sancho says about Don Quixote in The Man From LaMancha,"I like him".  And I miss him.  Thankfully, after a serious fall caused by loose dogs, he is riding again, but we have not yet resumed our easy companionship and I grieve and miss him.  I hope that he, like so many others that I have cared for, has not become a person from my past who is not part of my future.  Life is so very fragile, and friendship, though the shared miles with the laughter, confidences, and challenges forge it as strongly as steel, is the same.Even strong friendships require regular maintenance.

After checking in and deciding what to carry and what to wear, I ride around the parking light trying to determine if my light is set correctly so as to throw the best light pattern while on the road.  And then it is time to leave.  People are dressed so differently: one young man is wearing only a his short sleeved jersey and shorts and  others are wearing balaclavas and jackets and arm warmers.  Not being a weight wienie, I have arm warmers, knee warmers, and a light jacket with  my dirt rag for my head.   Though the prediction is for low eighties today, it is now in the high forties and I detest being cold  unless it is for a very short period of time.  Being cold uselessly robs me of energy and always makes me ride harder at the start of a ride than I should unless it is going to be a short, quick ride.  And I do not anticipate either shortness or quickness to be part of today's repertoire.  Little do I know what is ahead and that Dave King will attempt to kill me and two others, Tim Argo and Mark Rougeux,  the last 15 miles or so into the last control.

Within minutes the lights of the city fade into the background, and I am struck by the loveliness of the ebony night sky bejeweled with countless stars that far outshine any diamonds.  For some reason, "She hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel upon an Ethiope's ear (William Shakespeare) flits through my mind. The sky is  littered with stars, and I briefly mourn the lack of time and intellect that has kept me from pursuing their study as a hobby.  The conquered moon, orange and crescent shaped, is beautiful, and I am glad that I am here in this crisp darkness on a bicycle conquering my own obstacles, both internal and external. 

While the majority of the world sleeps, I am treated to what feels like a private light show,  and yet again I realize that despite knowing that there might be trials today, and possibly pain, I am glad to be here.  Indeed, I am privileged to be here, to have the health to be here. I sorrow for those who are ill and  have other obstacles that impede their wellness. And I am thankful for a spouse who is accepting of my being here, who encourages me to be here, even though he cannot and will never be able to ride a bicycle.  He is secure enough in our love to give me freedom, and that freedom ensures that I will always return for I understand the value of that gift and how very difficult and unselfish it is to bestow.  Sometimes I think it binds me more tightly than any vows. Those who ride without objections by spouses or significant others  should treasure the gift they have been given  for not everyone has been so blessed: it is a lot to ask of someone to have a brevet rider that they love.  The gift goes far beyond the hours of separation and includes worry. Those who have the health to ride should also be thankful for it will not always be so and is not so for so many others.  Time does have a way of moving stolidly, unwaveringly forward no matter how we drag our heels.

I am quite enjoying my solitude and the random thoughts it brings when I come upon Dave King paused along the road checking something on his bicycle. I am surprised to see him as he usually is farther toward the front, but he says he is fine.  I chuckle thinking that it is probably his miscreant fender. I would like to have a penny for every time Dave has had to adjust his fender on a ride, and I think how glad I am that the man who helped me put my bike together at Gran Fondo talked me out of getting them for I am not mechanically inclined.  Rather, I lean toward being mechanically disinclined. I must admit, however, that they do give his green Kirk a certain charm.

Dave and I often ride some together, even finish together upon occasion, but we  normally meet up later in the ride after the initial rush of heading out into the world has faded. Though I anticipate him dropping me somewhere along the many miles we have yet to travel I am wrong, and we end up riding the rest of the day together and finishing together. At times he even complains of  the quickness of my pace.  I know that riding with a companion will change the nature of the ride as I just do  not notice the scenery with the same appreciation when I am in the midst of conversation, but I enjoy riding with Dave. Like Bill, Dave can often make me smile even though I don't always speak Dave;-)

We stop briefly at the closed country store in Southville for Dave to fill the water bottles he forgot to fill before the ride start.   Hydrating will be  important today as it is predicted to get into the low eighties and none of us have acclimated to heat. He fills one bottle and says he will fill the other at Lawrenceburg though it is not a control on the 400K as it is on the 200 and 300.  Normally I  ride straight through until the first control, and I briefly consider this knowing  Dave will catch me if he wants to or I can just ride alone, but I stop as well.  Two stops before the first control:  this is something new. Just when I have lose my patience and am getting ready to head out on my own, Dave comes out of the store.  I find he also adjusted his cleats due to knee issues.  Other than one control and a last Lawenceburg stop, Dave will beat me out of controls all day.  Luckily for me he was not far behind when I do head out of a control alone because I missed a turn or I would have ridden much farther out of my way. Later, when we catch up with Steve Rice, I tell him about it and he must think I am complaining as he says he can't ride with everybody.  I tell him he can't cure stupid. I will always be directionally challenged, but it is nobody's fault but my own.  I particularly feel silly losing my way, however briefly, on a marked course.

 Being beaten out of a control would not be so unusual if we were not talking about being beaten out of a control by Dave.  Dave is normally the last one out of a control.  I think of one brevet where I was riding with both Dave and Bill and we stopped at the Lawrenceburg control.  Bill and I came out of the store and Dave had completely unpacked his carradice and had everything in neat piles on the ground.  Bill and I looked at each other, threw our legs over our bicycles and rode off. Controls are like transitions in triathlons:  there is a lot of time to be saved with little effort by doing a short but thorough stop. Still, I brood for a bit and wonder why Dave is doing this or if it is me that is taking longer than normal.

Before you know it we are descending into a solid silver wall of mist that seems to have appeared out of nowhere on an isolated, narrow country lane.  It is eerily beautiful, but  I remember what someone told me about it really not mattering too much about who was right or who had the right away if you are seriously injured or dead. I keep a close watch in my helmet mirror vowing to get off and stand by the road if a car comes for I don't believe they will ever see us through the thick, oppressive fog.  The temperature has dropped with the descent, and I am thankful there is a long climb ahead.   No car comes and as we crest the top of the hill the mist melts away as suddenly as it appeared, phantom-like.  Weather conditions the rest of the day will be as near perfect as one can expect in April.

There are wild flowers lining the road and the red bud clouds purple along the side of the road.   Snow white dogwoods are tentatively blooming, lacing themselves through the wooded side roads. Leaves tentatively peek from branches, a pale green, not yet darkened to the rich, mature green of summer.  Pastures are filled with mothers and babies of all kinds enjoying the warmth, newly green grass, and sunshine.  During the return journey, as evening nears, we pass roads where there is an abundance of rabbits scampering randomly here and there, white tails bobbing and whiskers twitching.  Dandelions seed pods line the fence rows, oddly beautiful, and despite being with company for just a moment I am a child again, gently blowing them or twirling in circles while holding them and watching the seed pods lazily drift through the spring air searching for a place to call home. 

After the turn around, two riders join Dave and I:  Tim Argo and Mark Rougeux.  I am surprised to find that while I am tired, I am not weary.  I wish I too had brought a camera or had a smart phone when Tim stops to photograph the small, now defunct Peckerwood Store in Knothole, Kentucky.  Just passing there inevitably causes a grin to light my face. Dave says he would like to stop in Lawenceburg at the convenient store and pick up a couple of chicken legs for the road and I agree.  When we stop, however, there is no chicken and I rudely hustle everyone out of the store and back on their bicycles.  There is still some daylight and I would like to get off the main, busy road before darkness falls.  We turn on our lights and take off, and I begin to dread what I know will happen when we reach Pea Ridge Road.  As the evening brings a chill, we stop briefly prior to Pea Ridge to put on jackets or arm warmers,  and I laugh when I find I have put my knee warmers on my arms in the dark not having paid any attention to which pocket I shoved them in when I took them off earlier in the day. Oh, well, they might look stupid and be a bit loose, but they serve the purpose.  For a long time, when I first started riding, I used my son's worn out tube socks for arm warmers.  Fashion is not my forte I fear. But I do fear Pea Ridge and what is coming shortly.

I have ridden Pea Ridge Road with Dave too many times to fool myself.  He might drag all day long, but when he hits Pea Ridge Dave begins to ride like a demon. Something about that darned road just causes him to go all out. Thankfully, Tim has given me his wheel during the past few miles so I am not as worn out as I otherwise might be; still, when we reach Pea Ridge I think, "Oh, God, here it goes." It begins. And this is where Dave tries to kill us.

Off he goes pedaling like a maniac, and Mark, Tim, and I, not being very bright, just follow along too tired to say Baaaa like the sheep we are;-)  Lungs burn and chests heave in gasping rasps as we race up and down rollers and a few nice climbs, pedals churning as if we were all on fixed gears.  It is then that I determine that Dave is trying to kill us, at least me. But I'll be damned if I will let him. That little competitive streak that I work so hard to rein in will not allow me to just let them go, particularly Dave, not after all these miles.   I am not sure what our average is over the last 16 miles of the course, but I know it  has to be over 16 mph despite the hills due to our finishing time. This is  not a tremendous pace perhaps, but a quicker pace than I would normally ride after being on the bike for over 230 miles. I even find myself not taking sufficient time at a stop sign to ensure safety.  No car is near, but it is certainly not a bright thing to do and I make a mental note that I must work harder to control that nasty little beast that pops up at times.  Tim Argo is the only one who shows some sense once we reach the city limits.  The rest of us are just lucky.  They say that God protects drunks and fools and I fear he had his hands full taking care of us today.

But it has been a good day, an easier day than expected.  And I have loved what I was doing.  But I am unsure that it is not also okay to love what you have done so long as you don't get stuck there in the past and so long as you learn from it.  Just remember that there is a tomorrow and there are more brevets and bicycle rides to complete and don't rest on past accomplishments.  "Tomorrow's another day, and I'm thirsty anyway, so bring on the rain."  (Jo Dee Messina).