by Paul Reid
When gas prices started sniffing five bucks, I bought a Vespa for my work commute. When gas prices went back down to two fifty, I sold it and bought a Trek.
In my mind, my first cycling rally was going to be on a nice, sunny, flat, still, 72 degree day in the spring. My brother-in-law, Chris’ riding clan, the Wheel Brothers, told me otherwise. “There’s a ride in February” Eugene said, “you’ll do that one with us.” I was still unsure just two weeks before the race, but a preview 30+ mile ride with Ron, Dieter, Chris and Eugene persuaded me to train for the rally and be ready. I went about 25 miles that day before I hit the wall, but I never stopped pedaling. I rode the trainer a lot and got in a 25 mile outdoor ride prior to the Freeze Your Fanny rally that took place in Longview, Texas.
The morning of the FYF the sun came out at 8:30 and the sky was quickly taken over with clouds at 8:45. It would remain 45 degrees and overcast with Northwestern winds from 8 to 15 mph.
At the start, I was behind Dieter, Chris and Eugene and I was instructed to “suck wheel” for as long as I was with them. The start went very smoothly, as I was focusing on Chris’ rear tire in front of me so as to not veer and cause a spill. Out of the school parking lot and across the highway we went with the frontrunners pulling away and the rest of the groups settling into their positions. Dieter was helping to encourage me to get back up to the guys when I would fall behind, and eventually it got easier to stay with them. We were making our way around a few slower folks and I was feeling pretty good. Before I knew it, it was time to split off to the 30 and 40 mile routes. Now I was on my own.
I was riding alone for about five miles when I noticed that my rear derailleur was skipping the 5th ring. If I shifted up from fourth, the chain would climb to sixth. I got the same “skip” if I shifted down. Of course this really messed with my cadence and frustrated me the whole way. It wasn’t as bad in the big front chain stay, so I tried to ride in that position as much as I could. I eventually caught up with a couple of riders who let me latch on for about three miles. At one point I felt obligated to pull for them. I guess it was a nice gesture, but it didn’t last a minute. Oh well. I tried.
I stopped at the first rest stop for about five minutes and had a Gu and some water. Starting out from there was like starting cold all over again. But the freezing feeling eventually went away with the help of some steep hills. I saw the sign for the 40 mile option coming up and thought “I could do 40 today.” About a mile into the new, longer route my right leg got a sharp pain at the top of my inner thigh. Every pedal stroke brought a little more pain, so I tried favoring it. That worked until I got a cramp in my left thigh just above my knee. One mile to the second rest stop.
At the second stop, I drank all the water I could, ate a cookie and two bananas, and stretched my legs for about 10 minutes. I started out facing the cold again. By now my toes were numb. I remembered that Ron said to look around at the scenery, because it can be inspiring. For about five miles the scenery included dogs, septic tanks and pig troughs made of old bathtubs. Oh well, at least it smelled like horse shit. All in all I would say that on the 40 mile route, the roads were really nice and smooth for about six or seven miles. I really liked being on those stretches. At one point I pulled a Snickers Marathon bar out of my jersey. Way out. Up over my head and onto the road. Already 20 feet behind me. After a sigh, I had another Gu.
At the third rest stop I ate everything I could see and drank water and Gatorade out of peoples’ bottles when they weren’t looking. I started out cold again. More of the same until there was about three miles to go. I bonked. Now I started talking to myself and making noises while climbing hills that I’ve never made before. Wheezy little squeaks. Looking around the scenery was a lot nicer here, but I couldn’t enjoy it now. There were about three more significant climbs left when my body tried to quit on me. I stood up out of the saddle to climb and my left leg seized up completely. If I hadn’t sat back down in the saddle I would have fell for sure. I pedaled towards the top and noticed that my breaths were becoming words in rhythm with my cadence. “Just don’t stop, just don’t stop.” It must have been my sub conscience taking control because I somehow made it up the next two climbs to the finish completely on fumes. I made it.
Two hours and forty-two minutes. 40.3 miles. 15.0 mph average. 29.1 top speed. 6.4 mph slowest. A personal best. Looking back I would say the experience was all about making myself as uncomfortable as possible, adapting and overcoming. Two days later my body is certain that I did something it’s not used to, but I’m eager still to best my results.
Paul is a full-time father and freelance Graphic Artist living Fort Worth.