Sunday, October 26, 2008


I allowed myself to be coerced into riding FHF II today despite the limited vision in my left eye. All in all, I'm glad I decided to do it but the day certainly had its ups and downs:

5:30 - alarm clock. Not what I wanted to hear, opened my eyes to find that I had no more vision than the previous day - if I had to guess, it's actually a little worse. I made up my mind that I wouldn't ride but then decided to put on my club gear under my jeans and sweatshirt, just in case.

6:30 - Starbucks, of course.

7:00 -- arrived at Heritage Park and helped the crew set up registration tables, prepare food and drinks, etc. It was really COLD!

8:15 - Scott G offered to hang back on the metric with me if I'd ride. He insisted that if I grabbed his wheel (but not too close - you know, in case I REALLY couldn't see), I'd be fine. I agreed. I wanted to ride so bad.

9:00 - Mass Start. I was nervous before I even left the lot.

The rest goes like this:
less than 5 miles into the ride, Scott and I were separated. I immediately came across Michael and Phil and rode between the two of them. It didn't take long before Phil took off to catch the peloton and Michael and I were mixed in the crowd. Two riders passed by on my left in a very close fashion and I became aware of how little I really could see. It felt like I was looking through waxed paper on the left side of my body. And have you ever noticed that when one of your senses is off, you just don't feel like anything works right? Well, shortly after, a car passed and I became really afraid - It was like I didn't hear the car as it breezed by VERY close to me. I immediately wanted to climb off the bike and cry. If you know me well, you know that I hate to cry in public almost worse than I hate humiliation.

I hung on until the first SAG stop and much to my embarrassment - there sat Tim, Scott and a few other guys from our club. I didn't want to see them b/c I knew I was close to tears. I didn't want to loose the "cool and cute" points I had earned when I crashed a few weeks back. I pleaded with Scott and Tim to "Go!" when they wanted to know what was wrong. I was humiliated and disappointed in myself. I think I really would have quit but Scott said the magic words, "You mean I fell of the peloton for you and you're going to quit?!"....that was all it took. I couldn't handle feeling like I had messed up someones ride so I pushed on.

The next several miles were fine...until I was pulled over by the Sheriff. I was approaching a left hand turn and I signaled as usual. As I made the left, there was a car on-coming that was making a right onto the same road. As I approached, I noticed it was a Jasper County Sheriff's car. He stopped and made a motion with his hand. For a split second I thought "how nice - he's holding traffic for me!" I passed on by and he blew his horn at me - I suddenly realized he intended to pull me over. When I pulled to the right, he pulled up beside me and told me that they were receiving lots of complaints that we weren't moving out of the way of traffic. Respectfully, I explained that we were riding the white line, never more than 2 abreast - according to the law. He repeated that they were receiving complaints that we weren't moving out of the way. Michael pulled up beside me and I knew he was wanting to argue - I motioned for him to hold back and I thanked the officer, mounted my bike and pulled away. We later saw him up ahead waiting for us to pass. I guess we were riding to his satisfaction because he didn't stop us again.

The second SAG seemed like 900 miles away from the first. The first was at 17.5 miles and the second wasn't until 47 miles! Michael and I collapsed to the ground and refueled our bodies w/ liquid and a Nutrigrain bar. I got up to leave but Michael insisted that he was planning to catch a ride back. I left the stop w/ Scott, the guy in black and white and the guy in gray. A few others joined in as well.

The next SAG stop was only 8 miles away. I really didn't want to stop but I pulled to the side to debate whether I needed to use the restroom. Something about the distance up the driveway to the gas station helped me decide that I could make it back without going inside. I pedaled on, three or four other guys with me.

The next couple of hills made me want to vomit...I hung in there and climbed to the top of each one as it approached. I think I did a better job climbing today than I usually do - and I'm proud to admit that I never came out of the large chain ring, despite the intensity of the hills.

The last 10 miles were a blur. Somewhere along the way it ended up that it was only Scott and I pedaling to the finish. I can't tell you how grateful I was to have him with me. His experience as a rider really became apparent: he allowed me to pull ahead when I felt a little burst of energy and he correctly anticipated when my energy was running low and pulled in front of me to help me along. A few times, he assured me that I was doing well. Somewhere inside I was ashamed that I was struggling so hard but at the same time, I really felt like he was genuine and wanted to see me finish the ride. It was comforting and made me glad I decided to keep going. If I've never commented before - the guys I ride with at Epic are carefully selected. Each of my "heroes" have proven to be reliable riders who care as much about helping their fellow rider as proving their own "dominance". After today, I think Scott has been added to my list.

We finished the ride and spread out across the warm pavement to bask in the sun and wait for the 100 milers to pull in - everyone was eager to see Mike Stigers finish since he'd decided to do the full 100 on his fixed gear bike.

I'm proud of some of my accomplishments today (the big chain ring, my decision to continue the ride despite my fear) and I'm embarrassed at others (did I really cry?!). The important thing is that I did my best and I refused to give up.

Oh My God, Claxton is in two weeks...

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