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May 21 2012

Homestretch Trials

For the last few weeks, our Team in Training (TNT) coaches have tossed together some beautiful rides. They were each pretty and all fun and games…until the last several miles.

Oh, those homestretch miles. How I dislike them.

Sure, we need them in order to get home. I mean, that’s only right. Right?

But why must I always expect them to be short, downhill and cool?

Why do I let myself anticipate the refreshing breeze rolling over my sleek, aerodynamic rig and self? Why do I continue to expect the road, scenery and anticipation of the finish to reinvigorate me and power my cadence over the last few miles? Why does my mind always have the vision of a yellow friggin’ brick road; the perfect way to end a long, hilly and hot ride?

When, instead and inevitably, those homestretch miles remain long, hilly and hot with absolutely no vision of the finish in sight. There’s nothing in those last few waning miles to reinvigorate me or help power my cadence. There is certainly nothing out there to accommodate my need and desire to just pedal easy and relax with my pals. My buddies. My fellow teammates.

Nothing.

Most of the time, I can let this go and just enjoy the ride as it was written.

That’s a lie.

Those last few miles wear me down every time.

Right now, it is precisely this fact that has me a little (lot) nervous. I’ve heard tale of the ride around Lake Tahoe consisting of just such a set of homestretch miles. Only tenfold, as they will be coming around at mile markers displaying numbers so high I have yet to experience seeing them from atop my bicycle.

I’m told there will come a point after the “last” big climb where I will believe I’m done. I’m then told that notion is quickly squashed as I head downhill from the “last” big climb only to be met with…rollers.

Some people call them “rollers.” The more trustworthy people call them “hills.” Until I experience them firsthand and can make my own judgment, I will consider them “Mountains.”

More seasoned riders have made pained faces when telling me about the Mountains. They’ve climbed them successfully from one to several times, and even they cannot hide their dismay.

From what I understand from others, both outside and inside TNT, our group is more than able and prepared for this ride around the lake. I believe that is so, as well. However, I can’t help but focus on those silly mountainous homestretch miles.

On our last training ride, about six miles from the finish, on the top of a hill, out in the hot sun, I had had enough. Every part of my body was telling me, not that I was done, but that I was done working so hard. I became mad at the coaches for continuing to toss these now mundane hills into the end of the ride when we should be, just once, able to coast in nice and easy. I just want to know what that feels like now. It was our last official long ride before the main event. I felt we were due a finish that didn’t require so much struggling.

I find I can’t joke and laugh when I’m out of breath and struggling. What fun is that? How boring I must be during those hills and heat. Not like my normal, sunny self.

I paused at the top of that hill. Of course that meant my coach had to pause, as well. No matter how many times I gently asked her to “SCAT!”, she stayed with me until I was a calmer version of my overly frustrated self.

More than that, when we finally did take off to eventually find the rest of the team pulled over and awaiting our arrival, she took the blame for the delay. What’s up with that? How did I come to deserve that? I still don’t know the answers, but it was a nice gesture. I mean, my teammates aren’t stupid. They knew the hiccup in their giddy up was me. But they all played it off and made sure the coach and I were both okay before we saddled up and headed down the stretch of road to home.

When the ride finally came to its blessed end, I was too tired to cheer. The fatigue may have also been due, in part, to the embarrassment of choosing to stop so close to the end instead of just shutting up and finishing it.

Another coach and some fellow riders gathered around and offered some helpful tips and much needed words of encouragement.

In the olden days of last year, I would have politely dismissed them. Way back then, I could surely take care of myself and hugs and pep talks were just a distraction that delayed me from walking away, wallowing in self-pity and searching for strength from within.

Throughout this journey to a healthy(er) me, I think I’ve become better at finding that strength – the strength within myself. I’ve come to realize it is powered, in part, by that of others.

So, while I do dislike those seemingly endless homestretch miles, I will face them and all of the challenges they present knowing I’m covered if ever I should need the support of the team upon which I’ve come to rely.

Sure, I may not be jovial in the climbs that bring our route to completion, but I cannot finish unless I ride those final miles.

And after all, I’m off the couch. I have to finish.

That’s the rule here.


 

 

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2 Responses to “Homestretch Trials”

  1. Diane says:

    OMG! When you wrote about, being a calmer version of your overly frustrated self, I began to cry. Several times I’ve tried to shew away my coach and and a few times she let me be while I just cried. It was my way of calming my frustrated self. I teared up a bit and selfishly said I need to ride without someone behind me because I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. Pressure I know I put on myself, but it was still pressure I was feeling. I don’t know which group you ride in but I ignorantly thought it was only the slowest on the entire team that had feelings like you expressed. I know I’m the slowest and the hills are such mountains for me, but I’ve come to accept I’m always going to be last and the mountains will always be real hard for me but at least I finished. I hope this will be true at Tahoe!

  2. Britsonatandem! says:

    May all your couches be too hard to sit on for too long, may all your saddles be soft and welcoming, may all the winds be behind you and may all your hills and miles be as pleasurable as the evening sun on your back! I look forward to your Tahoe ride blog and will reflect with you on your achievement to overcome those continual grueling hills until at last, the yellow brick road was right there in front of you, and led you to the finish! Until we ride again…..cheers MATE!

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