Saturday, March 24, 2007

Solo

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
--T. S. Eliot
Fall, 1985. It was my senior year of high school. The school itself was one of those sprawling, gigantic high schools common to bedroom communities outside of larger cities. Among the 893 people on my graduating class, we could easily have sent members down to central casting to replace the ensemble in The Breakfast Club. We had preppies, cheer leaders, band geeks, brainiacs, stoners, athletes . . . all the stereotypes.

Anyway, I placed a sticker on the inside of the rear window of the car I drove. The sticker said "University of Wisconsin at Madison" and had the school's Numen Lumen symbol. I had won my audition to enter the school, and it was my statement: "I am not staying here. I am not going to the same college down the road where everyone else is going. It's clear across the country, and I am going by myself. But this is what I am doing."

At 18, I had never taken off alone before. It was a barrier to cross, and once crossed, everything changes. From that point on, I did not "live" at "home." That is "home" was elsewhere, not with my parents. I was too full of 18-year-old immortality to notice at the time, but it was an important moment, going it alone. A lot of important moments happen that way.

I don't know for sure, but today might be one of those moments too, on this journey back to Madison. I had plans for a big ride, a breakthrough in the bike training. I intended to start early, before an organized group ride, and tack on miles to exceed their distance. My plan was to do two loops to their one on the hilly Montgomery County roads that are my haunt at the weekend. I was going to do the ride with a friend, but my intended partner unavoidably had to cancel.

So. Me. In the dark. Pumping up the tires. Mixing the nutrition bottles. What to do?
Well, I knew one thing. I am not staying here.

When it was just light enough to be safe, I left. Solo.
I was alone most of the day, the long route group behind me, and catching short route riders as they came back into the start. The cheerleaders and drill team members who benefitted from the ride cheered me as I came first through the aid stations and road on past without stopping--like I was Floyd Landis or something. (THAT never happened in high school, I can assure you.) And I finished up the first loop.
But now what? The heat is coming, the wind is picking up, and the cheerleading aid stations will all be gone on your second trip around. I tried not to think as I mixed up more Perpetuem. With the bottles in place, I began again--solo--this time in the full sun.

They did not cheer as I left. They just looked.

Up to the half-way point of the second loop, one can turn around and save some effort. After that point, there was nothing for it except to get as low as possible on the bike to try and hide from a dead on wind that stretched the flags taut and felt like a convection oven. Even this does not work when your legs beg to stand during a climb. No cheering this time.

Except for one. Me.

We train in groups, we encourage each other in person and on the internet, and we cherish the friends that we make in this sport. But there are also those times, some of them very important times, where the aloneness is what forms us. When we are alone, like no other time, we have to decide who we are and how far we intend to go. Today was one of those times.

100 miles.

Solo.

10 comments:

TxSkatemom said...

you are a beast.

and an inspiration to someone who is just beginning.

Curly Su said...

wow. great job. i did all my 100 mile rides as part of organized cycling tours...i'm very impressed with you doing it alone...and so early in the season! way to go...

21stCenturyMom said...

Way to rock that ride. Sounds pretty tough. You will scoff at the hills of Wildflower!

Triteacher said...

Whoa. Way to get the job done, Greyhound - and post about it beautifully.

Shelley said...

You are a machine my friend!! Awesome!!

Bolder said...

nice deposit.

i see dividends forthcoming.

Joe V said...

Funny thing about going solo: the bravado and everything else falls away. You can't hide from you.

IM Able said...

it is, of course, what we do when alone -- away from watchful eyes and judgment -- that really speaks to our character. great ride!

Andra Sue said...

Outstanding post, and what an accomplishment on the ride. That's some commitment if I ever saw any! Great quote, too. I may steal it for my sidebar, TYVM. :) Happy Monday!

Veeg said...

Amazing! You are a TriGod. :)