The last few days have been a blur of motion, excitement, and extreme ups and downs. Bike and Build is turning out to be the most crazy challenge I have put myself up to–my mind, body, and character is put to the test day in and out. While feeling the worst I have ever physically felt in my life, I can’t stop the thoughts that come telling me how lucky I am to be able to do this! Yesterday was my best day yet cycling, and today was my worst–they were both perfect.
The last two days gave us heat. This was the kind of heat that hits you like a ton of bricks when you walk out the door–the kind that causes tiny rivers of sweat to trickle down my arms and pool in the palms of my hands. I can’t believe it is possible to sweat so much. It has been as if I am constantly providing my own personal shower wherever I go. In more tangible terms, it was 106 degrees yesterday and 109 today. All we could say was: “Is this real life?!??”
Yesterday we woke up at 4:30 to beat the heat. The lovely people of Dayton fed us starving cyclists in the heavily equipped baracks of the police training facility–one of our coolest hosts yet! After our normal morning packing extravaganza, we hopped on our lubed up bikes and had a police escort out of town, probably the closest I’ll ever come to being an outlaw! Wizzing through red lights, and following cop lights was a thrill–especially when seeing the looks of confusion on commuting drivers’ faces at stop lights.
The morning was cool, and Dayton’s amazing bike paths led us out of the city without the constant pressure of traffic upon us. One of the trip leaders told us to jet to our first lunch in order to beat the heat, and I covered those 30 miles in the blink of an eye–I was stopping for nothing but food, water and ice with the threat of heat breathing down my neck.
At our first lunch I ate a bit, and then got back on the road. It wasn’t too long before Kane, one of our most experienced riders, caught up. He told me we could make the 100 mile trek in a measly seven hours. I didn’t believe him, but I thought I might as well try to get out of the heat by 2 pm!
Kane was so helpful in all aspects of the ride. He taught me about pacelining–riding close to another rider’s rear wheel so as to have them push the air out of the way for you. [Sidenote: In cycling, most of the resistance you find is from the air you are displacing, so sharing the load by having one person push through in front while the other rests behind and then switching, saves riders as much as 30% of their energy!] He showed me how to take hills more effectively (although we only went up about 2, as we were in Ohio). And he talked to me.
While pacelining, we chatted about everything under the sun–relationships, cycling, the future. With miles of road to cover, and only one other person to get your mind off the heat, you can learn a lot quickly. Kane is from Thailand, goes to Purdue College, and has a lot to share. With a bottle of electrolites and caffeine, Kane is a cycling and talking machine–with a huge heart and tons of food and crazy stories.
Before I knew it, the day had flown by and we were six miles away from our host. Hartford, Indiana welcomed us, but I was crashing hard. I needed food! After crawling up the only hills in that corn country, I collapsed into a restaurant. The locals were lovely! They had us full of pasta, chicken fingers, and mashed potatoes before we could say ‘bonk’ (but not before I admitted to Kane that he was right about eating–I should have gobbled down more earlier, as he had pushed me to!). Our waitress was excited about the trip, and others laughed at our insanity to bike in such weather.
We were the first to arrive in town, at 3 pm (only one hour later than Kane’s goal). It was my fastest and least painful century yet! Not to mention, all of us passed our 1000 mile marker in the trip! We are officially 1/4 of the way across the country. Is that crazy or what?
Today’s ride, on the other hand, was long and painful. I started slow and ended slower. Three miles before the 87 mile day was over, I called the van to pick me up. And like yesterday, it was only with the help of two amazing fellow cyclists (Sam and Maggie), that I made it to the host on my bike.
Today marks my third anniversary of the day my life changed for the better. Although it was one of my most painful days on Bike and Build, it was just as incredible to bike in today as it was yesterday. I am surrounded by some of the most loving, caring people I have ever met. No matter how hot or how miserable they are, these cyclists stick together, and carry each other forward, to the home we have for the night.
Like my journey over the last three years, I learn every day how important it is to be of service, and to accept the service-work of others. It is only through the kindness of those around me that I am here today. The last three years and the last three weeks have also taught me that life is the most insane rollercoaster. I hated almost every moment of the ride today, and adored almost every moment yesterday, but when I look back now, only a few short hours away from both, I am filled with happiness (and that too will change!).
I am so happy that life has brought me right here. I can’t imagine a better place to be.