Okay, so I’m a wuss. I signed up for the Lifetime Fitness Gran Fondo (Big Ride, in Italian) on Saturday, and I chose the 60-mile instead of the 100-mile option. Even though I’ve been training all winter in spinning classes, I just can’t imagine staying in the saddle for 100 miles.
It hasn’t always been this way.
You see, in November of 1990, when I was bumming around Guatemala, a friend asked if I was interested in accompanying him on a little joy ride through Nicaragua. What the hell? I thought. It sounds like an adventure.
Never mind that I hadn’t ridden a bicycle of any sort since my Raleigh road bike was stolen shortly after I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin for undergraduate school in September of 1986. Never mind that the furthest distance I’d ever pedaled was eight, maybe ten, miles.
Yet, I naïvely agreed to accompany my friend Austin on a campaign that would take us by bus to the Honduran border, and then by pick-up truck across Honduras to Nicaragua—wherein we would ascend torturous mountain gradients, descend in torrential rain, and wend through steamy lake basins and steamier jungles—all while carrying 70 lbs of camping gear in our panniers. The mountain bike that Austin loaned me was a stock special designed more for pedaling in slow circles around a suburban driveway than chugging through mountain passes on the Pan-American Highway.
I did not even have a helmet.
Nope. I was not daunted by the prospect of any of this, but, then again, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I wish I could have known just how hard it was going to be to pedal the smallest gear possible up interminable mountain slopes, sick with Giardia lamblia, and the last three fingers on each hand benumbed by the constant pressure on the handle bars. I wish I could have known how hard it was going to rain and how hot it was going to get. And I especially wish I could have foreseen getting robbed at gunpoint outside of Managua, and how it would feel to have that cold, nickel-plated muzzle against my temple and in my ribs.
I survived all of that, so why should I have feared committing to a single, 100-mile day of cycling through the luxurious purlieus of Lake Minnetonka? Why did I choose the 60-mile option instead? After all, I averaged about forty miles per day for six days in extreme conditions in Nicaragua.
Ah, but I was 23 years old then.
I’m (gulp) 44 now. I’ve ridden a lot since that trek across Nicaragua 21 years ago, and I’ve cycled a lot lately. It shouldn’t be nearly as hot here in September as it was there in November. I will ride a nimbler mount and I will have no mountains to climb. I will not have 70 lbs to bear on my bike frame. I don’t believe the organizers will allow bandits to rob the riders.
And I will wear a helmet.
Thanks Mike! If you want to learn more about the Life Time Fitness Gran Fondo, check out their website.