Follow the Leader!

I finally took some initiative, discovered some latent leadership abilities, and organized an ABC ride on Labor Day, which I called The Labor of Legs Labor Day Ride (every good ride needs a good title). With the help of my good friend, Michael, I put together a route, cue sheet, and successfully lead a 63-mile loop from Seville to Wooster. To my surprise, a total of 14 people showed up for this ride, including a non-ABC member friend of mine named Gabe (I met her at my cousin’s cousin’s New Years party this year). A few of the people I may have bullied into attending (as is my usual method of encouraging people to participate in things I’ve got some organizing hand in). Nevertheless, it appears that fun was had by all.

The weather was perfect. The day started out without wind and a little chilly (which I liked). We left Seville and headed into the Overton valley, which part of MCBC’s Ice Cream Odyssey goes through. We rode along the winding Overton Road that twists through small communities and farms along Killbuck Creek. It’s mostly shaded and filled with trees, unlike the higher elevation that surrounds it. I’ve ridden though this valley a few times now and I’m always impressed by the beauty of what I call one of Ohio’s hidden treasures. I never realized there were other valleys this far west in Ohio. I guess I havent gotten out much!

We enjoyed a nice climb out of the valley via Smithville-Western Road. I’d climbed this road earlier this year while riding with Michael and I’d fallen on it. The beginning part is abruptly steep — estimated by a rider on Monday as being roughly 13% grade. The time I rode it earlier this year, we’d just come coasting down a hill into the valley so I was in a very high gear. When we turned onto Smithville-Western, I underestimated the toughness of this hill and did not drop to an appropriately lower gear (which in this case, would mean using my granny ring). Of course, as I tried to climb the hill, I found that I could not move my pedals and, as I struggled to both drop to lower gears and remove my feet from the clips in the pedals, it was too late and I toppled over. Followed by, according to Michael who had already rounded the first bend, a series of impolite explatives that issued from my mouth (I swear like a truck driver). And, naturally, my fall happened in plain view of a group of people in a passing vehicle — it never happens when you’re alone! So both my pride and my hip (which took the brunt of the fall) were injured. I had a huge, ugly bruise that did not go away for several weeks.

Due to this earlier incident, I was very nervous as we made our approach to Smithville-Western (another member of my ride liked to call this road “Smith & Wesson” after the gun, which he said jokingly, that he wanted to shoot me with for adding the climb to the route). The road represented a failure that I needed to get beyond in order to feel secure about my riding skills again. I kept thinking of Yoda’s warning words to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back: “Remember your failure at the tree.” These words reminded Luke that he had failed an important test of his Jedi skills when he encountered a Jedi-induced mirage of Darth Vader inside an enchanted Jedi tree.

This road was my enchanted Jedi tree. My failure. I had to remember my failure and learn from it. I could not allow myself to repeat my mistake or I’d have not learned anything. Just as Luke could only confront Vader and truly succeed as victor (as savior) once he’d had a little more experience, so could I only confront that hill after the wisdom and skill learned from multiple climbs out of the Cuyahoga Valley all summer and the excruciating pain of battling the hills at Roscoe Ramble.

So as soon as I saw the wall that started Smithville-Western, I didn’t mess around: I dropped into my granny ring and started spinning. Quite quickly, I was in my last gear, huffing it out as Michelle and Michael pushed past me as though no hill existed (I will never be as good as they are on hills! I’m in such awe!). As I was pushing myself up this hill, my tension left me as I felt the Force flowing through me and I realized that this hill was actually not as hard as Everett Road in the Cuyahoga Valley, which I’ve gone up more times this summer than I care to remember. It certainly wasnt as bad as that God-foresaken Stucky Road on Roscoe Ramble. It’s all perspective, you see, that makes your journey in cycling. At the beginning of the summer, everything looks worse than it does at the end of the summer. Ahh, the wisdom of time, experience, and 2,000+ miles!

Before too long, I made it to the top. I did not have to get off and walk. Life was good. The Force was with me. I waited at the top for the rest of my riders. The worst hill on the ride was now over. I even had the insane urge to contemplate taking that hill by tandem sometime. (As if going up it myself was not enough of a challenge!)

The rest of the way to Wooster was a nice, rolling adventure. I just zoned into the ride, enjoying the weather, the soothing heat of the sun on my back. This was a great group. Everyone went their own speed, but we stuck generally together. Everyone seemed in good spirits, no one seemed to be dying. I found myself constantly worried about people being unable to keep up or dispirited by the speed, but thankfully, everyone seemed to be fine with the route.

We lunched at the Buehler’s cafe on Market Street in downtown Wooster. It was pleasant and the food was reasonably priced. I made the misguided mistake of eating a bison burger. I’d forgotten that beef-ish products don’t sit with me well when I’m in the middle of fits of athletics. I paid for it on the return ride to Seville when I started getting cramps in my side. It’s a good thing I passed up on the coffee as well, or I’d have been in some uncomfortable state. Although, that bison burger called to me… I love bison…

I had mapped out an optional 70 mile route. I was feeling great at the lunch stop, which was only about 40 miles. I was completely willing to do the optional 7 miles, but everyone else declined, which really bummed me out. Still, I agreed that 63 miles was reasonable.

Our ride out of Wooster consisted of a long stretch of several miles along Friendsville Road. The local Wooster-ite who had joined our ride (a friend of Bruce’s from the Wooster Bike Club) explained that he has ridden this road at several different times of day, during several different seasons, under several different weather conditions, only to get the same result — a strong headwind. I’d forgotten what headwind does to you on long stretches of flat terrain. It reminded me of what lays in store for me at Hancock Horizontal Hundred this Sunday — the flat century laden with wind. Oh, yeah, that’s what will prevent me from my attempt at a 16mph average. Unless I can find a drafting team.

From Friendsville, we turned onto Sterling Road. I realized we had made a miscalculation on the cue sheet of about 3 miles, which meant that my ride was not 63 miles, but 60! Uh-oh — not even a metric century. As we neared our next turn onto Seville Road — the home stretch through Sterling and into Seville — Michael rode past me indicating that he was going to offer a 3 mile jog around a block of roads near the intersection for anyone wishing to get the actual 3 miles. Of my 12 remaining riders (two had left us shortly after Wooster to return to their homes in Wooster), only four of us elected to follow Michael for three more miles. It wasn’t the best three miles in the world — one part consisted of more northward travel against the wind on a crappy “chip and sealed” road. But then, no one was asking me to break any speed records either (though, I was lagging behind the other four who seemed to be doing better despite the obstacles).

The remainder of the ride back north along Seville Road was painful. I had been feeling quite robust until I had to force myself against the wind in what turned out to be a hot day (about 82 degrees, I’m told). That last few miles beat the whip out of me. As I rolled into the Seville Elementary School parking lot, I came up with 62.85 miles; thus, I had to ride up the street to get my 63. Life was complete now! Or so I thought. More on that a few paragraphs down!

After packing our bikes away, a few of us decided to head for the ice cream shop in Seville. I had a chocolate malt, every sip of which I still managed to feel guilty about. (Why is it I eat crap after doing all this glorious exercise? It’s no wonder I never lose any weight!)

It seemed that everyone was pretty happy with the route. I felt proud to have organized a ride. It was kind of fun. I couldn’t have done it, though, without Michael who not only helped me come up with the route (since it was his home territory), but he often rode sweep for me to ensure the slowest rider was still with us. So I can’t take all the credit — it was a team effort. (He just didn’t want to claim the responsibility of ride leader.)

Perhaps I shall lead a ride again. I enjoyed being able to provide a ride for my fellow ABCers. I need to explore more roads. It would be nice to do something in Portage County (barring their horrible road conditions in many spots) since I don’t get a chance to ride there often (probably because of their poor road conditions and they don’t have a bike club we can partner with). Over by Hiram College, where I went to school, I know there are some challenging hills and interesting sights. I’ll have to see what I can manage. Maybe call it the Hiram College Pride Ride. Or something. (Everything I do needs to have a name!)

Incidentally, to complete my day, Michael and I rode an additional 7 miles after the ice cream stop. Hey, he threw down the gauntlet because of my expressed disappointment that no one wanted to do the extra 7 miles out of Wooster. So, I did end up getting a 70-mile day in. Yes, I’m a nut. But, I ask, who is nuttier: He who suggests doing a crazy thing, or she who agrees to the crazy thing?

Hmmm… As my friend Diane stated when I posed the same question to her through email this morning, “Oh, and the one who agrees is nuttier than the suggester.”

Well, I guess no one is really all that surprised by that answer. After all, I do claim to be from Mars. I can’t be all that stable.

2 thoughts on “Follow the Leader!

  1. “Everyone went their own speed, but we stuck generally together. Everyone seemed in good spirits, no one seemed to be dying. I found myself constantly worried about people being unable to keep up or dispirited by the speed, but thankfully, everyone seemed to be fine with the route.” – Yeah, ’cause Jeff & I weren’t doing your ride! When you plan the Hiram College Pride Ride you’re going to have to make it wussy enough for me to handle! :)

  2. I really dont know what that comment is supposed to mean. If you were on the ride, we would have made sure you made it. I drop no one on my rides because I know how it feels.This sounds like an insult to your own riding abilities. Lalalalalaa — I’m NOT LISTENING.All cyclists are equal in my eyes. Getting on a bike and riding any distance requires tenacity and drive. =)

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