Yesterday, as a final act of training for TOSRV, Michael and I joined Medina County Bicycle Club’s annual freebie ride called KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ! (this name is supposed to correspond with their New Year’s Day Ride, which they have called ABCDEFGHIJ!). Unofficially coined as a TOSRV training ride, which the ride’s leader and inventor told us started as his last-minute training ride one year, this trek took us in an 85-mile loop around Erie and Lorain Counties. We drifted through little Ohio towns I’d never heard of before–Steuben, New London, Monroeville, Fitchville–and ambling along peaceful country roads with scenery that harkened reflection of my rides through Germany and Italy.
It always amazes me how I don’t even recognize my home state as I ride through it. I was city raised, though not according to some people’s estimation, for I grew up in what a lot of people called, and still call, “the sticks” despite the sprawl of Cleveland which is quickly taking over to make it a real suburb. I guess when you grow up close enough to a big city in the Midwest, you can easily forget or overlook the fact that the state you live in is more rural than urban. Riding around in new counties around my home state gives me a great appreciation for the land I was born into and, I daresay, it’s hard for me to hate the place on sunny spring days as I cycle through these little towns and observe a world so utterly foreign from my own. It takes me out of myself and gives me the chance to smell the manure, as you would imagine, which, sometimes doesn’t really smell as horrible as its reputation suggests. I’m a Hiram girl, after all; when you attend a college surrounded by farms, you get used to the annual spring smell of freshly laid manure blowing in on the wind.
I must be getting old because yesterday it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be too bad to live in some little nowhere town. My thought is that I could jump on my bike at any time, like Michael can do because he lives near Wayne County, without worrying much about traffic to just safely enjoy the intrepid beauty in the untouched world around me. I’d still have to live near enough to a city so that I can enjoy my theatre and baseball games and a nice gourmet meal once in awhile. But, suddenly, to me, there’s something romantic about retreating after work to a nice quiet place in my dream A-frame house with a dog (Schnauzer or Lab) and my cats, and low trafficked roads to bounce my Giant’s wheels upon (bounce being the operative word here as chip-and-seal unfortunately seems to be a cheap selection for road surfacing in the country). A husband might be nice, too, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
I guess, though, I haven’t changed all that much. In my twenties, my husband and I too dreamed of living in Colorado in some community in the mountains just outside of Denver (like Evergreen or Confer) or Boulder (like Nederland) because we could have the best of both worlds–the small town feel with access to the things we love about the city. Part of me just loves being surrounded by woods, the smell of fresh soil and plant life, and with the open road around me. I’m sure there’s a downside to living in a small community (gossip and nosiness, which I always detest) but there’s something comforting about having easier access to my better hobbies–cycling, astronomy, hiking.
It was such a nice day yesterday despite the constant chill in the air and headwinds from the west. The sun was shining and it took away any complaints I could have had about it being just a tad too cold for my liking. I was properly dressed and I was sweating, so it all worked itself out on the ride. I felt really good, even at 85 miles, and my positive energy is revived for TOSRV. I now feel confident that I can make it. I was on and I think I could have completed another 20 miles without too much additional pain. This morning my legs only seem to ache too much when I’m climbing upstairs, but otherwise, I’m fine. Of course, on TOSRV, I’d have to get right back on the bike this morning. Though, sick person that I am, I feel like I could ride tonight (the weather is nice and supposed to be crappy the rest of the week), but I noticed my lawn is a little shaggy so I might have to mow instead this evening…
KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ! was really fun. The other riders were really welcoming and friendly. I had a good time chatting with the ride’s leader/inventor, even though I razzed him that he’s been doing TOSRV more years than I’ve been alive (this will be his 37th year!). I only say this because I admire people who have maintained an insane cycling habit as long as he has. I have to say, though: that guy and his group were fast! Michael and I pretty much rode the ride alone at our 14.8 average pace. I don’t know how fast these guys were going, but I think it was pace that kept them at a steady half hour ahead of us!
I’m getting very excited about TOSRV. Even if the weather is crappy, this ride just sounds epic in scale because of its long history and the excitement it raises among a lot of cyclists I’ve been talking to. For some reason, despite the crappiest of conditions, these people really enjoy doing this ride. I want to know why! I always love the thrill of starting a fairly large registered ride–there’s an excitement in the air as you ready yourself and head out across the starting line. I always liked that about the MS 150, which is one of the reasons I go every year. There’s so much ceremony in the MS 150–the mass start and people cheering you at the finish lines. Though there’s no longer a mass start at TOSRV, I am betting that kind of energy of the first morning of the big ride is there. And I’ve heard that people cheer you at the finish line. I just love the camaraderie of it all.
I remember the one year I volunteered for the MS 150. It was in Colorado and I wanted to stake out what the course would be like before I registered for it the following year. I helped at the starting line and served as a road marshall at two spots along the ride. I was so jealous of all the people riding because I wanted so badly to be among them. It was incredibly hard to just watch other people doing what I loved so much and not being able to mount a bicycle myself. It’s hard to be on the sidelines of the excitement. I’ll probably never work as a volunteer on a ride day again because, as much as my volunteering heart loves to help, I just cant be on the sidelines, no matter how many hours I put in during the days leading up to the ride. I want to be one of the riders too badly.
I have never trained as diligently as for a ride as I have for TOSRV. Usually, I just start doing regular rides of 20-30 miles and figure that I’ll be all right when the day comes to do the big 75-100 miles, with the MS 150 usually being my first big ride of the year. But my fear of doing back-to-back centuries, and it being so early in the season, pushed me to do some early training rides on days with less-than-desireable conditions (last Saturday in Lake County) just so that I could have some mileage and long rides completed. As I stated earlier, it’s paid off because I am now going into TOSRV with a confidence that the only thing that may wear me down is bad weather. And, since I’ve completed some rides in bad weather already, I’m not even sure that will deter me. (I hope not!) Well, the secret to doing a ride with someone is that they will guilt you out of bailing; that’s why Michael and I are doing it together. And he’s TOSRV veteran so he knows he can get through it.
TOSRV just sounds like one of those rides you have to experience when you’re a cyclist in Ohio. And I’m thrilled to be riding in it, even if the weather ends up sucking. The challenge of overcoming is always the sweetest part. Which is probably why I ride.
If I make it through TOSRV, I might aim my sights for Seattle-to-Portland (STP) like Sarah keeps hinting around for me to do. Wouldn’t that be way cool? Maybe next year if I haven’t found other ways to use up all my vacation time…