Arthritis

I woke up last Thursday (the 19th) with tear-inducing pain in my shoulder and the back of my neck which ran down my arm. I may have alluded to this in the previous entry about my U2 concert. Anyway, I innocently figured I’d slept on my neck wrong. I took a few ibuprofen and went on with my day hoping it would get better.

It didn’t. Friday it was about the same. I kept stretching in my chair at work, pulling my arm over the back of my head–as this seemed to make my arm feel better–but I just couldn’t clear it. As the day wore on, it felt a little better. However, I woke Saturday morning–the day of the concert–with an even more intense level of pain. Every time I bent over, a red hot pin of pain stabbed me in the middle of my shoulder and neck. There was a point as I was changing into my clothes for the day that I felt tears well up in my eyes. Oh, crap, I thought. Not on the day of my U2 concert.

Fortunately, it again got better as the day wore on, except some time after I was laying on my thermarest on the ground in the GA line. I could feel some pain radiating like a pool in the middle of my right shoulder. I promptly sat up and it felt better. I took more ibuprofen and decided that the rest of my time in the GA line would be spent upright.

I did experience some pain during the concert. A few times when I wanted to see what was going on on the screen above my head, I had to hold the back of my head with my hand so that it had something to rest on. I’m sure people thought I was just trying to hold my hat in place, thankfully. But the truth is, I felt like I was trying to hold my head in place, as if it was on the verge of becoming unhinged. It was hard to pump my right arm in the air during Where The Streets Have No Name. I felt a little bit stiff for an audience participant.

Anyway, the pain was still there Sunday–my arm most particularly feeling as though it had a constant Charley Horse from the top to the elbow–and it made for the most uncomfortable plane ride home. I’ve never been so antsy in my seat because I couldn’t find a comfortable position in which to put my arm to make the pain stop.

The pain was still there Monday. And Tuesday morning, I couldn’t lift myself from bed–I had to roll out. That’s when I’d decided to call the doctor. This had gone on long enough! I was worried that I’d slipped a disc, which in turn made me fear that I might have to have surgery, which finally led to a panic that I wouldn’t be able to see my remaining U2 shows. (I sure have my priorities straight!) Suddenly this pain was not only making me feel miserable, it was complicating my mobility, my life.

The doctor ordered some x-rays and gave me some muscle relaxants. I ended up having to take the day off of work because by the time I was done with the doctor (couldn’t get an appointment before 11:15 and, of course, she was 45 minutes behind so I didn’t get in right away though I arrived early) and the x-rays, it was 2:30 and it just seemed stupid to try to go into work at that point. Besides, the pain was pretty bad. I could only sit in one specific–very upright–position and each time I wandered out of position, pain shot through my shoulder and neck. Ugh.

Since Tuesday, the pain started reducing a little each day with a help of the muscle relaxants and more ibuprofen (I totally refused the narcotics she offered me to help with the pain as I hate those). My panic started to subside a little. Of course, I had to wait days before the doctor called me with the prognosis. On Friday afternoon, when she at last got back to me, I learned that I have arthritis of the cervical spine; more specifically, C5 & C6, C6 & C7.

Not a slipped disc, thankfully. But still kind of frightening to me. In the sense that I no longer feel like the invincible force of nature I thought I was. I’m pretty sure this flare up was instigated by TOSRV. I spent a majority of the second day of the ride in my drops (lowest position of the handlebar) single-handedly battling the wind. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time in my drops, not even last year when I battled the 20-30mph wind gusts on that ride. I guess I figured with that ride that it didn’t matter how low I rode, I was not going anywhere quickly.

I’ve experienced issues with my right shoulder from cycling for several years. Never this bad. But usually at the start of the season, I would experience pain in the middle of my shoulder after rides. Sometimes mid-season, I’d feel it if I did a lot of climbing. I think my posture on the bike favors the right side of my body somehow, but I haven’t been able to figure out just what I’m doing to cause this imbalance. Maybe I’m pulling or holding tighter to the handlebars on that side? Or my body leans to one side? I don’t know. But it’s probably not coincidence that it’s also my right knee with which I’ve had problems (remember XOBA?).

I’m feeling a bit demoralized. As I write this entry, I still am not healed enough to ride my bike. The weather for the coming week is supposed to finally be dry. I’m supposed to be leading a bike ride for my club on Memorial Day. I’m still leading it, in the sense that I will be showing up to the starting point with route maps, however, I will not be riding it. Even if I am healed enough to attempt a ride by Monday, it would be pushing it to throw myself back into 55 miles. I’d risk re-injury.

I suddenly felt old being given a diagnosis of arthritis. I mean, I know people of all ages have problems with arthritis. Yet. I’ve never had problems like this before. It’s hard to imagine myself as anything but unbreakable. Now I feel as though some limits have been imposed on me. Will I ever be able to ride 150 or more in one day again? Will I be able to do a two-day 100-mile/day ride like TOSRV again? Am I going to join the ranks of those people who can’t ride a road bike anymore because they are unable to retain the hunched position? Am I going to have to go back to riding hybrid bikes–those slow, heavy contraptions that immediately label you as a casual rider?

I hope this is merely a small bump in the road for my cycling, not an impassible road block. Cycling is one of the physical activities I love most. I don’t know what else I would do for exercise. I hate running (which presents its own problem, such as knee injury). I’m not the type to work out in a gym. I’m sure rowing has the same potential for triggering my arthritis. Without exercise, I become a very depressed person who worries even more incessantly about her weight.

I guess I will speak to a physical therapist and see what kinds of things I can do–exercises–to help avoid another flare-up like this. I guess I have to consider some herbal supplements or something. I can move my handlebars up a bit–I had an adjustable piece put in last year because of the smaller shoulder problems I was having. I should consult some specialists who fit people for bikes to see if they can figure out what is wrong with my posture so that I can adjust accordingly. I really don’t want to lose the one activity I really enjoy for everything–managing my depression, physical fitness, helping the environment by using a bike as alternative to driving.

I’m only 36. So I know I’m not old. But I can’t help but feel old. Physical limitations, in my mind, have always been for the old. When listening to others’ talk about their physical issues, I’ve always separated myself from them, thinking that I was different, I was strong, I was indestructible. I guess there’s still some naivety of youth in me–that part that thinks I’m somehow different than every other human body on the planet. This recent flare up of arthritis has reminded me, much as Mike’s death told me, that I’m just flesh, bone, and blood like everyone else. I’m not some special super-human thing impervious to injury or even death. I can push myself too far and I can hurt. I can push myself too far and ruin for myself the one activity I do that makes me feel alive, keeps me healthy, and wards off depression.

Taking it easy is not my way. I just don’t know how to relax. When I ride my bike up a hard hill, I want to attack. Always attack. I never take things easy, slow. I run at life with my head tucked down, ready to hit the wall as hard as possible in hopes that I can knock it over. I’m not a planner, I’m a doer. I’m having enough trouble keeping off my bike enough to let myself heal in the first place.

I took a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley today–the first time in a long time. But it didn’t satisfy me despite the beautiful weather and all the warm smells of nature. I wanted to be speeding down some road with my legs spinning to the speed of the thoughts in my head. I wanted to feel the wind in my face. I wanted to climb some obnoxious hill. I feel so heavy and bloated due to lack of exercise. Walking in the woods was just not going to do it for me.

There’s a voice in my head that keeps saying, Maybe you can ride to work next week. Over and over, it prays. I feel left behind. A pathetic 700+ miles to my name in May when last year I was already about 1500 miles in. I think that this is going to be a low mileage year. And I’m going to have to change my approach to exercise or I’m going to end up ruining myself so that I can’t do the thing I love most. It’s time to take a step back, analyze the situation, and for the first time create a wiser plan of attack…

Once you’ve had GA….

It all began with a sermon I wrote for my church in October of last year. I’d always been a U2 fan, but somewhere amidst all that research to write the sermon as I took a deep look at the reasons why U2 music appealed to me, I fell in love with my favorite band all over again. And a wild fervor overtook my mind that has led me on this journey where you find me now.

I’ve had tickets to the E. Lansing, Michigan show since December 2009–right when I found myself in love with U2’s latest No Line On The Horizon–and was really disappointed when Bono’s emergency back surgery put the tour off for a year (but, of course, deeply concerned about my favorite frontman). After the surgery and the tour resumed in Europe in 2010, more dates were added to the North American tour for this year. I jumped on the Pittsburgh bandwagon and, since I was having so much trouble finding people to go with me on my second ticket to the E. Lansing show, I decided to try general admission. General Admission always looked like where I wanted to be anyway. Energetic. Fun.

It seems so long ago now that I had just two shows on my schedule. I remember thinking that two was an extremely impulsive and wild thing for me to do. Little did I know that before the year had hardly begun, my impatience to see U2 live would grow to such a height that I’d add Philly and Nashville to the list. I would be seeing U2 four times between June 26 through July 26th–one month of U2!

And then my friend Kristy told me she had an extra ticket for Denver. I initially told her no because I knew it would be a little bit of a strain financially; I had the money but I’m a cautious spender. And yet, the temptation of going to Denver–which was one month earlier than my first date in E. Lansing–was overwhelming. I looked up my travel points on one of my credit cards and found I had enough for a $100 credit on an airline ticket. That pretty much clenched it; I was going.

My first experience with U2 was a trial of waiting. And waiting. It seems fitting, however, that I should see this band again just over 10 years after seeing them the first time after my husband’s death. It was like coming full circle. 360 degrees, if you will. From one side of my grief journey to the other and U2 walked me there. (Again, I wish I could tell the band this…)

I am not a patient person by nature. So the thought of waiting outside a stadium all day–effectively in line–never sounded like an easy endeavor for me. The more I read fan accounts about the GA line and its protocol, the more discouraged I became. I could maybe imagine lining up at 9am. 11am. Earlier in the morning? Maybe. But the night before? Sleeping in line? I could think of nothing more horrible and boring… Not even to see my favorite band in the world.

I thought I was safe being in America where most venues do not allow camping on their premises. Of course, I did not realize that most fans then take their line elsewhere. When Kristy started to suggest early last week that we might have to start sitting in the line the night before, I became reasonably frustrated. Could I really stand waiting around doing nothing that long?

Ever since I began entertaining the thought of a GA ticket, I imagined passing the time reading or writing. So I packed a book and a small notebook, hoping they would reasonably distract me. I decided I would do what I had to to get a close position to my band, but I continued to dread the thought of waiting in line.

While at work on Friday, I was frustrated to learn that through various fan streams on Twitter that before I’d even left Ohio, people were already queuing up for GA in Denver. The competitive side of me–the part that dreamed of  seeing Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry up close and personal–seethed. Would I end up waiting for a lousy place in GA? Kristy and other fans assured me that there was no lousy spot in the Inner Circle–the area between the catwalks and the stage–and that 3,000 people could fit there. So I just tried to breathe and not stress about it. Beer at the Great Lakes Brewery in Akron-Canton airport helped calm my nerves too.

Upon arrival in Denver, I learned that U2 was giving a special concert for 300 people (something to do with the Special Olympics) in lieu of a rehearsal. It was going on when I arrived at the airport and but by the time we got to our hotel next to Invesco Field (after meeting up, waiting on baggage, getting our rental car), Bono was singing “With or Without You” which was the last song at that performance. But I could hear it from outside the stadium and it was beautiful. All those fans who say that this song is old and tired–that Bono doesn’t sing it like he loves it anymore–are completely wrong. The song still lives.

Anyway, since we’d missed hearing the show from outside, we started to look around for the GA queue. Apparently they’d been kicked off the premises when the band started their show so we needed to find where they had relocated. Oh, the wonder of modern technology! I pulled out my phone and tweeted to the hashtag for livestream for the Denver show, and within one minute, I had four people reply to me with the location of the line. We found them and got our numbers–211, 212 (me), 213. Wow! So high the night before the show.

Fortunately, the person taking names and assigning numbers informed us that we did not need to sleep in the line over night but that we should come back early the next morning (though he didn’t know what time would be best). Kristy, being the GA veteran (and, I do believe, as nervous as I was about getting a good standing space), determined that we should be back to the line between 4:30am and 5:00am.

We did circle the stadium a few times in hopes that we could figure out where the band would come out so that we could get an autograph, but by the time we came back from the line, the stadium seemed kind of dark. I was jealous because I learned through Twitter that some people had gotten to meet the band when they went in before their special show. Maybe someday I will get to meet them…. But it wasn’t to be the case this trip.

So we got about 4 hours of sleep. Early in the morning, before the sun had even risen, we walked up the hill behind our hotel to sidewalk that overlooked the stadium where the GA line was waiting. People started shuffling up there around the same time and, by the time the sun was up (behind the steely cold clouds), there were a couple hundred people.

I must admit there was an excitement in the air. We were still hours away from the concert obviously, but it was like we were all preparing for some grand ritual. Around 6:30am, the people running the line had us shuffle into our numerical order. This appears to be an important part of the procedure of lining up in GA. You look to your neighbors so that you learn to recognize them. Having face time in the line is what allows you to slip in and out for food or a shower or whatever you need to do on occasion without pissing people off because they think you’re line jumping.

Stadium security let us into the actual GA line shortly after 7am. Our new location became our camp for the next several hours. I was really surprised that the time actually passed by quickly. Between talking with Kristy and Shawn, and meeting up with friends I had only known previously from the U2 forum, I never once picked up my book to read nor wrote in my notebook. It was like being on a beach vacation. Without the beach. But what does a person do when they go someplace with a beach? Sit around, nap, just absorb the atmosphere. And that’s what I did. In the GA line, you’re among a group of people who LOVE your band at least as much as you do because you’re all there hanging out to get the position you desire in general admission. There’s no other place you’ll ever go where there’s this many people who share your love of U2. It’s magic.

Home Sweet Home: The GA Line

The day started out cloudy. It looked uncharacteristically like Cleveland. But in the afternoon, the sun came out long enough to put a red blush on everyone’s faces–cheeks, noses, foreheads, shoulders. I had applied sunblock but, of course, even I got a little bit of a burn. The temperatures bordered between too cold to feel comfortable in short sleeves and too warm for the fleece jacket I had. I eventually braved the discomfort by removing my jacket. Right before stadium security started getting us ready to move into the stadium, I decided to leave my jacket at the hotel. As the sun went in and out of the clouds while we waited to begin entering the stadium, I worried I’d made the wrong decision. But I figured I’d be warm during the show with all the bodies pressed up together in the Inner Circle.

Kristy & Mars Girl at home at our spot in the GA line.

The stadium security began letting us into the stadium in groups of 50 at about 4:30pm. We were, I think, the second group to get in. I thought I was going to be able to fast walk with Kristy, but she was ahead of me in line and was gone before the stadium lady even got my wristband on. So I waited as the other worker struggled to get Shawn’s wristband on. I had panicked a little because I had no idea where I was going. I figured Shawn knew what he was doing and where his wife was going, so I guessed my safe bet was to follow him.

Those moments of walking into the stadium were tense. Shawn started to jog a little and I fell into the same pace. Stadium workers barked, “You’re jogging!! WALK! WALK! WALK!” at us as we passed. So we’d slow up a little just to pass them and then resume our frantic pace. It seemed like there were four or five check points as we entered the area of The Claw where we had to show both our wristband and our tickets. The whole time, I’m inwardly panicking, afraid we were losing precious time.

It’s a good thing I was with Shawn because I would never have figured out how to get into the Inner Circle despite having read about it a few times on the U2 forum. There is a gate on each side that you have to pass through. For some reason your instinct is to head straight for it, but, of course, there is no way to get over or under the catwalk to get to the Inner Circle.

Me & the inside of the Claw (over the stage).

Kristy had informed me that she was going to head towards Adam’s side if she couldn’t get a spot along the rail in front of Bono’s microphone. And that’s exactly where we found her–in between the center of the stage where Bono would stand and Adam’s side of the stage. There was already a steady line of people on the rails, but we were the second row which, frankly as a newbie, suited me just fine. This was undoubtedly the closest I have ever been to the band. I was totally stoked imagining Bono and Adam right in front of my eyes. (Adam Clayton, U2’s bass player, is my second favorite in the band!)

Kristy & Mars Girl in our final positions by the stage.

Of course we still had to wait. All said and done, we were sitting down waiting in our positions at 5:00; the show did not start until about 7:10 (ten minutes past the time it was supposed to start, of course, as entertainment of any kind rarely starts on time).

The Fray opened for U2. Unfortunately, this band was not a good distraction from my excitement to see U2. I own one of The Fray’s CDs. I think I like three songs off of it. The rest of the songs sound the same. Needless to say, I found them a bit boring to watch, though their lead singer certainly had the lead singer swagger and I admit that I liked his outfit very much, though I couldn’t help but think he was stealing Michael Stipe’s look with his bald head. I admit that throughout their show, I kept checking my watch. Which totally didn’t help.

When The Fray finished their set, I became the most restless that I’d been all day. It occurs to me–and I have said it to many people I’ve talked to about this day–that the longest wait for U2 is from the moment you get your position in GA until U2 actually comes on. Those three hours stretch like twelve; while the twelve beforehand seemed to fly like three. Funny how time is all perception.

U2’s techs took the stage and the set up was interesting to watch. I counted at least five bass guitars in that long half hour. I couldn’t really see what was going on with the drums, but the drum tech was there awhile pounding around. I saw and took a picture of the famous Dallas Shoo–Edge’s guitar tech and just as much an object of lust by many U2 fan girls as the band themselves (not for me, I prefer Bono’s bodyguard, but that’s another story). There was music playing over the loud speaker and every time a song would end, I wanted so badly to hear David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”–the music to which U2 begins their walk to the stage. I recognized Gavin Friday’s new single “Able” as one of the songs that played; I enjoyed the fact that I knew it was Gavin Friday (a friend of Bono’s from childhood who is also a musician). I just pre-ordered Friday’s new album catholic last week!

When at last “Space Oddity” came on the speakers, I felt my stomach drop. This was it…. the moment. I took out my camera and put it on video mode because I had determined that I wanted to tape the phenomenal opening from “Space Oddity” as it bleeds off into U2’s epic–and recently reworked–“Even Better Than The Real Thing” from Achtung Baby–one of my favorite songs on that CD.

It was really a bad idea to chose that song to video. It’s a great song, but concentrating on keeping the video camera steady and on the stage while avoiding the swaying hands of people in front of me kind of took away from the moment. A moment of which I really badly wanted to feel a part. A few times during the song, I did end up jumping, and you can see it in the video, but I was not throwing my hands around and screaming like I really wanted to be. Oh well. It was after finishing the recording that I decided I was not going to try to video any more of the show… I have since decided I’m just going to video one song per show just so that I have the memory of being at each place.

The crowd was wild. Even though I was familiar with the general set list (having followed the tour online since last summer), I did not benefit at all from knowing the most probable songs they would play. My mind was numbed by my proximity to Adam Clayton and Bono. And even though they were across the stage at more of a distance, I could see Larry (drummer) and The Edge (guitars, as if you didn’t know that already) clearly enough to make out their facial expressions as well.

To top it off, the show is just an audio and visual extravaganza that overload the senses–especially as close as I was. The songs just seemed to flow right over me and through me and I was just dancing and enjoying myself, occasionally catching a picture here or there (I did struggle for awhile to find the right settings to get pictures with my camera). My eyes always wanted to follow Bono–my hero–no matter where he went, which also is proven by the fact that I took more pictures of him than even Adam Clayton (who I also wanted to pay attention to).

Adam, Larry, and Bono doing what they do best.

It was all very surreal. I kept watching Bono, thinking, “That’s really Bono. That’s not an impersonator. That’s the real deal.” As if my mind couldn’t fathom the legend of the real Bono standing in front of me–just feet away. When he came to my side of the stage and looked down to read the sign the girls in front of me held, I realized for once that he really saw them (or us, his audience). You could see his eyes moving as he read the sign, singing the whole time, and he responded by calling out to the “three sisters” (their sign read something like “3 Sisters Back For More U2”). It suddenly occurred to me right then and there that we were seen by the band… we could all be seen individually… not only did we see them, but they could see us. I guess I’m used to theatre where the actors for the most part do not acknowledge the audience. But that’s always been the case with U2–they have always broken down that third wall between the performer and the audience.

Bono and The Edge performing an acoustic version of Stay (Far Away So Close!)

Often during the show, Adam would react to fans and smile. He has to be the happiest man in U2. He plays his bass and when fans scream, he just smiles. He really seems to be in a zone. It’s such a contrast to Adam Clayton of the 1990s who always put up a tough guy front, especially during the ZooTV and PopMart eras. I do believe the man has found his niche or something because he’s just so damned happy these days. And if the smiling isn’t proof, his vibrant jumping up and down in “Mysterious Ways” was certainly telling. (And he usually doesn’t get that into that song, I’m told.)

Adam Clayton (not smiling) right in front of me.

Some high points of the show for me?

Bono dedicated “Until The End of The World” to Rev. Harold Camping and made reference to Camping’s prediction about the end of the world which was supposed to happen that night. He threw flowers (yellow roses?) into the audience one-by-one, shouting the names of cities and, I think, saying, “We bring peace!” In the part where he and The Edge stand on opposite bridges attempt to touch hands, which always–intentionally, I’m sure–conjures the image of the Creation painting on the Sistine Chapel wall, Bono held a flower that he tries to pass to The Edge. When their hands don’t meet (they rarely do), he dropped the flower into the audience. It was such a cool touch.

“Zooropa” sung live induced goosebumps. I love how the guys fade behind the screen (which lowers around them). The whole band dons laser suits–new to this show, according to my rabid youtube viewings of previous shows–and that’s all you can see of them flashing as the haunting notes of the song flow around you. They keep the suits on through “City of Blinding Lights” and it looks pretty sweet.

Adam sports his laser suit in "City of Blinding Lights."

“Scarlet,” the otherwise obscure, one-word song from the completely underrated (and my favorite) October album. When the first few notes of the song started, I turned to Kristy and said, “Oh my God, Scarlet.” Bono said his bit about the release of An San Suu Kyi and then sang the beautiful, “ReeeeejjjooooOOOoooice!” several times. I was so happy when the audience both echoed him and then sang on its own when invited to do so by Bono. It was even better than I imagined it could be hearing it live.

“Walk On,” of course, one of my top 10 favorite U2 songs because it was the song that kept my head above water during the depths of my grief over Mike’s death. During the song, volunteers from the One campaign hold lanterns, I think, to represent the other political prisoners like An San Suu Kyi worldwide who are awaiting release. They leave the lanterns on the catwalk at the end of the song, I think, but I really couldn’t see from my position on the stage. Kristy–who has seen it from the Red Zone–tells me it’s a beautiful moment, though. As if the song wasn’t enough.

The second encore was “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me”–a rocking kick ass song from the Pop era that I’ve always loved. I was so thrilled to hear it live. The “suit of lights” Bono dons for this and “With Or Without You” was way cooler to see in person than on youtube. And watching Bono swing nearly over your head on the “steering wheel” swing/mike is breathtaking. Our fearless leader still wants to launch himself into the audience like he did in the old days.

Bono in his suit of lights in HMTMKMKM.

Bono dedicated “Moment Of Surrender”–the last song of the night–to someone from the One campaign he knew who had recently died. As the words flowed from his mouth, I got lost somewhere in the midst of the beauty of that song, which is from No Line On The Horizon, and truly one of the best songs U2 has ever written. Bono sings it with such emotion and maybe he got caught up in the mood of the dedication for, during the chorus where he enticed the audience to sing the “wo-wo-wohs,” he turned to face the band (his back to the audience). When he turned back, his face looked pained and I could swear he’d been crying or something. I didn’t see tears, but I got the impression that a few had fallen. The last verse came out slowly, painfully and, rightfully so, he left out the little rap he usually adds to the song when singing it live. It was pure magic.

Bono singing "Moment of Surrender" -- a beautiful moment, indeed.

Despite the fact that I actually did have to pee by the end of the show, I didn’t want it to end. They could have played 5 more songs if they wanted and I’d have forgotten all about it. In fact, my neck and shoulder–which had been aching since Thursday–were not bothering me at all. Perhaps music is truly the malady for all ills. I was epically shaken by how cool the concert was, how much fun it was to be in a crowd of jumping people who enjoyed the music as much as I did, and I was so surprised that I really didn’t care half as much about the set list as I do when I’m at home watching the updates from Twitter when other shows are going on. Songs that I thought I’d grown used to from overplay (for me, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and “One”) came to life again. You just can’t help but get caught up Bono’s charisma–whether you are male or female–or in the sound that band produces.

Bono's charisma charms us all.

The band leaving the stage was projected on the screen and I craned my neck to watch a very excited, happy Bono first nudge a beaming Larry, then hug and nudge Adam who walked in front of him. Adam half turned and smiled back. I wondered what that interchange was all about. It made me smile too. It’s really inspiring to see that these guys, after all these years, still like each other. I think that’s part of what contributes to the magic of this band–they are just four friends playing music. It certainly has contributed to their longevity, the fact that they like each other, and therefore a happy U2 is a good U2 for me because that means there will continue to be a U2.

Anyway, I woke up Sunday morning depressed. It’s like that deflated feeling you get after a party or a really great date or anything you’ve been anticipating for a long time that’s now over. I had to get up and move around to shake myself out of the funk. Fortunately, I had some friends with which to talk about the show and that helped. I had to remind myself that I still have four shows to see this summer, so it wasn’t completely over. However, I think this feeling of depression is a glimpse into how I will feel the day after Pittsburgh–my last show. Pathetic, no? Eh, we all geek out over something.

Before leaving town, I spent several hours with Jennifer, another girl from the forum who I had met the day before when she visited me in the GA line. It was really cool to connect with yet another virtual friend. It’s great because I originally got on that forum to meet other people like myself with whom I could talk U2 and maybe attend concerts or other U2-related events. I’ve found just that. I’m also really delighted that all these people are exactly the people they present themselves as online. So I look forward to meeting so many more of these people in what promises to be an epic “family reunion” of sorts in Philly this summer.

The Claw (which I never get to see in GA since I'm within it!)

So what happens to someone after they’ve camped out for hours on the grounds of a stadium to see a three-hour U2 show up-close and personal with the band? She realizes that there’s no way in hell she could ever sit up far away in seats in East Lansing, Michigan later next month. Which is to say I’ve happily purchased a GA ticket for E. Lansing. Yep. Screw the seats. Those tickets had the worst of luck with all the change-of-hands they experienced anyway. I realized the morning after the Denver show that where I need to be at a U2 concert is in the sound… and the only place to be in the sound is in general admission with my peeps.

Trials and TOSRV-ations

This year’s TOSRV was truly one of those times where I marvel at how I managed to push myself through to the end of the ride.

First, this spring left very few good days for training. I was less prepared for the ride than I’d ever been since I started doing TOSRV every year since 2008. I only did two long rides in April–a 68 mile ride from my house to Burton, Ohio, after which I felt like crap, and the amazing 152 mile feat of Calvin’s Challenge. In a normal year, I use one day every weekend in April to do a long ride, starting at 50 miles and working up to about 80 miles in the last week. Due to some awful rainy and cold weather in April, I missed the first three weekends of training and only managed to get those two long rides in the last two weekends. Ugh. I came into TOSRV with a pathetic 439 miles under my belt; last year, I had 870.

Second, I made the tragic mistake of going out for drinks with my coworkers on Thursday night. When I hadn’t even packed yet. To be fair, I did not think we would be out that long. We all left work at 4pm. Consequently, I closed down the gathering with the remaining two people–one of whom is my team lead–at approximately 9pm. Five hours of drinking, no food. And I was not in the proper state to pack when I arrived home at 9:30pm. I went to right to bed. And “woke up” (does a person wake up after passing out?) at 5am to puke. I was a sick dog.

I tried to get up for work and pack at about 6:30am. But I couldn’t get my butt out of bed long enough to do anything other than throw a bunch of my stuff–backpack included–in the middle of my bedroom floor. I felt sick to my stomach laying down; when I stood, it was worse. I then logged into my work email and guiltily called (knowing I’d have to eat crow about this on Monday). I went back to bed. I woke again at 11am feeling as though I’d sweat off the hangover. I was finally interested in eating some cereal and drinking vast quantities of water which all (thankfully) stayed down.

But I was still kind of sluggish about getting to that packing. I watched TV, then surfed the internet (mainly the U2 forum), and then I spent an hour logged into my desktop at work to finish a test. In between all of these activities, and taking a shower, I slowly gathered stuff into a pile in the center of the living room floor (so I could watch TV)  in an attempt to pack. But I was frankly kind of distracted. I really need to focus when I pack or I miss things. And I had that tired feeling one has after a hangover so my enthusiasm level was down.

The end result? I forgot to pack the following:

1) A towel. I realized it in enough time to borrow one from my friend Joanna (at whose apartment I spent Friday night).

2) Money. I always carry a credit card when cycling, but I like to have cash. On my way out of town, I forgot to stop at the ATM. Fortunately, since I intended to get cash, I’d placed my ATM card in the wallet I use for cycling (it normally contains my ID, medical card, and one credit card plus any cash if I remember to put some in there) so I was able to stop at an ATM on the way out of Columbus on Saturday.

And–most tragically–3) WATER BOTTLES. Um. Yeah. How scatter-brained is THAT? I didn’t even realize that I’d forgotten them until Saturday morning after I’d placed my luggage in the van going to Portsmouth. As I pulled my bike towards the starting area of the ride, I realized I was missing something very vital. I’ve never forgotten water bottles. Ever. I’ve come close, sure, but I’d never actually done it. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

So I ended up going back into the Hyatt where, fortunately, there was a small Starbucks stand. I bought two bottles of water and put them in the back pockets of my jersey since they were too small to stay in place in the water bottle cages on my bike. The leg from Columbus to Circleville is roughly 30 miles. I spent the entire time during that leg fretting about running out of water so I was not drinking as liberally as I normally would, fearful I would run out in that vast wilderness of fields between the two cities. Consequently, I also took it a little easy and did not push a hard pace in fear that I would sweat too much and become thirsty. Along some of the legs, there are gas stations where one can buy more water, but I couldn’t recall many between Columbus and Circleville.

Fortunately, when I got to Circleville, one of the bike shops that run support vehicles for the ride–Baer Wheels–had water bottles to sell me for a mere $6! It’s a good thing I stopped for that cash on the way out of Columbus. Needless to say, once the water crisis was averted, I was rolling confidently through the remaining miles of the ride and pushing myself as vigorously as usual.

I didn’t spend too much time at the rest stops on the first day. The weather reports had threatened rain (and occasionally the skies looked it too) so I wanted to beat any potential storms to Portsmouth. I arrived in Portsmouth shortly after 3pm (I left Columbus at 7am) which was such an improvement over last year’s 5pm. Thankfully, unlike last year, the headwind was not very significant. It was there, but a steady 5-10mph headwind is much more tolerable than the 25mph wind gusts that brutalized my body last year. Sadly, I was better prepared/conditioned for the ride last year. I was significantly less prepared for the ride this year; however, the weather was much better. I guess, though, I shouldn’t complain since if I had come with this year’s conditioning into last year’s ride, I would not have made it. TOSRV was ultimately forgiving to my–as well as that of my fellow riders’–general lack of training this year. Still, I cannot help but think that had I had this year’s weather with last year’s miles and training, I would have really rocked TOSRV.

Somewhere between Waverly and Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011

Regardless, I made it into town feeling good–not particularly beaten–and I was able to enjoy some time at the park with my friend, Bad Dog, and his crazy group of partying cyclists, the Polka-Dots. Yes, I partook of some beers, as the memories of  Thursday’s over-indulgence was long, long gone (somewhere among those 108 miles of road). The rain continued to hold off throughout the remainder of the party in Tracy Park and only started around 6pm when the festivities were wrapping up.

Bad Dog & Mars Girl enjoy beers at Tracy Park in Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011.

My overnight in the Southern Ohio Medical Center gym was a little rough despite the fact that I packed my big air mattress this year. I had been battling a cold of some kind that was attacking my lungs specifically, causing great coughing fits whenever I wasn’t cycling and especially when I laid down to sleep. Once I fell asleep, I usually didn’t wake up to cough. The problem was, the gym was excessively noisy this year with the air conditioner knocking on every hour or so with a loud bang. Not to mention the thunderstorm that came through at some ungodly hour, its rain so hard I could actually hear it pounding on the roof despite the white noise of the running air conditioner. I even caught a few muffled rumbles of thunder (which were apparently loud to all those sleeping in tents elsewhere in Portsmouth).

Needless to say, I was up with every noise. And every time I was up, my lungs, tight with pain, convulsed as if to reject the air they held. With every breath of air I took in, I coughed. Ugh. I was really self-conscious that I was keeping other people up, so I tried to repress each cough. Which, of course, only made the coughing worse. Fortunately, I had brought cough drops and that seemed to help. Still, on the ride back to Columbus the next day, my ear was constantly tuned into the conversations of people around me, fearing I’d hear that one person complaining about the coughing all night in the SOMC center. Thank God, I didn’t hear any complaints of this type–just similar complaints about the air conditioning. At least I wasn’t louder than that. But if anyone out there reading this was indeed kept awake by my coughing, I heartily apologize! Though I really hope that if you’ve decided to overnight in the public venue of the many gyms in Portsmouth, you expect to be disturbed by some noise or another. At least I wasn’t snoring. At least I hope I wasn’t (that problem was supposed to be fixed with the septoplasty and removal of my tonsils).

Sunday morning yielded the characteristic fog so ingrained in my memory of departures from Portsmouth. It was damp from the rain and a bit chilly. My muscles protested in the work of the climb out of the valley. I had brief moments of 16-17mph, but for the most part, I was a steady, slow 15mph. I could tell it would be a long day. The legs just didn’t want to participate in this event. Again, I might have been in better shape with last year’s training… Ah, well.

A foggy departure from Portsmouth.

It was pretty chilly all the way through to Chilicothe. As I got back on my bike after lunch, I actually felt cold. The sun was fighting to come out and did not in fact show itself until towards the end of my trek to Circleville. Things warmed up pretty quickly after that and I was able to finally shed my arm warmers and windproof vest. I even had to put on some sun block. Not that it helped, I still got a cold sore on my face a few days later. Ack.

I spent a lot of time at the Circleville stop. I admit that I felt a little defeated. It was one of those times where I had to talk myself back onto the bike. I wasn’t going to quit, mind you; I just needed to rest longer than I knew I should. All told, I spent about 45 minutes at that last stop. I pet a greyhound dog owned by one of the people supporting a TOSRV rider. I talked to Brad–a friend from both my church and the ABC who was taking pictures during the ride. I drank a lot of gatorade and water. I reminded myself inwardly that I’d performed the magnificent feat of completing this ride three times before. And then I reluctantly remounted my bike and set off.

I spent a lot of time in my middle gear ring. I’ve learned that I mentally prefer to spin a lot than push a hard gear when I’m exhausted. It turns out that I end up going the same speed either way, but when I spin a lot, I’m in much less pain. I’m not sure it works this way for other people. But when I’m spinning, I feel like I’m accomplishing something. If I’m in a high gear with a lower cadence, though I’m going the same speed, I feel like I’m not moving.

Mars Girl in Circleville, Sunday May 8, 2011. Photo courtesy of Brad Bolton.

I saw Brad along one of the long roads outside of Columbus and he later said I looked strong. Which is funny because I totally didn’t feel that. It was admittedly the hardest return to Columbus I’d done. It’s so strange how this ride changes so drastically from year to year. It all comes down to weather and your level of conditioning. Last year, I felt like I could have done an additional 60 miles after the ride; this year, 107 was almost too much. Also, since I wasn’t with any friends at all this year, I had no one to pull me. But that’s okay. I also was the most relaxed on a TOSRV I’ve ever been because I wasn’t stressing about staying with someone else. Still, it might have been nice to have someone to pull me a few miles. Oh well. I probably would have resisted anyone’s efforts to help anyway.

I got into Columbus at 4pm which really wasn’t that bad. All told, I had a 15.0 mph average the first day and a 14.9 mph average the second. That’s about average for me. So despite how I felt emotionally and physically, I didn’t do too bad.

I think this is my last TOSRV for a year or two. I need a break. This year’s horrible start to spring taught me that you can’t always get the kind of training in during the spring that you expect. And I’m not sure I always want to. It’d be nice to spend the spring only cycling when I want to cycle, as opposed to doing it because I know I have to. Perhaps if next year’s spring is more fortuitous, and I get a lot of miles in, I”ll consider registering late. But I’m definitely not jumping on the boat in January. It’s nice to remind myself that I don’t have to do something.

Yeah, I”d like to do Calvin’s Challenge again. But that’s a one-day event. I think it’s much easier (and less painful) to do a lot of miles in one day than to do 100+ miles one day, and then get up and do 100+ miles the next day once your muscles have stiffened. I think I’ll play Calvin’s Challenge by ear too. A little spontaneity never hurt anyone.

So as I write this, it’s a rainy evening at the start of what promises to be a rainy week. I’ve yet to ride my bike to work. So what does the summer hold for Northeast Ohio? Will it ever stop raining? I think soon I’m going to just give in and ride to work in the rain… It’s time to grow some balls. Someone remind me again why I moved back to this godforsaken state…

Calvin’s Challenge Results

The results to the Calvin’s Challenge are in. I’m right there in 3rd place in the Female 35-39 category, right after another Heidi in second place. Maybe Heidi is the new Lance (Armstrong)? They missed my partial miles for some reason and I can’t figure out how to contact them to dispute this. But I guess that’s okay as I know I did 152 miles. And it’s still over all the longest ride I’ve ever done.

So what do you think? Next year, maybe 180-190 miles? The girl who got gold with her 204.5 miles won’t be in the 35-39 age category next year, maybe I have a chance of getting silver or gold? ‘Course, there’s always another champion who appears to replace the previous. I’m not so sure I can (or want to) get 200 miles in 12 hours. But then I said a year ago that 100 miles was more than enough to ride in one day….

The professional photographer got some action shots of me on my trusty steed:

Team Crazy Girl - Mars Girl & Black Beauty on Calvin's Challenge

Pedaling my way to victory on Calvin's Challenge. (This was early in the first loop, I felt no pain.)

152 Miles!

I’d never heard of ultra cycling until a few days ago. Maybe I’d heard the term, but hadn’t bothered to figure out what it meant. But after a friend explained it to me, I learned that it was a cycling race in which you try to get as many miles as possible within a specified amount of time. Unlike randonneuring, where you try to finish a predetermined number of miles within a specified amount of time, in ultra cycling you always return to the same spot like a bike race. So you can leave equipment–food, clothes, etc–in that location without having to lug your stuff around with you as you do in randonneuring.

Originally, I signed up for Calvin’s 12-Hour Challenge with the intent to use it as training for TOSRV, which is next weekend. I thought it would give me enough time to try to get 100 miles in since we’ve had such a crappy spring so far in Northeast Ohio. I had thought about plotting a road ride from my house to Newton Falls through Lake Milton, and then back, which would be about 70 miles. Usually when I train for TOSRV, I try to do about 80 miles one of the days in the weekend before TOSRV. But then a few friends who were doing Calvin’s put the bug in my ear. I admit that I waited to decide until I saw the weather report for the day–I try to avoid doing events in the rain or excessive cold. Yeah, I’m a fair-weather cyclist. Even though TOSRV is generally–and probably will be this year–in the least optimal of riding weather. The weather was supposed to be partly sunny with a high of 66 degrees.

With the optimistic weather outlook, I decided Wednesday night that I would do Calvin’s in favor of my own Newton Falls ride because I would have the opportunity to actually ride to 100 miles and, if I still felt good, I could attempt additional miles. I’ve always wondered how far I could push myself past 100 if given the time or reason. I didn’t tell anyone, but I secretly hoped I would do 150 miles. The most I’ve ever done in a single day is 118 miles last year on TOSRV (the 115 mile “extended route” with detour plus 3 miles to or from Joanna’s apartment each day). So I wanted to blow my previous record out of the water. Plus, though I’ve told people that 100 miles is more than enough to ride in a single day, I’ve also secretly wanted to do something like, say, complete a ride like STP (Seattle-to-Portland) in a single day. It seems I’m always reaching for the higher apple on the cycling mileage tree once I’ve managed to grab a lower one.

But I knew better than to set my expectations too high. So my single ambition for the day was to at least complete 100 miles–that way I’d be assured I was in shape enough for TOSRV–and then if I felt like more I would do more. I was hoping for another 50 mile loop. But that’s not what I ended up doing due to a slight lack of self-confidence on my part when the time came. So I managed the remaining 50 miles after the initial 100 by completing 7 circuits of the 7 mile loop plus two partial miles at the very end of the race.

The first circuit of the 50 loop was the easiest (as usual on any ride of length). At 7:30 in the morning when the race began, there was hardly any noticeable wind. We zipped through the first stretch of 25 miles relatively easily at first. There were a few bumps that hardly qualified as hills (despite the advertised “flat to rolling” description of the route). But as the day wore on, a 15mph headwind developed out of the south-east. Since the first 25 miles were apparently south and east, the second loop was a hard push at first. Which had surprised me when I started that second loop–I’d remembered a brisk 16-17mph pace in that section at the start of the race. I guess I wasn’t paying attention that the wind had picked up since the last 25 or so miles of the loop were not in the wind.

The wind took the gusto out of my ambitions. There parts of that segment of the second loop where I was going 10-11mph. Ugh, I hate that. I wasn’t prepared mentally to deal with the challenge of wind since I’d been out so infrequently so far this year. I had to remember to not become discouraged by the slow speed but, rather, put my bike into a low gear where I could keep my cadence going, and just pretend to be climbing a long, slow hill. The biggest problem was that by the time I reached the midway rest stop, I felt really exhausted. My legs were starting to burn. As I scarfed down bananas and crackers to feed my demanding body, I decided that I was not going to do another 50 loop but try to do as much as I could with 7 mile loops. I then revised my goal to 130 miles. I did the math, decided it would “only” take 5 circuits of the 7 mile loop, and then I could call it quits.

The problem with making decisions like that mid ride is that you’ve convinced yourself that what you’ve decided is the truth. It’s like bailing out before you’ve even tried. So the failure here is mine. Despite the fact that the last 25 miles of the route were mostly in tailwind, and I had time to recuperate, I had already decided that I was not going to do another 50 miles. So when I got back to the starting point at the high school, I waited the twenty minutes for the 7 mile loop to open. Even though I had plenty of time to do another round on the 50. I could kick myself for that decision. But at the same time, I think I wasn’t sure I could do 150 miles so I was being over-cautious.

The 7 mile loop started and ended in the wind. However, there was a beautiful stretch of about 2 miles along a road in which you were in a tailwind, and another 2 miles or so were on a road that was in a less discouraging cross-wind. Because the course was much shorter, the bits of wind push were brief enough so as not to be demoralizing. It took me approximately 20 minutes to complete each loop and there was somewhat of a sense of instant gratification at being able to cross the finish line more frequently, though the miles seemed to add up into the total much more slowly.

I took frequent breaks between the loops which I think would not have happened had I done a third 50 mile loop. If I had done a third 50 miles, I might have had time to stack a few 7 mile loops afterwords and, therefore, have a higher finishing mileage. But I’m not going to beat myself up for it too much because 1) I came into this ride with a meager 260+ miles and 2) my longest ride this season was 68 miles. I think that I was being over-cautious in just doing 7 mile loops after the first 100, but, also, I know my own body. If I wasn’t feeling it after 100, then it was perfectly wise of me to just take on more miles in small bites.

So when I did in fact complete my promised 5 loops on the 7 mile route, I was contemplating quitting. The time at this point was about 6pm–the race had an hour and a half left. I had a headache (perhaps I wasn’t drinking enough fluids, though I was really gulping down the gatoraid like there was no tomorrow after each wind push), my legs were feeling the ache of fatigue, my knees were tingling a little (indicative of my knee issues), and there was a sharp pain in the middle of my right shoulder (I can’t figure out why this happens on all my rides early in the season). When I got to the high school after the 5th loop, I grabbed ibuprofen from my overnight bag in my car. I seriously need to start carrying this stuff with me on rides. I took the ibuprofen and then sat for a bit (maybe 20 minutes) with my friend Dave’s wife Angela. She reminded me that I had plenty of time to do more circuits. The headache started to fade and I was feeling better. So I reluctantly got back on the bike and started off.

An amazing thing happened. As soon as I started pedaling, I felt better than I’d felt on the last two loops! Oh, man, God bless the makers of pain relief medications for muscles! I think, too, that the force of the wind was starting to ease up at this point. I started pushing 13-14mph on the wind stretches of the 7 mile course and I was back to 16-18mph on the windless part (whereas, on my last two runs I’d found myself going 15mph). After completing the 6th loop, which brought me to 42 miles, I immediately–without stopping to take a break–started another loop with gusto. I was so close. I knew I couldn’t let my 150 mile dreams go now.

I breezed through that 7th loop with tons of energy that seemed to come out of nowhere. If only I’d taken the ibuprofen earlier! When I reached the finish line that seventh time, the race moderators shouted that there were 9 minutes left–time enough for 2 miles. I hesitated a minute thinking, “No, really, I don’t need to do this.” But then, my competitive conscience taunted, “But you’ll even it out to 150 instead of 149.” And the next thing I knew, I was clipping my foot back into the pedal and I was off!

Knowing it was the final minutes of the race, I could really push myself because it didn’t matter any more if I burned out. So I hammered out that windy stretch. More moderators were standing by the first mile marker; they shouted, “4 minutes!! Keep going!!” I pushed harder and was proud that despite the wind I was pulling a steady 14.5mph. I did, in fact, make it to the second mile marker where they collected the chip I wore on my leg for counting laps. There was a group of about 10 of us. We all turned around and headed (with a tailwind) back to the high school. I really felt proud of myself. It had been very exciting at the end there. I almost felt like I was in the last few kilometers of the Tour de France.

I have to admit that despite my initial skepticism about riding a full 12 hours–which I totally did not aim to do–I kind of ended up liking the challenge of this ride. It was really an interesting experiment on just how far I can push my body. I learned some really interesting things about myself, like that I can survive on crackers, bananas, grapes, gatoraid, and water for 12 hours. I was never once starving, except when I wasn’t watching my intake, and I just kept a steady flow of food in my body whenever it was available. Normally I’d freak about eating this much, but my body demands it in a trial of endurance. I’m pretty sure everything I ate while riding was immediately used as fuel. (As evidenced by frequent bathroom breaks after the ride! TMI, I know!)

It’s weird how your body lets you know what you need. Every once in awhile, you’ll crave certain things. Instead of a banana, you want salty peanut butter crackers. Instead of water after a hard push in the wind, the only thing that quenches your thirst is the sweetness of gatoraid. It’s even stranger that these things satisfy your body in ways that make you feel as though it’s been restored in some minor way.

I can tell you that I never dreamed in a million years that I could keep up a ride for 12 hours. Well, my actual ride time, according to the computer on my bike, was 10 hours 21 minutes. It’s weird how much time is lost to periods of rest. I’m sure I could probably make rest time shorter if I practiced. Regardless of how you look at it, 10 hours is a long time to be riding a bike. I sit at work for 8 hours and I become restless. It’s extremely challenging to do anything–even something you enjoy, let alone something strenuous–for 10 hours straight. So I’m proud of this accomplishment alone. I never knew I was this disciplined or motivated. Cycling teaches me so much about my inner strengths.

Fortunately, the kind people who organize Calvin’s Challenge offer the use of the shower facilities in the gym to wayward cyclists like myself who may have a long drive home after the ride. So I showered (which is the best part of any ride). Then I ate–nay, I inhaled–the post ride dinner that was given to all the riders. It was a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and a few other sides. I’m not too sure, I ate them all like someone who hasn’t had food in a week. Which is strange because I’d not been hungry like that on the whole ride! But as soon as you stop, your body seems to scream, “All right, already, let’s eat something REAL now, thank you very much.”

Oh, and that can of Coke Zero. Though it was warm, it felt so good to drink something that fizzed and was not too sweet. The little things in life that you enjoy after you’ve spent the greater part of a day slowly suffering.

I expected to bonk right away, but I actually didn’t. After attacking my food–leaving behind a mess of empty bags, wraps, and containers–I headed out, deciding to skip the awards ceremony since I didn’t figure I’d won anything. There were so many very serious racers there, people who passed me at incredible speeds that I couldn’t imagine in that wind and who did not stop for breaks at all. (Ss I was dismounting my bike to use a portapod in the last hour of the race, I heard one guy say to the girl with him he was riding, “At this point you can’t afford to get off the bike for even 2 or 3 minutes.” Which, of course, made me feel guilty for having to go pee so badly that I had stopped). I was sure my mileage was considered quite low. I was just happy to have broken my own record.

My drive home was about 3 hours. About an hour into my drive, I stopped in Dublin–just outside of Columbus–to get a coffee at McDonald’s just in case I needed the extra energy boost. As I was waiting on my coffee, I checked Facebook and learned from my friend Sue that I’d actually won a bronze medal for women in my age group (35-40)!  She had collected the medal for me. Wow!! That was totally unexpected. Of course I tried to rain on my feelings of accomplishment by thinking that perhaps there were only three women competing in my age group–which is how I won first place in a (running) 5K a few years ago (and I hate running). The 2011 results have not been posted to the Calvin’s website yet, so I can’t confirm. But, really, I shouldn’t look gift encouragement in the mouth. In the hours since realizing I actually got an award for my efforts, I started to think about–what?! oh, no–trying to do a ride like this again. I have never before been interested in racing–the kind where you get in a draft line with a bunch of people and try to be the fastest–but a race in which you just try to collect the highest amount of miles in a certain amount of time has definitely got my interest peaked. I think I may have found my niche. Not to get ahead of myself. But I think I could start to like this ultra cycling thing. Every once in awhile.

I can’t believe how pumped I remained on the drive home. Maybe it was a mixture of caffeine and adrenaline, but I did not once get close to feeling physically drained as has happened before when I’ve had to drive back from somewhere after a 100-mile ride. I had my iPod playing U2 songs on random and I happily sang along. I was strangely over-warm in the car–was my body still overheating from the work out?–so I had the air on blowing in my face the entire way. But I made it home at 12:15am feeling satisfied about my day. It took me about an hour or so to calm down enough to sleep. There goes my theory that a century ride is a great cure for insomnia. I did wake up at 11am this morning, though.

I’m really not any more sore than I would be after any other century ride. I guess there’s a point where the pain can’t be increased any further. To be honest, though, all my muscles just feel achy when I walk, which is pretty normal. Maybe my body did some repair to itself while I slept. I think in a few days time I’ll be ready to ride again. And, fortunately, TOSRV is this weekend. I guess I don’t have to worry about being unable to complete the ride this year. After this, the first day of TOSRV is going to feel really quick! Even though TOSRV is 105 miles, and then you get up the next day to do it all over again in reverse. But I’ve done it before. I can do it again. (I hope!)

The weather outlook for TOSRV this year is a bit bleak right now (rain both days?). I guess that’s what you get for the 50th year of this ride which is infamous for its incredibly bad weather. Oh well. If the miles are not so much a problem, I can focus my efforts on dealing with my mortal enemy–the rain. Oh well. It wouldn’t be a challenge otherwise. And I love a challenge. (This is my endorphins speaking, by the way. They always cause me to glow even days after a ride.)

Dave, Sue, and me at the start line of Calvin's Challenge.