About 40 people took the starting line at 7 am for the Royal 162. One of the cool things about the start was that we were going to be riding with Andrea Cohen, a Salsa-sponsored rider who gave a very inspiring talk at Land Run earlier in the year. (I did not take the opportunity to say hello, and I wish I had). Anyway, as we rolled out of town onto the first stretch of gravel, I was feeling great. The gravel was in pristine condition, fast-rolling and smooth. PERFECT!
The lessons in will-power and suffering came as a result of two separate factors that combined to make for a really difficult day.
First, over the course of about 159 miles, we gained more than 9,500 feet in elevation. To begin with, hills are my big weakness, and I have been focused on fixing that weakness this year in the only way I know how: riding hills.
Secondly, about a week before the ride, I had purchased some new cycling shoes. On my shorter rides, they felt fine, but as we approached mile 50, I began to feel pressure on the outer edges of my feet. That quickly turned into a sharp stinging pain that radiated from my soles into my ankles every time I applied pressure to the pedals. The problem is that you can’t climb hills without applying a good amount of pressure.
With all the foot pain, my progress slowed way down, and I ended up falling behind all the other riders by about mile 70. From that point, I would be riding alone for the remaining 90ish miles — alone with my pain, alone on the hills.
I continued to push through the pain by continually negotiating with myself: if I could reach a certain mile marker, then I could decide if I was going to drop out at that point. Upon reaching that mile marker, I would decide to go a few more miles, then decide whether to drop out. Through this process, I managed to get to mile 148, at which point I FINALLY made up my mind that I would go all the way to the finish.
Out of the 40 people who started the Royal 162, I heard that about 1/3 of the field dropped out. I finished last, but I fought through the pain, and I finished!
There are some days when you can walk away feeling good about your speed and athleticism. There are others that are more about just getting to know yourself and better understand what you are made of. My say at Almanzo was definitely the latter.”