An adventure most brutiful & noble

18 Apr

It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy week — with ups and downs both metaphorical (i.e., tax refund = Awesome! / Boston bombing = unimaginably horrible) and oh-so-very literal (i.e., elevation changes of + 12,928′ / – 12,933′ over the course of a 123-mile race route). Inspired by that unpredictable spirit, this week’s blogpost will commence with an unprecedented “Starting Thought” …

Starting Thought: There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. ~ Ernest Hemingway

January 23, 2010: My first “real” ride on my first “real” road bike — 32 miles along the essentialy flat beach path. It took me nearly 3 hours, including three *much needed* breaks that allowed me to catch my breath and psych myself up to continue on that Epic Journey.

When I finally flopped down on the couch at home, I felt like someone had hijacked my lower extremities and stolen a week’s worth of my energy. I also felt exhilarated by the fact that I had just gone from my house to the Hermosa Beach Pier and back ON MY BIKE!

Holy crap! That was INCOMPREHENSIBLY AWESOME!! I immediately understood that viewing –neigh, directly experiencing– the world from a bike was glorious!

You breathe. You pedal. You glide. The calming sounds of wheels spinning interjected by the crashing of waves along the shore, or the shouts of kids playing catch, or even the cacaphony of traffic whizzing by tends to ground you. Center you. Make you feel more alive-and-at-one-with-the-universe.

You hit a red light and you breathe even more deeply. You take stock — of yourself, of the carloads of people surrounding you (weirdos, humdrums, partiers, weary oldsters, cool cats, earnest strivers, and more). You viscerally appreciate the larger world humming around you.

You know that you are vulnerable, but you also feel so, so powerful. You know immediately, as I did on that very first ride, that each pedal stroke not only gets you where you’re going, it also demonstrates just how powerful human power really can be.

Fast-forward 3 years, interject 3 life-endangering accidents, take into account the adrift feeling that accompanies a newly acquired form of retirement, add in the pressure one feels to “excel at the highest level,” and you’ll find me embracing the opportunity to participate in a truly one-of-a-kind “obnoxiously hard” invitation-only unsanctioned crazy epic 123-mile “team time trial” race called the Rapha Women’s Prestige.

April 13, 2013: Five other women and I joined 19 other “six-woman” teams at the Rapha Cycle Club in San Francisco. We rolled up to the starting line at three-minute intervals. My team, Bike Effect, was the third team out the gate and what happened over the course of the next 11 hours was nothing short of a miracle.

Did we win the race?

That depends on how you define “win.”

We did not have the fastest time — that honor went to Thirsty Fusion, who started 5th and completed the course in 8 hours and 33 minutes (the 2nd fastest team started 11th and completed the course in 8:50)

Nor were we the first team to return to the start — ironically that honor went to DFL (which I’m sure must stand for something other than “Dead F*cking Last,” but that’s what I associate with that acronym). DFL was the 4th team out the gate (i.e., immediately after us) and they came in with an elapsed time of 8 hours and 52 minutes.

We also did not win the “Lanterne Rouge,” which was the prize I was aiming for — that distinction went to Iron Clad-Yakima, which clocked in with an 11-hour-and-31-minute ride time.

Team Bike Effect was one of 12 teams (out of 20) to beat the 11-hour mark — three teams had longer rides and five did not finish the course. When you do the math, ~11 hours to ride 123 miles does not amount to an empirically impressive race time. But as I’ve lamented numerous times on this blog: Math sucks.

There was SO much more to this ride than mere math.

Our team was first conceived only 9 weeks prior to the race and we had (what we thought was) our “first-and-only” full-team practice 2 weeks prior to the race. As it turns out, just 2/3 of the “team” that participated in the pre-race training ride ended up doing the actual race. We lost 2 teammates in the week leading up to the race, with our 6th spot remaining unfilled until <20 hours prior to launch.

Imagine the bookmaker’s odds on that scenario: You’ve got 6 women who don’t know each other forming a team that’s never ridden together and includes 2 people with totally unknown skills and you’re asking them to spend 8-12 hours perched in very close proximity to one another (in fact, literally “on each other’s wheel”) on people-powered machinery that must be guided over 123-miles of unknown terrain including numerous long and treacherous climbs, perilous descents, howling headwinds, and wicked sections of tire-popping gravel while in direct competition with other teams that have been riding together for years and include legitimate pro-racer captains?

Yeah. Good luck with that.

The best odds-maker’s prediction: There is no way these women will stick together for all of that.

Second best prediction: *If* they manage to not give up and/or kill each other during the race, they certainly will not want to have anything to do with each other after it.

Guess what?

We beat the odds — big time.

I’m still not quite ready to reduce the actual ride experience down into written form yet. I’m still processing a lot of what happened during the race — both internally and externally.

They say “a picture’s worth a thousand words” though, so while I’m “processing,” I invite you to take a gander at the mini-albumย I cobbled together from photos that I purloined from various riders’ FB postings and other sources.

Rapha PrestigeMy sister previously reflected that the “pics looked fun!” To which I responded “Well, ‘fun’ is probably not the right word for 123 miles with 13,000′ feet of climbing, much of it done in 25mph headwinds, but I’m super glad I did it!”

Perhaps by this time next week I’ll be able to adequately convey the ride’s beautiful brutality and how and why it managed to make me so utterly content with my place in this world.

Stay tuned…

Parting Thoughts: I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. ~ Ernest Hemingway

4 Responses to “An adventure most brutiful & noble”

  1. Carissa Barker April 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    You’re so cool! I’m amazed at the physical challenges you take on. I admire you from my cozy spot on the sofa…or maybe a walk around the lake.

    • justadventures April 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Thanks, pal! I will be enjoying some quality couch time this weekend. Coach has grounded me because my knee is acting a bit balky.


  1. WTF just happened? Bike-a-palooza! | JustAdventures - April 21, 2013

    […] ← An adventure most brutiful & noble […]

  2. An Un-Expected Event (aka: The Rapha Race Re-cap) | JustAdventures - April 25, 2013

    […] the end of last Thursday’sย blogpost, I was flummoxed by how to present the Rapha Women’s Prestige (RWP) race experience.ย I […]

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