On Saturday, Dan and I rode our bikes over 103 miles for the Ithaca AIDS Ride for Life.
We left the house at 5:30 a.m., bikes and gear stashed in the back of our car, bagels and water in hand. Stewart Park, the starting point, is barely 2 miles from our house, so we considered just riding to the start, but I’m glad we drove. It enabled us to drop extra layers of warm clothing (necessary during line-up time, but not needed on the bike) in the car, and to have non-bike shoes and shorts for after the ride. Plus, there’s no way I would have wanted to ride another 2 miles after that century!
In order to fit both bikes in the back of the car, we had to take my front tire off. It was a bit of a challenge to get it back on in the pitch-black 6 a.m.-ness, but we were able to fix it once we got to the starting line and some light. We pinned on our numbers, stretched out, and then it was time to line up for the opening ceremony. I knew that one of the biggest climbs of the ride would be coming up in the first mile, and decided last-minute that it was too warm for my jacket. We stuffed it into Dan’s bike bag as the organizers welcomed us to the ride.
Two volunteers silently wheeled a riderless bike through the crowd, in memory of all those who had lost their lives to AIDS, and with a read statement from the mayor of Ithaca, we were off. They staggered the starts a bit, and since I’m not a fast climber, Dan and I lined up near the back.
Almost immediately after leaving Stewart Park, we started to climb. Usually when we ride out of town in this direction, Dan and I take a different street – one that is much less-trafficked, but also much steeper and taller, so I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the hill felt. It was much more gradual and steady than I was used to, though much longer than I had anticipated. All the riders were still in one big pack this early in the ride, as the hill evened out and we made the steep drop into Lansing. The next hill, I knew, would be the hardest one of the ride.
My training paid off, and I felt encouraged by all the other people pushing up that hill alongside me, so though I am still a slow climber (always have been, always will be, I suspect, thanks to my short legs), I felt strong at the top. By then, only 10 miles in, we were done with the biggest, most difficult hills of the ride. Well, the hardest hills from an elevation standpoint. Turns out, they weren’t the most difficult hills from a mental and physical standpoint…