130 miles all told. A long ass way. And I do mean ass.
They set the Chuckanut Century ride up in two big loops, each 62 miles. One goes to the South with spectacular coastal and island views of Chuckanut drive, through gorgeous Skagit Valley blueberry, dahlia, corn farms, to the wedge shaped Samish Island in Padilla Bay and then returns to downtown Bellingham. The second loop goes North into vintage 1890s neighborhoods, onto the Lummi Reservation, Ferndale, the outskirts of Blaine with views of Canada, Birch Bay resort and back to downtown Bellingham. All along the way you get blasts of snowy Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan.
I’m so glad I chose this ride. There was such a huge variety of sights. But one outcome was the realization that I want to bike tour other places. Going at that pace–slower than a drive, but still covering ground–and feeling the air, smelling grasses, fruits and manure–makes it such a way to tour. So maybe more of that in the future.
What do you do think about when you’re riding a bike all day long, mostly alone? I thought about my dear pal David, our families and pals, my clients and people in my classes–how lucky I am to have all of you playing with and influencing me. I also found myself spontaneously singing. Songs popped into my head–I don’t know why. My brain just seemed wired to a cosmic radio frequency and suddenly I’d be singing a song out of nowhere. Not a thematic radio station like Pandora, way more random. A simple children’s song by Raffi called Thanks A Lot. The Band’s Rocking Chair. Grey Seal. Glenn Miller. Leonard Cohen. Joni. Michael Jackson.
I took breaks about every 20 miles. I took pictures. I stopped for lunch in between loops and David got me fed and rubbed my shoulders. The hardest part was the 15 miles after lunch, when another 62 miles seemed incomprehensible. But I think an endorphin thing happens to me around 75 miles, because some of my best times were at 85, 90, 100 miles.
I talked to myself. I did a lot of mental fragmentation to keep my sanity in the face of the big distance. You can apply this break-it-up strategy to anything. I would say to myself, “Okay, in 10 miles I’ll be 3/4 of the way done!” Or “In less than an hour I’ll hit 100 miles.” Or I would use a familiar length designation to encourage myself – “10 miles to the rest stop– that’s just down to Seward Park, around and back home.”
When the odometer clicked over 112 miles, which is the actual distance of an Ironman ride, I imagined getting off the bike and preparing to run 26.2 miles. And I felt, at that moment at least, very little attraction to actually doing an Ironman. I know a few friends and a former coach will be sad to hear me say that, but I don’t think it’s my thing.
130 miles is a shit long time to ride a bike. I’m proud of having done it. It feels great to know what my body can do. And as the middle part of my Broken Ironman, this ride was excellent and required. Big endurance tests aside, I believe I aspire to a more modest experience where I can take in a smaller set of vistas, and remember more detail rather than the blur of road.
Here are some images from the day.