Some bicyclists develop an unnatural urge to try a “century,” or 100-mile event. I’m one of those odd ducks. All the recent election coverage got me thinking about my first such event, which was also in an election year. It was the Multiple Sclerosis 150-mile Bay-to-Bay ride from Irvine to San Diego, California. During that ride, I found a new life’s mission: stopping the cur Nelson. More on him later. First things first: I completed the event intact and under my own power.
There were times when such a successful outcome was not at all certain -- like the very outset when we were all waiting in the starting chute. I noticed that most of the riders were at least twenty to thirty pounds lighter than me. And as far as I could see, out of the hundreds of riders I was the only one on a recumbent bicycle.
Most of the others had sleek “diamond frame” (normal) bikes. That didn't concern me so much. But what did intimidate me was the absence of kickstands on most of the other bikes. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Apparently speed is so critical to these weight weenies that they must shed the few ounces represented by a kickstand. I knew I was in trouble.
Most riders had pre-registered and received their bib numbers weeks earlier, so just before dawn on that Saturday, we simply lined up to start riding. The first riders were out of the chute just after 7:00 a.m. I was in the second group. That was intense, what with all those cyclists packed in so tightly, trying to get moving all at once, clip into their pedals, shift gears and not hit anyone else.
I found that rest areas were key to a successful event, because of the copious amounts of Gatorade and such you need to consume, as well as power bars. Those things are loaded with calories and protein and carbohydrates, but what a great deal: since you’re burning 400 to 500 calories an hour, it's like a dream fantasy world where you can eat and drink as much as you want. Except the stuff doesn’t taste very good – kind of like washing down cardboard soaked in molasses with lime Kool-Aid. Plus, if you don’t drink enough you dehydrate, but if you drink too much, well ... you know what happens.
Which brings me to the cur Nelson. Every 12 to 15 miles, the organizers set up really nice rest areas, with music and food and – most important – toilet facilities. They had nice bright orange signs announcing each rest area. But this clown Nelson, who apparently was running for council, had campaign signs the same color. I don’t know exactly where he was running, but judging by the number and geographical distribution of signs, his district apparently spanned the entire southern California coastline and possibly beyond. Every time I’d see one of his damned orange signs in the distance, I’d start chugging my Gatorade. But then I’d get closer and realize it was just more of the cur Nelson's evil work.
“NELSONNNNNN!!!” my anguished bladder bleated again and again. Well, it felt like it was bleating. Or bleeding maybe. Anyway, I didn’t care what political party the cur Nelson belonged to or what values he represented. That motherless politico had to be defeated at all costs.
Other than my pain at the hands of the cur Nelson, the ride was exceptionally fine. The weather was perfect and the ride alternated between a pleasant jaunt and an adrenaline rush. Some of the normal bike riders appeared a bit standoffish at the outset, but when I was still hanging with them at the 40-mile mark, they seemed to warm up. I got a lot of questions, and comments like “Nice ride,” and “Man, that thing really cuts through the air.” Of course, there was good-natured bantering too, with comments like: “Nice Barcalounger,” “All you need is a TV monitor,” and, from one female rider, “How’s the view down there?” (The correct response to the last query: "Not bad -- I've seen a lot of shapely butts"). By the 80th mile, with skinny seats firmly embedded in their hindquarters, their comments were more along the lines of “Man, I wish I had your bike,” or simply “please make the pain go away.” And by the 100th mile it was: “I want to sell all of my worldly goods and join your crusade to hunt down and vanquish the cur Nelson.” Okay, I made that last one up. Nobody else seemed particularly bothered by him.
I finished the two-day 150-mile event without avenging my bladder. For all I know, the cur Nelson has remerged in this election year to prey on new victims.
Be careful out there.
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