Saturday, April 13, 2013

In the corner

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Petaluma Safeway might as well be one of the original land grants given to settlers of California. It's huge. You could walk for days and not find a thing.

Besides a restroom there's only one thing I have to find: yogurt. Preferably the liquid kind. It can go in a water bottle and fuel the final stretch. Every time I think about those hilly 40 miles, they seem impossible. That's not typical and I'm not sure how to make it better.

It got dark twenty miles ago in Santa Rosa. Right around then my stomach rejected all efforts to revive it. Without fuel my legs don't want to go. Apparently that's enough of the constant hill climbing and wind. Now we have constant nausea.

As if that weren't enough, as soon as I stop walking the aisles and sit down my body starts to shiver. Not sure why. Can't control it. Sitting on a stool at the Starbucks kiosk, swigging yogurt from a bottle. White as a sheet, disheveled, exhausted.

On an unsupported ride, there's no one to take a look at me and offer help. Hell there's not even a hot beverage to be had in this place! Shaking and nauseous, it's really hard to be rational about how to proceed. But I'm so impaired that the strategy from here on has to be exactly right. In the next 40 miles there's no shelter or help en route. It's totally dark and rural until Fairfax at which point, only bars will be open.

There's a Motel 6 a mile and a half up the road. Had that thought on the way into town. Check in there, sleep 3-4 hours, finish at the very last minute.

After weighing options I do something novel: call a friend for advice. Don't want to end up heaving by the side of the road in the dark, hypothermic. I explain the situation. Danny says "put on all your clothes and don't ride hard, just keep moving". The working theory is I'm cold and riding will warm me up. My stomach has shut down but as long as the exertion level is low, it should be possible to keep moving.

All the randonneurs getting ready to launch are in a cluster by the entrance door. It's like paratroopers by the hatch of an airplane. There I see Tim Houck from this morning. I thought Tim was up ahead! Magically out of his mouth come the words I'm thinking. I'm so messed up. I'm freezing, This is not gonna be pretty. Ah well, it's a 2am or 3am finish for me. Just need to put it in the little ring.

Then he looks at me and says "oh my god you're wearing hardly anything!" I run out to the bike for my arm warmers, put them on under my jacket. We roll out together through the parking lot. No matter what my legs are going to spin. Somehow I'm going to drink a water bottle full of raspberry yogurt. It just has to work.

I'm ashamed of how hard this is, the number and severity of issues. How I can't fix my stomach. How impaired I feel at the moment. It just seems insurmountable. Of all things, right now I wish this weren't such an anonymous experience. If there were just one human being invested in my success. A few hours ago I thought of Ann Lincoln; so caring and supportive.

Suddenly, I remember Warren from this morning. As we leave the parking lot and turn onto Washington Avenue his words echo in my head. Someone bloody well does care! I'm wearing all my clothes! Spinning, not pushing! Here we go...


  1. I'm reading this days later - but I'm glad you made it. I'm glad you're okay. I'm impressed that you figured out and fixed the wheel!

  2. Thank you, Rachel! Well the wheel was rideable. Still wobbly...we were afraid to do too much doctoring because you can make things worse. I was totally expecting the whole thing to go sproing at any moment.