I had done this loop a couple years ago, and sailed through it, but that was at the tail end of the season. Yesterday, I was sadly undertrained, and I suffered like a dog on the last 15 or so miles. This included the classic "nearly fell off the bike" scenario, involving leg cramps so painful, I swore I might never stand upright again. I even walked the nasty 10% hill into Wendell -- only because the pain made it impossible to pedal.
But I finished the final seven miles on the bike (very, very slowly), as knackered as I've ever been on a bicycle. I cursed. I wheezed. I reached that point where simply thinking a thought was so painful, I had to empty my mind completely in order to complete the next turn of the pedals. I opened credit accounts with gods I made up on the spot, and instantly maxed them out. I flashed on Tim Krabbe's immortal quote, "I had to go on. I couldn't do it anymore, but I had to go on. Body and spirit shook hands and moved to their corners."
In the end, I rolled into the start zone alone, and nearly the last to finish. But you know what? I finished that sucker. Lots were faster than me -- but no one suffered as I did, and finished nonetheless. (I will, however, note as a point of pride that I was among the first to roll into the lunch zone, nearly halfway through the ride.)
A word of thanks to the warm people who did a stellar job organizing this terrific challenge; the vibe was family-friendly, very cool and helpful, the map was great, and there were super-nice folks in support vans (mostly parents ready to pick up their kids when they wore out) all along the way, though I will again vainly point out that I was helping others with tools and advice, but never used support myself.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are eleven thousand choice ones:
|Waiting for the rain to let up at the start zone.|
|The eponymous Quabbin Reservoir, largest inland body of water in MA, around which we rode.|
|View in the other direction -- the Quabbin Reservation.|
|Lunch at a winery in Hardwick. Few partook of the grape...|
|Reaching Rte. 122 in Petersham, mile 47, called for a celebratory photo.|
|Finally at Wendell General Store. Wendell is home to quirkiness, like this floppy-hatted dude on his "bike."|
|More delightful Wendell quirkiness. There was an outdoor poetry reading going on across the road from the store.|
|This was gone in about five minutes.|
|Spent and grimy legs at the finish.|
|Vaya, looking like a Vaya should.|
|The tale of the tape.|
When I was finished, the mere thought of being on a bicycle made me want to vomit. This morning, I'm pondering my next event. I think they call that, "punishment for gluttons."