Tuesday, May 28, 2013

H140- Long Beach and Back

I haven’t been training as diligently as I should to be ready to do a hundred and forty miles. I glimpsed a calendar today and just about had a heart attack when I realized concretely that this ride is less than three weeks away. This is not to say I haven’t been training at all. It just seems like life keeps getting in the way.

For instance, I was asked to play the organ at a funeral last Saturday. “No problem,” I cheerfully agreed before considering the fact that Saturdays are generally the day I try to get a long ride in. Never mind that that plan hasn’t been foolproof over the past several weeks as something always seems to come up on Saturdays. “No problem,” I grudgingly thought to myself as I realized the truth about last Saturday. “I’ll just go on a ride later that day.”

Which, as you’ve correctly surmised, did not happen. The funeral ended, and I had a rotten headache of the sinus variety. I seem to keep getting those, and it seems easier to complain and wail, “Woe is me,” rather than suck it up and deal with it. I took the proper medicine of course, but had to go to the drugstore. Then I had to wait for it to take effect. And by then the sun was too high and too warm and I didn’t know where I wanted to go, and wouldn’t it just be easier to go to a movie instead? Despite ample encouragement from Linda to just ignore my regular routine of going on rides in the morning and go on one anyway that afternoon, I … didn’t.

Life seems to just keep getting in the way. I have a perpetual sinus infection. I have a literal pain in the butt. I’m tired. This is going to be hard, and no matter how much I train now I probably still won’t be able to complete the entire course. Why do I want to torture myself?

I justified my lackadaisical behavior by rationalizing that I had, after all, done strength training that morning before the funeral. Additionally, it was a three-day weekend, so I knew I’d be able to, would HAVE to do a long ride on Monday.

I made a realization Sunday night as I worked on doing some route planning. If I don’t have a plan, I don’t want to ride. If I had sufficiently thought of a route and plan on Friday night before the funeral, I would have already been in the mindset of, “Okay, after the funeral I’m going on a ride because it’s what I’ve planned and it’s what I do.” It’s a variant of “I think, therefore I am.” For me it’s, “I plan, therefore I do.”

In September of 2011 there was a (non)event in the Los Angeles called Carmageddon. A portion of the 405 interstate was going to be shut down for a weekend for some construction as part of a long-term road-widening project. It’s one of the most heavily-trafficked freeways in use in this area. Several companies decided to get in on the fun and help encourage Angelenos to stay off the all freeways, not just the 405. Jet Blue ran a promotion to fly from Burbank to Long Beach – two cities usually frequently connected by the 405 – for a dirt-cheap price.

A group of cyclists decided to see if it was possible to cycle faster than a plane could fly. A group of cyclists left a house in Burbank at the same time a friend of theirs left from the same house to the Burbank airport. His travel was planned to allow for the requisite one hour before take-off for security, etc. The flier and cyclists were to meet at the lighthouse in Long Beach. Whoever got there first won.

The cyclists won handily. Their time was one hour thirty-four minutes.

The route I traveled yesterday was essentially the same one used by those cyclists. It follows the Los Angeles river bicycle path from Glendale to downtown Los Angeles, some side streets through an industrial neighborhood, then picks the bike path up again for a 17-mile straight shot into Long Beach.

My time was not as impressive as the Carmageddon cyclists. It took me about two hours forty-five minutes to travel 40 miles. There was a bad headwind for the last five or so miles as I got closer to the coast. My neck and shoulders were tightening up and I thought it would be a good idea to sit up straight and ride without hands for a bit. That lasted for about a quarter mile before the wind made it foolish to be in such an un-aerodynamic position.

I rested for about 15 minutes in Long Beach, then got on my bike and headed back. When I hit mile 50 my legs started cramping and complaining and I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole thing. My inner dialog sounded something like this:
When I get off the bike path I can call Linda and ask for a ride home.
If you bail now you’re a quitter.
If you don’t bail now you’re stupid because you are exhausted and clearly can’t do this without causing further injury to yourself.
I should call Linda now so she can meet me on a road and I don’t have to wait long.
If you don’t do this how do you think you’re going to do 140 miles in three weeks?
You got down here, you can get back. 
My legs hurt.
Keep going. You can do this.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, la la la la la.
Your phone battery’s almost dead. You should call while you still can. 
Don’t call. There will be pay phones if you need one.
But then you’d have to wait forever for her to come get you.
Wow. I can’t believe that’s the same school I see from the freeway when we drive to Disneyland. I am a butt-far way from home.
Hey, so, that getting a ride home thing…You gonna call? 
Look, there’s Los Feliz. That means there’s only about 10 more miles. I’ll call for a ride and have her meet me at the LA Zoo.
Nah, wait and see how you’re feeling at the zoo, and if you need a ride you can call then. It won’t take her long to come and get you.
If you can make it to the zoo, you can make it home.
Battery’s almost gone. If you’re going to call it’s gotta be now.
Look, it’s the zoo. I can make it home. Only seven more miles. 

And I did. I was reminded me of the book that Louise sent me, “The Heart and the Fist,” by Eric Greitens. Fantastic book, and if you haven’t read it and want to be inspired and uplifted and find the strength to do things you didn’t think you could, go read this book NOW.

In it the author describes “Hell Week” that he went through as part of his SEAL training. From the book:
Eddie would always joke about quitting. “I’m quitting today for sure. Right after the run. Then I’m gonna go up to Pacific Beach and surf and hang out and eat tacos.” We’d finish the run and Eddie would say, “Hey, anybody want to quit with me after breakfast? I gotta eat, but then I’m gonna quit.” We’d finish breakfast and Eddie would say, “PT, I love PT, I’m gonna quit after PT.” After PT, “I’m gonna quit right after lunch. But they’ve got burgers today, and I’m crazy for those Navy chow hall burgers.” And so he could go on- sometimes to the annoyance of others who were truly thinking about quitting – but in Eddie’s humor there was wisdom. I can quit later if I have to, but this, whatever this is that I have to do – hold this log over my head, or sit in the freezing surf, or run down the beach with the boat bouncing on my head – I can do this for at least ten more seconds, and that’s really all I have to do.

And that’s how I made it through an 80 mile bike ride when I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the last 30 miles.

Here are some things I learned:

  • Wear sunscreen. Even if you’re leaving at 6:30 in the morning and it doesn’t seem possible that you will be out in the heat of the day, you will be out in the heat of the day and need that protection.
  • Don’t forget the butt lube (PS this should be "shield." if you do an Amazon search, which is where I got mine, you get very different results.) That funny little rash you have in an uncomfortable area could have been prevented with a dose of butt lube. (I’m not being unnecessarily crass – that’s what it’s really called.)
  • Have a plan.
  • Do the plan.
  • Print the plan.
  • Have the plan on your phone, whichever app you choose, so you can follow that when the printed plan stops making sense.
  • I may not ever be a Navy SEAL – scratch that – I will NEVER be a Navy SEAL who has to endure Hell Week and other tortures required to be an elite military officer. But I can do whatever I put my mind to. 

And when I got home, this was on the bathroom mirror:

Yeah, I did that. Eighty miles, less than six hours.


  1. Laura,
    I am so, so very proud of you. I love how you described the dialogue you went through. Great job. You/we can do the Huntsman 140. We'll protect and encourage each other.