Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Opinion

Going the distance means a struggle with the mind

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While my intentions in riding the Wish 100 were good, getting to the finish line was pure hell.

I learned of the Wish 100 charity bike ride that was held Sunday only three weeks earlier. Organized by the Make-A-Wish foundation, the bike-a-thon raises money to grant the wishes of terminally ill children. In a moment of inspired lunacy, I signed up for the 62-mile route that started at Honeymoon Island in Pinellas County and took a circuitous route through North Pinellas and returned back to the island.

I can't fault the Make-A-Wish foundation. They put together a well-thought-out, well-staffed, well-marked route. They were organized, friendly and covered all the basics. The problem — well, one of the problems — was that they neglected to get a cooperative agreement with Mother Nature.

The weather might not have been as big a factor had I been able to train sufficiently. Unfortunately, I didn't, and the chickens came home to roost. Ordinarily, I don't have a problem with chickens, their roosting or even their coming home. I'm not even sure who made that expression up, but I imagine a few chickens went on vacation. I'm not talking about a world tour or anything. Just a week at the beach on Cape Cod. Then, when they returned, they found the chickens that were left behind were bitter and resentful that they didn't get to go away. The vacationing chickens discovered their favorite roosting spots were stolen by the remaining chickens and all hell broke loose.

I can't claim to have had a roosting spot that was stolen. By the time I made it across the finish line, most of the chickens had flown the coop. To say it was windy would be an understatement, on a par with comparing my cycling acumen to Lance Armstrong's. With reported gusts of 20 to 30 miles per hour, I was nearly blown off my bike on one occasion. There were major headwinds blowing in my face as I rode uphill at a pace so slow that snails passed me.

I wish I could regale you with the many conversations I had with other riders as we pedaled the route. I was so slow that there were no other riders to talk to. I had more time to get to know the trees as I stretched my back at the rest stops and in between. I discovered that trees have very little to talk about. At one stop, one of the volunteers, seeing my sorry state, asked if there was anything she could do for me. A body transplant would help, I said.

It took me nearly five hours to do the 62 miles. As I inched along, I thought about the Wish kid that sang the national anthem. I never found out what her illness was, but it had to be tougher than what I was going through. I think distance cycling is 75 percent mental and 35 percent physical. Wait, did I do that right? Well, you get the idea. I made it to the finish to the roar of my three-girl cheering section and a few others that struggled to sound excited, given that they'd cheered themselves out hours before.

Bill Riddle is a freelance writer and Realtor living in Odessa. He can be reached at [email protected].com.

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