Me: “I’m at mile 215.”
Jill: “Oh, you’re doing so good. Is there anything you need from me? What can I do?”
Me: “You can get off my phone because holding it to my ear is killing me.”
(I have apologized to Jill for the above gem of a conversation and my apology was accepted, thank goodness.)
My dandy-ness dwindled quickly. Everything on my body was so sore now that even my breaks weren’t alleviating any of the pain. I could feel the bruising on my sit bones and tail bone. If I removed my gloves, I could see the black and blue on my palms. I’d try to reposition my hands but that made my wrists sorer. Getting up out of the saddle was an excruciating but necessary action as the bones would sear for a few seconds as the blood came back through them. At one of my breaks, I turned right without signaling and got yelled at by a course marshal. “SIGNAL WHEN YOU’RE TURNING,” she said. I didn’t have the energy to explain to her that if I could possibly raise my arm to signal, I most certainly would have, but my shoulders simply were not working. The one saving grace I had and tried to focus on was the chamois cream (although technically it’s udder cream…keep your jokes to yourselves) I used was incredible (thanks for the recommendation, Stacie). Very little chaffing over the 300 miles. Hardly any at all.
Before I go on, let me pick out some more positives of the experience because, let’s face it, you know what’s coming up next – a 100 mile Jodi pity party. This year I was stoked to have 3 friends camping with me in Bootyville; Steve, Jen and Stacie. We had a good time hanging out before the ride and I hope they enjoyed their experience at Booty, even if they went home with sore butts (they were all first timers). Other positives: The volunteers for this event have got to be some of the best humans on Earth. They cheered constantly. I mean CONSTANTLY for the riders on the course. There are 2 in particular, both course marshals, that stand out in my mind and I really wish I knew their names. The first was a woman working the Croyden/Selwyn intersection. She was there through the night cheering each rider as they passed…for about 6 hours. It got to the point where she saw me so many times, she would cheer for me specifically. At least that’s how it felt. She would start yelling as soon as she saw me come around the corner and wouldn’t quit until I was out of sight. I started cheering back at her, too. I kinda felt like we had bonded through the night. The other volunteer was a guy working an intersection on the Hopedale hill. I don’t know where he got his lungs, but he was the loudest human I’ve ever heard…he yelled for hours and hours during the afternoon on Saturday. Again, he saw me so many times at one point he said, “C’mon, keep working your way up this hill. You’ve gotta be near 300, right?” I nodded and from then on each time I passed he called me 300. “Here comes 300! GO! GO! GO!” There’s one other person I want to mention and then I’ll continue the pity party I do so well. There was a spectator at the Start/Finish line who was there from the start until about 4 in the morning. Each time a rider went back out on the course, she would clap and say to us, “Thank you and have a magical ride.”
Because I was relying on adrenaline to carry me through the final 100, I figured that the second 100 would be the mental challenge. No so. The second hundred was just a warm up. The third hundred was the real deal. When my adrenaline failed to show up for the party, I knew I was in trouble. Now my muscles were aching. They were drained. And I still had hours and hours in front of me. I decided to take it in tens. Every 10 miles would be a milestone to shoot for. I hoped this would keep me motivated. It didn’t. At 90, I was thinking, “Crap, you still have 90. But once you hit 80, you’re into training ride distance.” Then, I hit 70. Crap I still have 70. “but you’ll definitely feel better when you hit 60 – that’s a typical ride for you. No sweat.” But my body was shutting down. I could feel it and my stomach was not going to have another Power Bar or Clif Block. It wanted nothing but to go home to the A/C and lay on the living room floor for about a week.
The last break I took was at the 263 mile mark. 37 to go. Four hours left. This was the first time since mile 130, that I had no doubt I was going to finish. I would no longer entertain thoughts of quitting. It was all mind over matter in dealing with the pain and exhaustion of it all at this point. I WILL finish because I don’t ever want to do this again. During that last break I knew I had to eat, but my stomach was tired of the same ole same ole. There happened to be a few white bread turkey and cheese sandwiches left from lunch and I thought, awe what the heck. I’ll try it. My stomach accepted them graciously and I felt the energy from them hit my legs at about 25 to go. I put in a huge effort for some reason. I guess because at the time, 25 didn’t feel like that far, but it was still an hour and 45 minutes of riding, which I hadn’t taken the time to calculate. I went all out for about 10 miles and then bonked again. 15 to go. 15 of the slowest miles of my life. Hopedale hill, which on a normal day I’d go up easily at 15 mph, 19 or 20 if I was trying, was giving me problems at 9 mph. I was actually using my 27 cog in the back to get up Hopedale Drive. The course marshal cheered, “Go 300, Go! Drop it a gear and spin up this thing. You’re gonna make it!” My phone rang. I physically couldn’t answer it.
The last few miles were insanely demoralizing. I thought the Booty Loop was supposed to be 3.2 miles so at 15 to go, I was thinking – 5 laps. I did a lap. 4 laps. I did a lap. 3 to go! I looked at my odometer: 289.8 miles. I still had 10.2 to go. What? By my calculations, I should have under 9 to go. I guess the loop isn’t 3.2 miles. Start again: 4 to go. I did a lap. 3 to go. I did a lap. 2 to go. I look at the odometer. 293.8 miles. Is this a joke? Did time just stop. What the hell? My last time across the start/finish line, I needed about 1 mile and some change to hit 300 which meant I had to go up Hopedale one more freakin’ time. I hit it as hard as my legs would allow. 10.8 mph. That was all I could do.
Odometer reading after the ride.
I hit 300 on the straightaway of Selwyn Avenue just before the light at Queens College. I threw my hands in the air. My shoulders burned with that action. Nobody watching would have any idea what I was doing or what I had put myself through over the prior 24 hours. And it didn’t matter, because, despite the impression you might get from this blog, this wasn’t about me. It wasn’t even solely about raising money for Cancer research. It’s also, for some of us, about finding inspiration from the experiences and hurt of others and using it to physically and mentally push yourself past your breaking point. Because, I can assure you, when you’re at that point, you see things so differently. Unfortunately, most people won’t put themselves there purposely. For most, they don’t see it until its thrust upon them. Like when they lose a loved one to a terminal illness.
For me, when I’m in the place that I was for about 170 miles of my 300, in pain and in tears, then the littlest acts become enormous. When I’m there, getting the nickname 300, having someone take notice of me and cheer for 6 hours, and being granted a magical ride from complete strangers who I will likely never see again, is…is…well, it’s a lot of things but mostly, it’s deeply, deeply moving.
I got off my bike and collapsed into a chair under the Booty tent. A couple of volunteers brought me some bottles of Vitamin Water and asked if I needed anything. I told them I was fine. I sat there and looked toward the Bootyville camp as I realized my phone had rung earlier. It was Steve. My friends had decided to go home (I didn’t blame them, it was hot and they’d done a lot of riding themselves). However, before they left, they took the liberty of breaking down my camp and had loaded it all into my car for me (*insert big sigh and tear of exhaustion*). Sometimes the biggest gifts come from your friends.
Booty 2009 is in the books and as I sit here the day after, most of my aches have already recovered. My legs are cement logs and my shoulders are still killing me. In fact, I went to get the milk out of the fridge this morning and nearly dropped it. “Whoa, that’s heavy,” I said surprised. Jill just laughed. Walking is quite an effort as well.
One last thing. I rode in memory of my Grandmother who died of Cancer when I was 13. “An American Tail” was the last movie I saw with my Grandma before she passed away. I can’t listen to the song “Somewhere Out There” without crying. At some point in the middle of the night, I think she was singing it to me…or maybe it was just playing on my iPod. Either way, it broke me.