Well, I did it! Every mile, every hill, every camp night, every single ass-killing, hard-as-hell bit of it. And you know what? I hated every single minute of it. It was awful. It was hard and uncomfortable and exhausting and completely beyond me why people sign up for it year after year. And as I crossed the finish line, instead of reveling in my accomplishment and hugging all my fellow participants, I immediately peeled my butt of that unforgiving bike seat, yelled “Bike for sale!” and high-tailed to the hotel for room service and a 12-hour nap.
It’s taken me a while to sit down and write this post because I was hoping that after a couple of weeks of stationary distance from it, my memory of the experience would have changed, and I could talk about how transformational and wonderful it was. But instead I’m going to write about the truth of it—it was painful and I got tons out of it.
I learned that as much as I hate mornings I can get up at 5 am and take on a pretty difficult day. I learned that with some training and determination, even a hardcore sofa lover can take on some pretty significant physical challenges. I was reminded that every goal is obtained inch by inch and not mile upon mile. I got to hear about some pretty amazing personal stories of turning grief, tragedy, or sickness into power, growth, and change. I was reminded to be grateful for porcelain toilets and pillow-top mattresses. I learned that I am definitely not a cyclist or bicycle enthusiast of any kind. And most importantly, I was reminded that I’m not nearly as fragile as I always think I am. And for those reasons, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I definitely won’t be signing up for next year, and I smile an evil grin every time I go into the garage and see my bike wonderfully neglected with a flat tire and accumulating dust (you will hurt me no longer, you vehicle from hell!) But I will take this knowledge, the things I learned, and put them into the next challenge, and the next, and the one after that. Because after surviving that week and those grueling 545 miles, I know I can probably do damn near anything–except ride a bike again.
Thank you again for your support, encouragement, donations, and sticking with me through all of this. And if you’d like to take on this challenge yourself next year, I know where you can get a good deal on a bike…