Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harlem Valley Rain (uh... Rail) Ride

On Sunday I did the Harlem Valley Rail Ride - a hundred miles of gorgeous, hilly country roads. It totally kicked my ass.

For starters, the bus that took us from NYC to Millerton got lost or something on the way up to the start - we were supposed to start by 7:30 but didn't get in until quarter of nine.

Harlem Valley is one of those choose-your-own-adventure rides where you get to choose between 30, 55, 75, or 100 miles. The first choice I got was between the 75 and 100. It was only 20 miles in and I was still feeling fresh as an underslept daisy - "75?" I thought, "I didn't get up at 3 am to ride 75!" The next choice was between the 55 and the 100 - no real question there, but I found myself cussing as the route for the 100 went up the meanest hill ever. It was one of those sneaky and extra-mean hills that curves up and up with about a dozen false summits - where the light coming through the trees tricks you into thinking the next turn will take you down, when of course it just goes further up. I walked some of it, and a fella with stronger legs and lower gears than me passed by, but he wasn't going much faster.

After the worst of the steepness I was back on my bike again, and finally got paid back with a long, gorgeous descent - the woods opened up into farmlands and the sun came out for a while. I felt awesome and started singing Kimya Dawson and Devendra Banhart songs as loud as I could until somebody caught up on me and I got embarrassed. Why is it that even though I'm totally comfortable spending all day zipping along in skintight orange, red and shiny pink spandex I still felt like I'd gotten caught singing in the shower?

After the next rest stop I started freaking out about time and pushed pretty hard for the next 20 miles or so. My average speed crept up to where I felt comfortable again. Then there was this cloud. It was totally gigantic and opaque and grey. I could feel when I was under it 'cause it got 20 degrees colder. Bad news indeed. It started raining, then it started storming. It was freezing cold. Then we had to climb again. It was pretty fierce, and for a while it wasn't fun any more. I pushed on, hoping to get to the next rest stop and maybe bail out and get sagged to the end, but the stop had been abandoned 'cause of the storm, which sucked extra 'cause I was running out of water.

More rain, more climbing. A sag truck came by full and said they'd come get me as soon as they could. Somehow that made it better - I'd just go as far as I could until the truck came to scoop me up. I caught up on a few people who were walking and hopped off to walk with them, glad to have company for a while. Eventually the rain got less fierce and we all rode some more. Lots of it was really pretty. Finally the sag folks came back and told us to get in the truck, not giving us the option not to. They drove us all backwards down the rest of the course looking for more stragglers. The sun came out again, for keeps this time. They dropped everybody off at the next rest stop (maybe 2 miles ahead of where they'd picked me up) and pointed us down a mercifully flat shortcut down the rail trail, then on some roads I thankfully knew 'cause I'd ridden them before visiting my friend Bonnie.

I finally made it to the finish at about 5:30. The festival at the end had been rained out, and they didn't have any non-meat food left except a couple of hamburger buns. My toes were beyond wrinkled and I was totally filthy, but I had some dry clothes to change into. I got on the bus, then the subway, and finally got home at about 10:30. I went to bed feeling feverish and with a wicked sore throat.

Sometimes I don't get why this was so fun. But it was, it was really super fun - I'd do it again in a second.

1 comment:

knithound brooklyn said...

cuz you liked getting thru the pain and forging on!