Not a Race Report: Marin Century (Subtitled: Mean Things I Thought About Century Riders)

Yesterday, I did the Marin Century. And, despite the fact that I haven’t done any biking in months and everything lately has been SLOW and shitty, I biked the whole thing, with the 7,000 feet of elevation gain and the stupid extra three miles, in like 6:45 (which sounds like a lot but isn’t for the hills and the wind and my bike needing a bottom bracket replacement and etc, etc) and I felt crazy strong the whole time and had the highest wattage I’ve ever seen for anything over four hours.

So. What was my secret?

I basically ate so much I felt sick. The whole time. I started eating and drinking right from the start, from the free bagels at registration, and never stopped. Tired? Eat something. Legs hurt? Eat something. Guy in front of you being annoying and you want to give him space? Eat something. I ate so much I actually still don’t really want to eat. Today, I kept looking at food and wrinkling my nose and being like, ugh, do I have to. I also don’t know that I ever want to see another Oreo.

But, besides the insane amount of burping this caused, it worked.

My second secret was the secret of any long-distance: sometimes it sucks, sometimes it doesn’t. Just before four hours, I felt terrible, awful, wanted to lay down on the side of Highway 1 because maybe if I was on the ground the wind would be less shitty. Instead, I ate some more and drank some more and kept going, and it passed. I don’t know what I did for the 7+ hours I was out there by myself — all that stopping at every aid station took at least an extra 40′ plus there was a rather drawn-out incident with some bib shorts and a port-a-potty. I talked to a couple people, but not really, since I don’t like people. I talked to myself, but not really, since I don’t like to look crazy. I mostly did the long-distance mind zoning out thing. Oh, and I thought mean things in my head.

What mean things you ask? Well.

  • I started around the same time everyone started, which meant there were lots of different people doing different distances and the level of abilities ranged from those “hammering” in a “pace line” to those still pulling the price tags off their bikes. This made the first 30′ or so sort of a shitshow. And, at the top of the first longer climb, people were just stopping and gathering right in the middle/sort-of-side of the road. There was only one lane closed, so cars were waiting to get by the other way and there was a police officer and a mess of people and this couple in front of me starts weaving wildly looking for their friends and taking up the whole road and are about to stop right there in front of me, just as it’s dropping into the descent. So, I say under my breath, “Stop being sketchy.” Except, since I hadn’t really talked to anyone yet because I pretty much just woke up, played with Tupac, and rolled out, instead of coming out as a whisper, it came out as a way louder than I intended rasp. “STOP. BEING. SKETCHY.” After that, I kept my thoughts to myself. Like…
  • Stopping at the top of the hill just because it’s the top of the hill is inefficient and also dangerous and it makes me dislike and judge you.
  • Stopping abruptly in the road makes me dislike you and also want to hit you.
  • Are you seriously wearing earphones on this large a group ride with open traffic? Are you even more stupid than you look?
  • Because, fyi, if you’re a guy and wearing a full-on BMC team kit (or any pro team kit) and you can’t ride at least as fast as me, then you’re going to look stupid anyway.
  • If you’re a guy and you sprint to pass me and then can’t keep it up every time my steady effort catches back up to you, then you’ll also look stupid, but more importantly you should feel stupid.
  • If we’re leap-frogging and you acknowledge it, that’s cool. We can be friends. (And, also in hour five, it was nice to have someone to ride with.) But, if we’re leap-frogging and you just keep ignoring me, then we will be frenemies forever.
  • If you pass me on the right when I’m already to the right of the road and I don’t see you and you crash, it would be your own fault.
  • If you jump on my wheel so I can “pull you” and you don’t say anything, you’re really just tempting me to slam on my brakes. That would also be your own fault.
  • Maybe if you can’t ride in a straight line, you should practice that some more before you sign up for a Century.
  • Standard lanes on roads are 12 or 13 feet wide. Minimum regulation width is 10 feet. Bikes are maybe a foot across. It should be possible then to ride two-abreast without hugging the yellow lane. Surely, we can do this.
  • I know you’ve seen pros riding downhill with no hands. Generally, though, it’s because they had to in order to put on a jacket or zip up a jersey or grab some food. Also, they are better at it then you. When you ride downhill with no hands in your cargo shorts in the middle of a group of people for no reason other than to show off, you don’t look cool. You look like a moron.
  • If you want to race, sign up for a race. If you want to race and you sign up for a Century, we all assume you’re a jackass who couldn’t hack it in a real race.

I’m not the only person who thinks mean things about other people, right?

Can You Forget How to Swim?

When I was a kid I learned how to ride a bike at the Greyhound track outside Orlando, FL. You probably think this says more about my childhood than I meant it to, but I didn’t actually particularly care about riding my bike — there was nowhere to go, we lived across from a large shopping center (which housed a TCBY!) — and the Greyhound track was really sort of more a coincidence, a parking lot to go in circles in, than anything. But, learning to ride a bike was a prerequisite to childhood and so I did.

I gave it up in 7th grade. My parents told me I had to either wear a helmet or not ride my bike, which is perfectly reasonable on their part and I think they figured it was simply an ultimatum to get me to put the helmet on, but I didn’t. I was not a cool kid, which I was fine with, but I was also very aware of. When we moved to the suburbs from Chicago in 7th grade, I (with my braces and city attitude and Coke-bottle-thick glasses and hair dyed every color except the ones people actually have) didn’t fit in a ton, but I did fit in enough, just enough. And, that was fine, but it was a line. I knew that. And, I couldn’t afford one more thing to push me over that line. Wearing a helmet, any helmet, wouldn’t have been cool for the suburban kids who love to court manufactured risk. Besides, the giant styrofoam block of helmet, itself, wasn’t cool. Maybe if I’d had a cool helmet, one of the ones we all have now, it’d have been ok. But, I didn’t and it was sweaty and left marks on my forehead and made me look even more nerdy than I really was. So, I weighed wearing the helmet with how much I cared about riding the bike — and I didn’t care about riding the bike — and told my parents, ‘OK, I won’t ride it then.’

And, I didn’t. For 8 or 9 years.

I can tell you then that it is true, you don’t forget how to ride a bike. Theoretically, you still understand the principles. But, you certainly forget how to actually put those principles into practice.

There are plenty of stories here to illustrate this point, most of which involve me trying to practice around People’s Park in Berkeley and crashing over and over while the homeless people watched me and wondered what the hell that girl was doing. For another time, perhaps.

Yesterday, I swam in the Belvedere Lagoon with some people from my Masters team, which I haven’t been to in about two months. The woman who invited me knew me and thinks I’m fast, so she waved me off, saying, “If you need to go ahead of us, Kelly, you can.”

I didn’t really think that was going to be a problem. And, then I got into the water and it REALLY wasn’t a problem. It turns out I may not have forgotten how to swim, but I certainly have forgotten how to swim. I flailed and swam all out to still lag 20m behind everyone else and I zig-zagged and my arms burned and my swimsuit cut my neck and I couldn’t see where people had gone. I became obsessed about halfway through with the fact that my hand entry sucks and wasn’t grasping the water efficiently, but by the end I didn’t even care. I was just picking my arms up and dropping them down and wondering how 45′ could feel this long.

When I finally got to the dock where two of the other swimmers were waiting, she asked me if I’d been swimming at all lately — because, well, clearly I hadn’t. And, I said no. And, she asked why I’d come today then. And, I said I was getting back into things, see. And, then, the other guy there said, in that tone of voice used to talk to small children and dogs, “GOOD for YOU.” And, I thought, oh honey, I may have forgotten how to swim, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t forgotten how to kick your ass.

When I was trying to remember how to bike (and also learn lots of things about biking I never knew in the first place), I went on a triathlon team ride and the girl in front of me stopped abruptly twice and I ran into the back of her. She was fine, I was fine, but she was bitchy and pissed off and rolled her eyes snidely at me. Clearly, she seemed to say, I’d never be any good at this. That, as much as anything, made me determined to get good at biking even if I hated it — and oh, I hated it.

So, guy, I will remember how to swim, even though I hate the water and its coldness and murkiness and the way it stays in your hair forever. Don’t worry. I’ll remember soon. And, then, we can go back to the lagoon.