Anaheim to San Diego: 80 miles. It’s the longest I’ve ridden so far. I was half dreading, half looking forward to this ride, thinking that, somehow, maybe, my body would make a breakthrough and my legs would propel me at a steady pace all the way down the coast.
When we arrived in Anaheim, my teammates buzzed excitedly about the scenic journey ahead. Some had ridden the route before, while others, like me, had no idea what to expect. I hoped that, at least, we wouldn’t get separated.
We started out on the bike path near Angel Stadium. For a while, I stayed with the pack, but, little by little, they began to pull away. I piled on the gears and spun furiously, trying to keep up, but, even at 16-18 mph, I was no match, and I was beginning to tire with no real warm up. My speed dropped to 15-16 mph, and I trailed behind.
The bike path ended at the Pacific Coast Highway, where my paper directions told me to follow South. I headed down the road alone for a while, until Coach Quinton and my teammate, Bobbi, caught up with me. We followed the road up and down rollers, through stop and go traffic, and to the first SAG stop at Mile 33.
I guess that I had held out some kind of hope that more of my teammates would be waiting at the stop, having dropped off from the furious out of the gate pace they began with. Only two teammates remained when I got there, everyone else having done what they needed to do and rolled out already. I was beginning to feel like a huge loser. I could feel the defeat loom over me like a suffocating dark, smoggy cloud. My heart sank into my cleats as I clipped in and rode on.
Just before Camp Pendleton is a long stretch of false flat, a slight incline that caused the pressure of my saddle to multiply. My breath quickened as I tried to pedal through the searing pain. I whimpered slightly, pedaling by campers, who gave puzzled looks as I passed with my pained expression. My pace was about 14.5 mph, as I tried to keep from having a total meltdown.
Everything hurt by the time I rolled through the military base, a long stretch of un- scenic territory that seemed to last forever. Quinton remained about 100-200 yards ahead of me as I pedaled furiously to keep up. Looking down at my watch, I knew that I wasn’t going to make the cut-off time that the coaches had planned, and that I was going to be the only one on the team who wouldn’t. Me, the stupid, stupid slowpoke, I was thinking. I am not an Ironman. I wasn’t cut out for this.
It was then that the dam burst. First I started whimpering, which led to pathetically weak sobs, which broke into full-on wailing. I didn’t even care if anyone heard me. I couldn’t stop. I cried to all of my frustrations, all of my failures. I grieved with such sorrow all of my hopes and dreams of the last year. They fell to the speeding ground, with my tears. I failed. Now to finish this stupid ride, I told myself.
Quinton was far enough away that he hadn’t heard my sobfest. Once through Camp Pendleton, he pointed out that we were quite near the final SAG stop, which was only 15 miles from our final destination. Getting to SAG was an ordeal, as we had to navigate through a busy port town, with hoards of beach goers streaming toward the water. Starting up into traffic, my wheel accidentally caught Quinton’s and I went down, scraping my knee a tiny bit (of course), right in front of lots of people(of course). I cried a few frustrated tears, and carefully wove through cars to the parking lot, where I got some refills on water and a cookie.
The last fifteen miles were slow torture, with tons of dangerous beach traffic, rough roads, and tons of stop and go. I just need to get there, I just need to get there. I ridiculously chanted to myself, over and over. My seat was starting to hurt again as we hit the last couple of miles on a false flat, my legs ached, and I was emotionally quite worse for the wear.
Everyone else on the team had gotten to Pizza Port, our final destination in Solana Beach, and had already changed clothes and ordered food. Even as teammates and coaches high-fived me, I felt like I was being patronized. In my mind, I had failed. I was the worst one. The worst cyclist on the team. I didn’t deserve a high five.
“You just rode 80 miles,” Coach Holly said to me. “Don’t take away from that.”
Yeah, 80 miles at a 12mph overall pace, I thought to myself. Tears continued to roll down my cheeks. I felt like an ungrateful brat, but I didn’t care. Riz saw my tears and gave me a hug. It amazes me that my coaches still believe in me, even after I am continuously left in the dust, even during my best efforts. I want to believe, but the faith I had in the beginning is running out of me. Will my best ever be good enough?
I can’t help but be left with this sort of heartbroken feeling, like all of this is for nothing. It’s not like I am not going to try still, but I just wish that I could receive some sign from my body to have a little bit of hope.
P.S. It really was a beautiful ride. Sorry I don’t have pictures. I was too busy pedaling furiously or boo-hooing to take them