What Have I Gotten Myself Into? by Toni Youngblood
Just over six months ago, I gave up driving in favor of bicycle commuting. I’d been a fan of the social rides around town since the spring of 2009, and I fancied myself a little hardcore for biking to-and-from my apartment building downtown to the bars in Exposition Park so I figured the transition would be a piece of cake… and it HAS been, really. There have been adjustments along the way, like wearing close-toed shoes more often and learning to negotiate traffic on Northwest Highway while lugging a bag of dresses and boots on my back. Grocery shopping takes a bit more planning and strategy than it used to, and one day I actually rode home from work in the rain carrying a moving dolly! With the acquisition of a souped up Raleigh Technium, a commute that formerly took me 35 minutes has now been shaved down to about 15. I’ve never aspired to be at the apex of the Dallas bicycle hierarchy, but I AM impressed with my progress over the first half of 2010. Rides to the F.O.E., rides to Bishop-Arts, rides to concerts, rides to parties…that bike goes with me EVERYWHERE. I ride every day, all the time, and I’m pretty effen fast for a girl, if I do say so myself.
In less than 3 weeks, a handful of bike buddies and I are venturing from Dallas
to the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma on what we’ve dubbed “THE RED DIRT RIDE”. Taking the safest bike-friendly route possible, we anticipate a ride of approximately 90miles. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the weather on September 25th should be comfortable, with average highs around 88 degrees. As for the wind and changes in elevation, well….I’m basically just going to wish REALLY hard that those aspects are in our favor as well. I’ve put the word out via facebook that we need volunteers to drive SAG vehicles and help out in the event of injury, mechanical difficulty, and of course for moral support. In my mind, I imagine us hauling ass up through North Texas in a blaze of glory and throwing our hands up with victory howls as we cross over the Red River…but I realize that it’s going to be an ambitious endeavor and the sweaty mass of us will likely crumble into a salt stained heap as soon as we plod into our destination. Hopefully, we can rally with a quick shower and hit the blackjack tables before succumbing to lactic acid disaster. I am determined to reward myself with a few yanks of the slot machine after a ride like that, and I’m NOT afraid to ask security to carry me back to my room if I can’t make my legs work.
Just when I start to feel like a dynamo for riding my bike so often, so far, so fast—it’s time for another “Saturday Morning Slaughter” training ride with the boys. These rides are murder on my ego (and my legs…and my lady bits). The RED DIRT RIDE was my idea and I am so pleased to see that the others are on board and share my enthusiasm…but SERIOUSLY, these guys are in an entirely different class of bike enthusiast. When we started a couple of months ago, I rolled up in some running shorts and a tank top with my one water bottle filled and a walkman on my arm (yes, a walkman…I’m ghetto like that). My companions were gussied up in spandex and helmets with all the latest gizmos and gadgets. I didn’t even have an air pump and these guys were hauling GPS devices and energizing gel snacks! After what I was certain was 1,000miles I asked one of my companions how far we had ridden: 9ish miles. By the end of our first practice run (probably less than 30miles), I literally ROLLED on the ground screaming and asking them to throw bananas into my gaping mouth. It really only took a couple of weeks of training before I began entertaining the idea of secretly slipping into bike shorts under my regular workout gear (a decision I have NEVER regretted). There have been many other lessons along the way…like not getting a bikini wax the morning of a 50mile practice ride, making sure my bike is appropriately fitted to my height (an inappropriate seat height spells EXCRUTIATING knee pain on long rides like our’s), carrying multiple bottle cages AND a camel back, and the OH SO SWEET relief of simply wearing riding gloves. Those gadgety boys have taught me a thing or two along the way, and every week I pick up some new tip or tidbit of inspiration. Fortunately, fellow riders like Josh “Squirrel” Kalina and Extreme Susan have outfitted me with many of the essentials I now cannot imagine riding without. I am proud to say that last Saturday’s ride to the Franconia Brewery in McKinney, TX was my first RED DIRT RIDE training session that I didn’t cry at some point!
Riding along side my buddy Clayton a couple of weeks ago, blistering up Cockrell Hill in West Dallas in 100+ degree heat and direct sunlight, he casually mentioned doing the Hotter’N Hell 100 and the RED DIRT RIDE as training for the upcoming 200+mile ACHell ride to Austin. Naturally, I thought Clayton was/is insane. Seriously, 100 miles is TRAINING to him?????? I cannot believe I’ve gone from 5 mile booze cruises a couple of times a week (in heels and a dress, no less) to riding all over North Texas with masochists like these RED DIRT RIDErs. Every single time I ride with these bicycle phenom’s I find myself wondering, “whaaaaat have I gotten myself into???” Just when I think I cannot take it for one more second, I look at Josh and Clay and Ian and they’re not even breaking a visible sweat.
Seriously…what have I gotten myself into?
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