“I have this great idea,” said my friend Simon on a ride a couple of weeks ago. “I’m going to celebrate the summer solstice by doing a century ride…”
“That sounds cool,” I said.
“…around Beacon Hill Park‘s 1-mile loop 100 times.”
“I take it back,” I said. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m in.”
And so it went. I heard later that this is so typical of my cycling club. Every time I described the idea to a friend, I’d get the same response: “That’s idiotic. I’m in.” This may well reflect more on the quality of my friends than the quality of the idea – during a recent Tripleshot Cycling event, I heard that same phrase – “What a stupid idea – let’s do it” applied to: that ride; Hurricane Ridge hill repeats; chasing an incandescent star rider in the club around the Olympic Mountains for 100 miles AFTER Hurricane Ridge hill repeats; entering a 7-day stage race in Italy; riding before dawn; riding in the rain; and riding in the winter.
Thank goodness I didn’t hang out with this lot when I was 18 and more vulnerable to peer pressure than I am in my sage maturity. Anyway, I not only signed up for the ride, but followed Simon’s suggestions and posted on our club forum, rounding up more folks for the adventure. I loaded up my car with spare wheels, a bunch of snacks, extra water bottles, tools, and a case of Rumble (om nom nom Rumble), and parked it at the side of the circle to be the most available sag wagon ever provided on a century ride.
We began early, at 4:00AM, in order to finish before too many normal people took over the park. I pulled into the park under a gorgeous full moon and was stunned to see a dozen people standing around making excuses for being this dumb. One of the guys had been suffering insomnia so started at 2:30 and was 23 miles up on us. There was nothing to do but start, so we did. Two up, we started spinning around and around the park. I set my Garmin to autolap at the Magical Crosswalk (c.f., Magical Mailbox) in front of the petting zoo.
After the initial giggly laps, things settled quickly into a pattern. I loved watching conventions being born on the
hoof wheel: if we ever do this again, there are twenty people who will tell all comers “we’ve always done it like this.” The big group rotates pulls every lap. The small group is more fun and a great place to take a breather for a bit. One person will stay back in the event of a mechanical breakdown, but the rest of the group may proceed. Although the group (might) eventually stop en masse for a break, you’d be wisest to pull off when you are hungry and make your pit stop in the three minutes it will take for them to come around again. If you give up your banana to the hungry-looking guy, he might let you swap places with him into Mike L’s magnificent draft at the next rotation.
Otherwise, since the scenery changed only by changing from moonlit shades to streaming golden light, the distance was marked by little happenings.
- Hey, the moon’s down.
- Hey, I can see my Garmin.
- Glory be, what a sunrise.
- ZOMG, the ducks are awake! Ducks! Ducks! In the crosswalk! We can’t hit them in the crosswalk!
- Coffee shops open, deserters go for their fix.
- We’ve passed the walking man the dozenth time, and I think the penny just dropped.
ZOMG, the peacocks are awake!!! Fracking peacocks in the crosswalk! Evasive maneuvers!
- Leftcoaster David turns up, making it a four-Dave morning (only three Mikes). He celebrates by working together as a pair with Deb to hold the main group off for sixteen miles. Double-handed. David, Deb: I am not worthy.
- The petting zoo trucks in their adorable baby goats
- Singing “Seventy-Four bottles of beer on the wall…” is positively depressing.
- Jeez, Mike A has brought groupies.
- I pull over, feeling a little peaky, around 62 laps, and bolt a Rumble, a banana, and a Clif Bar, then reload my bottles and jump back onto the group down only one lap. The food gave me a whole new lease on life. The entire case of Rumble vanished off my tailgate into happy riders – it’s perfect fuel for this sort of thing.
- Car! They’re starting to come down Dallas Road more often.
- We blow the doors off a group of riders that includes a few Tripleshotters on Dallas Road. They aren’t there next time we come around.
- Insomniac Dave finishes his 100 and goes home.
- One of our juniors blasts by on a TT bike. We yell at her, hoping for a tow, but she’s so disciplined that she doesn’t abandon her workout, but abandons us instead. Maybe that’s why she’s at Nationals right now and we’re buying Ben-Gay.
- Insomniac Dave comes back after a shower and a fresh pair of shorts, says he got bored, keeps riding more. Boggle.
- We narrowly miss a running clinic that’s setting up in the crosswalk by the petting zoo. (who knew it was magic to so many?). They observe, baffled, for a few laps, and then cotton on to what’s happening. Then they start cheering for us every lap and send their runners around in the opposite direction. So we cheered for them.
- Car! But, lo! The running clinic’s marshals start looking after us, too! And cheering! This is awesome!
- “Hey, you know…” says Simon. “I have an idea.” I glare. “Did you know there are two solstices every year?” I stick a pump in his spokes.
- Muttering arises in the pack around 95 miles. “Well, we’re in Beacon Hill Park. And we always sprint at the end of Beacon Hill laps, right?” Others, including me, denounce them as deranged and keep willing the lap counter to roll over one more time.
- And with three laps to go, they broke for it. The group splintered, but Simon, whose stupid idea this was in the first place, did the wise and generous thing and looped back to scoop up the human shrapnel, organized us back into a working group, and hounded us through the final miles.
I coasted a final, 101st lap, pulling a couple of guys who were a lap down on me, and the favours relayed onward until the last person had had their fill.
And you know what? That was fun. A whole lot of great, great fun. We ought to do it again next year. But let’s skip a solstice, eh, boys and girls?