Exactly seven days ago (as I’m typing), I was six hours and 45 minutes into the second day of a 200 mile bicycle ride through central Ohio. That Sunday, our trek began at 6:51 AM and would end eight hours and 44 minutes later. We spent six hours and 55 minutes actively pedaling on Sunday, after six hours and five minutes on Saturday — a combined moving time of 13 hours over two days on the bike. For the fourth year in a row we completed the longest route Pelotonia offered. 180 miles, 180 miles, 180 miles, and now, 200 miles.
I took mental notes about the ride because I want everyone to experience the magnitude of this powerful annual event. When I sat down to put (metaphorically) pen to paper, I discovered that last year’s reflections accomplished what I had hoped to connote this year.
Still, something was different this time, beyond the extra 20 miles and added elevation incorporated into the new maximum distance route.
I couldn’t get my mind beyond me.
I spent Saturday testing my legs and mind in anticipation of the new challenging course on Sunday. I’ve pedaled Saturday’s roads three times before — we know when to expect suffering, when we can lay it down and push ourselves, where we’ll have breaks for water and snacks. Saturday was a balance between pushing myself to record the best time on those 102 miles and conserving energy for Sunday while constantly calculating the depth of my mental preparation and physical readiness for the next day.
Sixty miles into day one, and I was completely freaked out about the first 20 miles of day two. My mind was eating me alive.
I ride Pelotonia to raise funds for scientific research so that we can end cancer.
I ride to exorcise my pain from the loss of family and friends to cancer.
I ride to celebrate cancer survivors.
I don’t want to ride it thinking about myself.
Pelotonia is a time of reflection for me, both to deal with this pain of loss and to celebrate the strength of my teammates who have overcome cancer. I’ve described it as the apex of my year — all holidays and my birthday rolled up into one weekend. It’s a time of rejuvenation and celebration.
This year, with the extra 20 miles, I couldn’t get my mind off of my fear — off of myself.
Pelotonia is bigger than you. That’s been abundantly clear to me since day one, when we volunteered the first time Pelotonia came to Gambier in 2012.
So I was furious that I couldn’t separate the temporal me from the physical challenge of back-to-back century rides, such that I could allow the event to be the celebration it should be. I want to end cancer, not to think about myself for 200 miles. I neither require nor desire the recognition of cycling 200 miles. I want an end to cancer. Period.
Next year, I’ll return to raise as much money as I can so that we can find an end to all cancers. I’ll happily sign up for the 180 mile route knowing that there exists a longer, more challenging option. I hope I won’t think of myself as a failure or about what I should have done because I could have done it. I answered that question this year: yes, I am capable of cycling 200 miles in two days. But I need my time to honor and celebrate our lost and living family and friends — Pelotonia is their time, and I want to make certain my mind is on them. That’s the therapy I need over those two days to replenish my soul. An ironic, selfish reward, I suppose.
Learn more about Pelotonia, join our team next year, and/or donate to our efforts to end cancer. #OneGoal. #EndCancer.
Some team members will contribute periodically throughout the season as we ramp up to Pelotonia weekend in August.