Monday, April 4, 2016


All right, I admit it...I don't have a cat, which in turns means no one stole the beast, but I was tired of trying to figure out a catchy headline for today's post. I read somewhere that "cats" rule the Internet...and "bacon". There is a VERY good chance however, that if I ever do use bacon in a blog post title it WILL involve bacon. In an attempt to assuage (my new word for the day) my guilt I am going to share with you a lesson re-learned yesterday. It is a lesson that allowed me to take some 2 million steps circling Lake Michigan. It is a lesson that allowed me to write a book, when I had ZERO idea what I was doing. It is a lesson that gets my butt out of bed those mornings when everything screams "ONE MORE SNOOZE BUTTON!!" and it works in EVERY single situation you could ever find yourself.  Ready??? Wait for it...

Not yet. A little story first...(there may be a clue or three hidden in here)

Saturday morning was the 6th annual Gents race, a 100km bike race/ride where 5 people compete as a team and to record an "official" finish, must all cross the line together. If one person quits. it's a team DNF. It is the ultimate "no one left behind" event. Held north of Des Moines, Iowa, the course is tabletop flat and if the wind blows, it's gonna get ya. 65-ish teams were signed up. 50-ish showed up. 15-ish saw the fore casted winds of 30 mph, gusting to 50 and decided they would not even toe the line. This decision would seriously hamper their chances of finishing. (clue #1)

The weatherman was spot on. At 9:54 our band of brothers and one sister left Slater, Iowa, promptly made a left turn into the wind and Mother Nature punched us right in the face. I've ridden my bike in some pretty inhospitable conditions but NEVER in a wind like that. I'm 200 pounds and the gust nearly took the bike out from under me. We'd find out later it planted more than one competitor into the roadside ditch. I'm certain we all questioned our decision to start and our ability to finish right then and there, but we took stock of the situation, settled in and got to work. Equal parts excited and "what the hell have we got ourselves into". (clue #2)

Beth Steffensen Montpas and Teri Pottorff left the small starting town an hour or so before us. The race has a staggered start, seeding teams so, in theory, there could be a 65 team sprint to the finish. That hasn't happened yet but it does work out where most teams finish within a hour or so of each other. The wind whipping splintered three of their team very early on. Undeterred, Beth and Teri forged on. There would be no "Official Finish", but they were pressing on, eager to take the test they had signed up (and trained their asses off) for. It's one thing to imagine what a 50 mile an hour gust feels like, it's another when the reality of it nearly knocks you off your bike...all the while trying not to wreck your 4 teammates who are in the same wrestling match.

I am only guessing here, but' I'd be willing to bet these two made no promises of a finish to each other, but rather a pact to stay in the fight and see what happens. (clue #3) Yes, it was incredibly windy and a bit cold (40 degrees), but the sun was shining, there was no real danger, and the sense of adventure was palpable. It is not the sunny, slight wind at your back days that stories are told about. This day would be discussed around the campfire for years to come.

Kim Beaty Hopkins, Amy Lynch, Joann Skolaut Schmidt, Heather Wince and Karolyn Jones Zeller are all tough as nails ladies and I have enjoyed years of riding with them all. To be honest, I would have given them less than a 50/50 chance of finishing. This is not a knock. When Mama Nature welcomed me with that first swat to the face, I put my chances at less than 50/50 too. SPOILER ALERT - they did finish and were the ONLY all lady team to do so.

                                              (photo courtesy of Ken Sherman K&K images)

After the race Kim shared with me, "I fully expected at each turn, someone would suggest we quit, but no one ever did. We all just kept pedaling." (clue #4) I love her race recap on Facebook ... "Still trying to figure out how yesterday's sufferfest ended up being so much fun. Honestly, it was the hardest day I've ever spent in the saddle and I am thankful for teammates who worked together and took care of each other. The conditions yesterday made for the perfect playing field for this style of race...what might have been nearly impossible alone was manageable with the effort of the group. Thanks to Bruce, Kyle, Rob and the whole Bike Iowa crew for putting on my favorite race of the year...I hope I never have to ride in those conditions again!"

I stood at this trail head yesterday, sure of how bad the upcoming walk/shuffle/run was going to suck.

The previous day's Gents race, had been wonderfully brutal. It was the most challenging four hours ever spent on a bike and here I stood feeling pretty spiritually and physically bankrupt.Thankfully, I was able to turn off all the negative self talk long enough to take a few deep breaths and allow for the thought..."SHOW UP AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS." That's it. That's the lesson. Like so many times before, once started, the battle was already, in a sense, won. An hour later, grinning ear to ear, the lesson was further imprinted on my soul.

A reward awaits all those who show up. We do not all share the same finish line. For one Saturday morning in April, 240 or so crazy, mad, adventurous souls raced towards many different finishing lines. For some, it was two miles, for some it was 31, others found their finishing line at some other nondescript place out on that windswept prarie. Some found their way the entire 62 miles. Back at the Nitehawk, the event host bar, all eventually gathered again. I doubt you could pick out who traveled what distance. If you SHOWED UP, you took home a story. You won.