Some sort of Homecoming

Yep, that’s right, my wife ditched me–despite the fact that I just had my wisdom teeth removed on Friday. Something about a family reunion, I dunno.

So I came home to an empty house after work today with just one thought: time to ride! I hadn’t done a half century since early last year, and the road bike was itchin’ for it. Never mind that it’s the most beautiful season for this area.

So I loaded everything up, including a Camelbak (yes, I know it’s dorky when roadies use Camelbaks, but I took my bottle cage off and didn’t feel like putting it back on), a seatbag, and my jersey pockets. I was set for the long haul.

The most demanding half century in the area is a little something I refer to as the ‘END OF THE WORLD,’ which I thought appropriate given my dire circumstances. END OF THE WORLD goes out as far as the pavement will take it into the Big Hole Mountains–home of Kelly Canyon and much mountain biking–then you go back to the dry farms, again, as far as the pavement goes; then out for a loop near Newdale, Idaho, through Sugar City and back up onto the ‘Bench.’ The scenic stuff all comes at the beginning, and there’s no shortage of difficulty at the end. But today, I added an extra element of difficulty: I was going to aim to keep my heart rate aerobic the entire ride, a task made difficult by the fact that some of the steeper roads are along this route along with some of the rolling-est hills you’ll ever cruise.

The first 30 miles felt great. It was sunny and warm, and there were plenty of irrigation … things spraying me and the road at precisely the right time. The scenery was as I expected it would be: gorgeous. The end of the pavement at the foot of the Big Hole Mountains puts you high enough to scope out the entire valley (ask me why I neglected to bring a camera–go ahead, ask). Everything was dusky and green and the Menan Buttes held a prominent presence, overlooking miles of flatness until the Sawtooths begin on the other side of the valley–at least I think those are the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance. Correct me if I’m wrong.

My legs felt great. I knew at that intensity I wouldn’t likely be running out of gas anytime on the ride–I only hoped my knees held up. A forceful wind from the south kept things interesting as I rocked and rolled my way to the other side of the half century. And that’s about when the mood shifted–yeah, around mile 30.

Suddenly, instead of being fun and energetic, I felt a twinge of fatigue. Most of my rides this year have been under an hour and a half, so fatigue isn’t a sensation I’m nearly as acquainted with right now. The sun was setting in the distance and taking my glycogen stores with it. By the time mile 40 rolled around, I could sense I’d need some extra pep–in the form of a Gu energy gel–to make the rest of the distance and feel good about it.

Do you ever feel there’s something dramatic about your long rides? As though the credits will start rolling as you round that last corner before your house and mutter some sort of trite phrase like Bear Grylls would on the Discovery Channel– "Right now, it’s time to GO HOME" [emphasis on the extremely obvious]. I think that’s what prompts me to do long rides, that feeling of melodrama at having flirted with falling apart on the roadside despite being nowhere near the extremes those RAAM guys experience; just some taste of what it might feel like to return to a home you weren’t totally certain you’d see again, like after a nuclear war that fizzled into an incident at the firework stand or something. And that’s what it felt like today. Not bad or good, just a little hyperbolic.

But when you think about it, 50 miles is a long way. Can you imagine walking that? Or, heaven forbid, swimming 50 miles? That’s a heckuvalot of pavement passing under your tires. Even without any crazy happenings, that’s an adventure–and for me it’s an exhausting one.

So I came home and immediately called my wife to let her know I survived (and don’t worry she didn’t LEAVE me, she just left me–for a few days until I drive up to meet her at this family reunion thing), and then I went out, bought a pizza, brought it home, realized I can’t eat it yet, stuck it in the fridge, and crashed.

So much for bach’in it.

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