From my journal: July 19, 2020 Thousand Oaks, CA
“Feels surreal, like being in the movie“Ground Hog’s Day”…when can we stop worrying so much?”
Only four months into the pandemic I, like everyone else in the world, was wondering when life would return to “normal”. Anxious and fatigued, the hours seemed to meld into days and the days blurred into months. Although this time is unlike anything I or anyone else has ever experienced, I know there is just one way to get through it. That is, keep moving forward.
I first adopted the “keep moving forward” mantra, 24 years ago as we entered the town of Forepaugh and I craned my neck backwards and mouthed, “Who’s idea was this anyway?!” Of course, the comment was meant for Robert. He didn’t make eye contact and pretended not to hear. But a fellow rider passing me did. He said, “You’re doing great…just keep on going!”
At mile 55, we still had roughly 30 miles left before reaching our destination for the night. Earlier that chilly November morning, we had driven to Lake Pleasant with the heat blasting in the car and the bikes mounted on the roof. Our cycling paraphernalia, a change of clothes and toiletries were stuffed into duffle bags on the back seat.
Pulling into the parking lot, we looked for the MS 150 Best Dam Ride group. I felt giddy and queasy as I always do before any event. Then trepidation set in. “What if I fall off my bike?” “What if I hit the cyclist in front of me?” or “What if I fall off my bike, hit the cyclist in front of me AND get bit by a rattlesnake?” None of these things has ever happened, but still I worry.
Four months and fifteen training rides building up to that day, we could sit in our saddles for six hours and still dismount intact. Having experimented with a variety of energy bars, gel packs, and fluids we chose the ones with the least ill effects. Robert’s buddy, Ross, the former owner of Salsa Cycles built our custom bikes, so we were confident they’d stand up to the task. We also knew our bike fittings would help us avoid biomechanical problems down the road.
Still… 150 miles over two days, was still…150 miles over two days.
As we headed towards Salome, mile 85, I began to wane. Numbness set into my toes and fingers. My upper back ached and I couldn’t feel my bottom anymore. I’m not sure if anyone really said it, but I heard, “Keep moving forward…only a few miles to go!” Just then, I perked up because unlike others who had planned to camp out, we had reservations. Yes! A hot shower and warm bed awaited us.
The Stanford Inn was located along Route 60 and luckily there was a Café serving Mexican food right next door. Daylight was fading as fast as we were when we beelined to our room. Hunger soon took over so we skipped a proper clean up and quickly changed into jeans and headed out.
With hundreds of cyclists participating, many had the same idea so the wait was at least an hour to eat. In the meantime, we sipped margaritas and noshed on tortilla chips.
Sometime later, we gingerly found our way back across the driveway. Though my head was fuzzy, I could distinctly feel every muscle and bone in my body. I may have imagined it, but when the lights in our room went on, I thought I saw something scamper across the floor. A spider? A scorpion? A tarantula? Too tired for a shower, I went to brush my teeth. And that’s when I saw a handwritten sign taped on the bathroom mirror. I called Robert in. It read: “No Cleaning Game in the Sink”.
Sleeping in my clothes, I awoke at dawn greeted by more aches and pains and a tiredness I never knew before. I wondered how I could possibly make it through the day. My mind went into overdrive. We could call a taxi to drive us home…but what about our bikes? We could give our sponsors back their money…but then the MS Society would lose out. We could jump on the sag wagon…but what about all the training we put in? No, there was only one option.
So… many grueling hours and 65 miles later, we were nearing the end. On our last turn, a cyclist sped up and passed me. She called out, “We’re almost there…keep moving!” I looked up and saw the park entrance. There earlier finishers were lined up cheering us on. Soon after, I crossed the Finish Line, as volunteer draped a red, white and blue medal over my head. Pure exhilaration!
Today we are still living in uncertain times. For us as individuals, as families, as communities, as a nation and as a world. Now, just as decades earlier, when challenges arise, I summon up my mantra, “Keep moving forward.” Because, when you really think about it, what other choice is there?