I tried to sit down to write this a bit ago, but had to walk away from the laptop because I was crying. I had no idea the tears were coming, or that I felt this strongly about an upcoming ludicrous ride. I’m an expert at ignoring my feeling despite my efforts to be more in tune with myself. Before you get worried, I should tell you that these are GOOD tears, I promise.
I have an upcoming crazy / stupid / bad idea ride coming up. It’s one of those rides that makes people pause and say “wait, you’re doing WHAT?!” and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ll get to the ride details in a bit, but first I want to talk about where I was about a year ago.
June 28 is the one year anniversary of my lumbar spinal fusion. I had spondylolisthesis, or for the laymen, a broken / slipping vertebrae that was pinching nerves. At the end it was causing me to fall down stairs. The short story is it’s a birth defect and for my personal situation, the only way to preserve function in my lower legs was stabilization via surgery. Two surgeons made incisions in my abdomen and back, bracing the spine with metal and bone graft from the front AND the back. The surgeon went with the more extensive, invasive procedure because he respected my wishes to get back to all day cycling and knew I would be “hard on it.” I still smirk when I think about this conversation, and god bless him for paying attention to my bullheadedness.
Recovery was a challenging journey all its own, and you can read through my posts related to “spine issues” if you’d like. Today I just want to mention my 6 week post-op visit, the pivotal one where I was granted permission to bike outdoors again.
“Don’t Do Anything Stupid”
During my 6 week check up, the Physician’s Assistant doing the exam, also a cyclist, paused and noticed the shirt I was wearing. “Oh, did you do the Lutsen 99er?” he asked. “Yes, I did.” He then asked “How long did it take you?” I said “I don’t know, about 7 hours.” To make myself feel better about my destroyed body I threw in an offhand comment and quipped “Oh, and I won the women’s fatbike division.” He looked shocked (I don’t look all that athletic in street clothes .. I’m kind of a lump) and then said “Do NOT do anything stupid like that for AT LEAST a year. Ok?!” “Ok, fine …” I muttered.
I left feeling a little defeated. He had crushed my dreams of conquering spring and summer offroad ultras with a single sentence. His words rang true though. I am still very much struggling to ride off-road for more than an hour at a time. I have been fiercely dreaming about doing “long stuff” on pavement, and I’m on the cusp of receiving my consolation prize.
Over the last year I was a good little patient, or at least I was a good patient for ME. Hours of boring physical therapy and respecting my body and taking breaks when I didn’t want to have all paid off. I’ve focused relentlessly on gradually building and testing my body. In just over a week from now, it will all come together — or so I hope.
Hatching the Idea
Since shortly after we met and before I had even done my first century, my boyfriend has spent the last 5 years been goading me to ride across Iowa in less than 24 hours. I did so in 2016 but went “the short way”, logging only 256 miles that day. I enjoy doing things that are slightly nonsensical, like riding 62 miles or a 100K on my handbike, so teasing me about shenanigans like this is kind of our thing.
After a great year of riding in 2016, I thought 2017 would be my year to tick off this goal. The aforementioned spine surgery got in the way, and I’ve been dreaming fervently about doing this ride ever since. If you run your mouth about your aspirations enough, you just may be put in touch with other crazy individuals. I’ll attempt this ride with a group of seasoned veterans, a group who has conquered this route every other year for many years running.
We’ll depart Canton, South Dakota in the wee hours on Saturday, June 30 — almost exactly one year since my fusion. We have to maintain an overall pace of 12.5 mph to get 298 miles done in just 24 hours. The route is coming together. I’ve been told we’ll have a follow car. I’ve also spent the last few weeks carefully reconfirming everything I think I know about long distance rides. I’m accepting that I may not “make it”, and have a long series of B, C, D, and E goals should I not meet my A goal. If you’re on the route, or could be on the route, this group welcomes folks to join us and help take a few pulls to ease our pain.
If there’s a chance you’ll be in the area and want to ride with us, let me know! Company welcome, especially if I get dropped and am carrying on solo.