Our merry group continued toward our lunchtime destination after stopping at Modest Town Church (mile 33) where the dreaded Fig Newtons invited me for a test taste... my second since the first grade which I remember as tasking god-awful. I will share that they do not taste any better than when I was 6. Yuck.
We continued and it was now that the wind appeared. I knew it was forecast but I held hope that the wind gods would see us below, see us making good hard effort and save us the agony that they could very well inflict. They did no such saving... wind howled in the leaves above, across the fields and always directly on our faces. Knowing that over 50 miles lay ahead does not a happy biker make. Here's a shot of Joel (and Jocelyn) adjusting his seat once more in preparation for dropping us a little later. This is also when I began to become a bit delirious and thought the warm pavement looked soft and inviting... ahh to lay in the middle of the road and take just a short nap -- wasn't to be however.
Our speed plummeted as we began to grunt out loud seeing our speed fall from 18+ mph to barely over 12. Disheartening but looking over at the others riding behind me... I wasn't in this alone and that made all the difference. Joel took his turn at the front as well as Jocelyn and I tried to make myself as small as possible behind them in order to hide from the wind. But while it might certainly have been easier drafting, I know that their friendship made more of the difference.
After lamenting that perhaps we had missed our lunch stop somehow and thinking "wouldn't that just be completely horrific and I don't know if I can go on" we saw the lunch signs. As we pulled up to the Garden and Sea Inn (mile 54) we found a merry bunch sprawled on the grass eating, smiling, laughing and commiserating on what had already been accomplished that day.
Lunch, by the way, consisted of many things that Bicycling Magazine's editors caution against. There were sandwich fixins, soda, chips and even brownies. All these (again according to the experts) consumed would make demands on our bodies to spend energy on digestion versus towards the legs which of course were responsible for that very important forward motion.
Ha! I laughed at the experts -- actually I didn't but there was no other lunch option so... of course I consumed. Heck, I deserved it.. I had made it half way to 100.
I did however leave the brownies to others, ate the fixins because I saw others with more expensive clothes and bikes eating them so it must be ok, and decided a banana for dessert would keep the magazine editors happy. The Coca-Cola did taste exceptionally good.
Before leaving stretching was called for and abruptly stopped as a pain I had yet to ever experience reared its ugly head as I tried to pull the stiffness from my legs. So much for stretching -- more of that professional advice ignored.
As we rolled out over oyster shells and out toward our next rest stop 17 miles away we decided to think only of immediate goals... that next rest stop. The idea of finishing would be put on temporary hold -- we would think of it after our last rest stop. I thought this prudent and wise. Small steps as we rolled slowly forward.
So it was about 10 miles later that I thought maybe those editors knew what they were advising us amateurs about. I felt ill. Like I'm gonna throw up all over myself ill. Maybe it was that sandwich, that Coke, that banana. Or maybe it was because we were at mile 67. Or perhaps the smell of chicken farms we had inhaled all day (there are A LOT of chicken farms on the Eastern Shore) -- their smell is a very close second, in my opinion, to the smell of pig farms. Nothing like pulling over and scaring your biking buddies by vomiting all over yourself... thank god I did no such thing.
The route had taken us toward Saxis Island and we were surrounded on both sides of the road by marsh grasses and inlets off the Chesapeake Bay. And a crab shack too.
Yes, the wind was still with us and the legs were aching. At mile 72 the road ended at the Saxis Volunteer Firehouse where water and a friendly collection of we're-almost-done riders sat in the sunshine and were fed upon by marsh flies.
Here's Joel and I excited that we just might make it to the finish as we sat in front of the fire station.
Great guy that Joel. Same Joel who said I was nuts for thinking up the idea of doing a century together. Same Joel that I claim has had plastic calf implants because they are so intimidating as I try to keep up with him (I shared this out loud with Jocelyn who I think might have thought me serious for a fraction of a second). Same Joel that I screamed at from behind to slow down because my legs would not cooperate and keep up with his legs pumping out an impressive speed. Good man. Oh, here's the pic.
Brad pulled in shortly after we did. Having pulled off his windbreaker to reveal an Oregon Porter Beer Jersey led to conversation about Bend, Oregon which led to converations about my being in the state for graduate school which led to his sharing that he was a diabetic. I caught a glimpse of him testing his blood sugar as he shared that he needed to rest a while to allow his body to recover after consuming Hammer Gel.
Now here's a guy who knows that his body processes sugars differently than you and I, he knows that he will slowly tire and be unable to keep pace, and he is out here with us facing his challenges head on. And not his first century. Inspiring.
We had 21 miles to our next stop. Buoyed by Brad's story we knew we were now closing in on the end. When we hit 80 miles, we cheered. When we hit 90, the cheer was louder. We were going to make it. Here's a shot of Hills Farm that Will had taken earlier in the day when he was there with Lynn. A beautiful farm with a long tree covered driveway that made us wonder whether we were being led to some horrific-well-planned Halloween slaughter (delirious again obviously). Will's pic:
After some Gatorade we safely left and those last 7 miles back to Onancock were quick. We were pulled like my horse used to be pull me back to the barn whenever we left the paddock.
The wind had apparently decided to leave us alone and we all took turns at the front pulling as hard as we dared. At one point, after some good-natured prodding, Joel took off at a rate of 26 mph while I tried to keep up.
All three of us passed by the Onancock town limits sign with a joyous yell and arrived at the finish where we left eight and a quarter hours earlier (that so sounds painful). It was fantastic seeing Will and Lynn waiting for us with cameras clicking. All of us with wide smiles on our faces and hugs to go all around.
Success made sweeter by the fact that we were surrounded by friends. Here we are rolling in (that's me in the white helmet).