There are different ways to measure “halfway there.” By distance we won’t be there until tomorrow at some point in the ride. By climbing we were probably there a couple of days ago. By days, it is today. 26 days complete, 26 to go.
I revisited my reasons for doing this for some mid-term reflection.
- I am not sure I can do it. Isn’t that the nature of a real challenge? Am I in good enough physical condition? Will I get hit by a truck? Do I have the mental stamina when I’m climbing 8,000 feet in a hard, cold rain? 8 100 mile plus days? Are there any people in that part of Nevada? In the end, the most important reason is to take on a challenge where I am not sure I can succeed. I believe I can do this, but the obstacles have been greater than I expected. I knew my right knee was my “Achilles tendon”; I should not have started the trip without the lower gearing. It has been a very long time since I had to plug away, without respite, for 52 days straight. Weather and other conditions are unpredictable.
- To raise awareness of the UWCSEA scholar program and begin raising money for a new endowed scholarship. Every one of these kids has a story; most have come from very difficult situations. To give them the gift of a UWCSEA IB education is life-changing. $125,501 has been committed — WOW! I’m very humbled by that level of support for the UWCSEA scholarship program. From this money alone one hopeful kid from somewhere in the world will graduate UWCSEA with an IB and a different life trajectory. I think about these kids just about every day I ride, and how lucky I have been to have this opportunity. Thank you.
- To have another great memory. My transition from high school to college was marked by a bicycle trip from Mexico to Canada on the California coast. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken — two good friends, a map of the Pacific Coast Highway (route 101) and a rusty old bike that broke at least 5 spokes on the trip. There are many great memories, although none quite yet match Steve Reynolds attempting to tear gas John Garman and me as we raided his food stash out of desperation on a night with no dinner option. The cartridge was a dud.
- To mark a transition to in my working life. My father hiked the Appalachian trail when he turned 55; I turned 55 this year. He retired that year; I need to think about the next stage at Bain — focusing full time on being a coach and mentor to the next generation rather than taking the hills from the front. Most of the people I am riding with are retired; some have no interest in returning to work; some long for the meaning that comes from the continuing challenges and sense of accomplishment work can provide. I feel very fortunate my employer provides the flexibility to work below full-time.
- To see America. I have lived in Asia now for 27 years; it feels important to reconnect with the US that I only hold now as images — San Francisco, the Sierra Madres, the Utah and Nevada desert, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, Indianapolis, the Appalachian Mountains, the New Hampshire coast. Definitely fulfilling this goal. At “handlebar level.”
- To put my knee injury behind me. After I shattered my patella (kneecap) in college, I never thought I could do a long bike trip again. I tried training for a triathlon and had to give up — I haven’t run since. Overcoming that injury is a major hurdle. Not clear I will succeed at this one. As Father John queried, “when ARE you going to have that knee replaced?”
- To re-learn what it takes to achieve a tough physical challenge. Tackling a tough physical goal that requires a very different kind of discipline and approach to achievement. I have never been a great athlete — I was on a team led by a terrific coach (Chuck Koeppen) that won 7 straight Indiana state championships in cross country running. But let’s be clear, I never made it to varsity. It was a really important experience to know my best was not good enough. What I am relearning is that setting the goal is 25% of the challenge, but preparation is as important as execution. My biggest regret is not doing a week “trial” about a year ago to really wrap my head around what this would take. But I did 80% of what is ideal, and that should be enough.
- To become a better cyclist. On my last race (the D2R2 in Massachusetts/ Vermont/ New York), which was a 145 kilometer mountain race (some trail, some dirt road, some paved road with almost 10,000 feet of climbing) I barely made it, and my old cycling mates couldn’t believe how pathetic my condition was. I had to walk part of several hills. Definitely seeing improvement here — in physical condition, in technique, in equipment, in mindset.
- To make some new friends. Many people ask “who are you riding with?” The honest answer is I don’t know. I just found a group on the internet that organizes tours and signed up. They seem very professional. About 12 people are going. Definitely. And very different people than I am used to spending time with. Our organizers have commented that this is one of the most cohesive groups they have worked with. There is significant interaction between all members of the group.
- To not fall off of my bicycle. Literally and metaphorically, so far so good.
Day 26 Ride Summary (Great Bend KS to McPherson KS: I listened to five songs with “halfway” in the title or lyrics, and the winner is Sheryl Crow’s Halfway There (2017).
Song of the Day: I listened to five songs with “halfway” in the title or lyrics, and the winner is Sheryl Crow’s Halfway There. (2017).