When I found a bike ride that supported local animal shelters, it didn’t take much for me to get on board. “Ride for the Animals” offers 3 different distance options, each with a cute and clever dog name: a 62 Mile “Mastiff” Route, a 31 Mile “Labrador” Route, and a 12 Mile “Sheltie” Route. I opted for the “Mastiff” Route, which began in Highlander Park. The route took us along the scenic Gulf Coast through Clearwater Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and St. Pete Beach. With a mix of city riding, suburb riding, and plenty of bridges (ouch), this ride is definitely one for a rider with a bit more miles under their legs.
I was having a grand ole time after settling in with a group keeping a 20-22mph pace. That time came to a screeching halt when my chain popped off about 7-8 miles into the ride. Of course, someone from the group noticed I stopped and signaled to slow the pace down while someone else fell back to ensure I was okay. WRONG! The blur of jerseys caught my eye as the peloton flew by while I dismounted my bike. I knew at that moment I was out there all alone.
Like a bike mechanic on a Grand Tour, I reset my chain within seconds of dismounting all the while keeping my eye on the ever disappearing peloton. I knew that every second my legs weren’t moving meant minutes I was lagging behind them. I quickly mounted my bike to try and catch up only to learn the real reason nobody slowed the pace for me: headwind.
Over the next 25 miles I played a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Except in this game, the mouse (the peloton) was more like a raging bull plowing through red lights and the cat (me) was more like a mosquito getting swatted by the unrelenting headwind. Finally, the peloton was eventually slowed by consecutive red lights and I was able to rejoin. However, to my dismay, everybody was calmly chatting like they were off on a morning stroll while I was gasping for air after having laid down the hammer for the past 25 miles…into the headwind…over multiple bridges…alone. I thanked the Cycling Gods after realizing we were only a few miles away from the rest stop.
After replenishing my depleted reserves, we headed back for the second half with a tailwind (hallelujah) and plenty of refreshed legs to pull us in. Unfortunately, I had not fully recovered from my 25 mile highway to hell and struggled to keep up. The group was obviously hell-bent on getting back to play with adoptable puppies (how could I blame them?) and increased their pace the last few miles. This time I had the ‘ole cardiovascular system to blame for being dropped. Over the bridges and through the lights, to the finish line they went. Without me. Again. I waved goodbye and slowly watched the group pull away.
I thought it would be fine to pull back and enjoy the last couple of miles before puppy play time, but without the group to guide me and the poor race signage, I got lost. For those of you who don’t know, I rely heavily on Sarah’s great sense of direction when we travel, so without her as my compass I was just like Christopher Columbus trying to find India and had no freakin clue where I was going. I tried to remember landmarks that we passed on the way thinking that I would recognize something that could point me in the right direction, but everything seemed backwards and not at all how I remembered it. Finally I pulled out the trusty ‘ole iPhone and, like a modern day Louis and Clark, I Sacagawea’d my way to the finish line where Sarah and Chewy were happily awaiting my arrival.
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“Live to ride. Ride to live.”