On Saturday, I participated in The Rodman Ride for Kids, a 100 mile charity ride for team Big Brother Big Sister of Mass Bay. Usually being the one with the camera I rarely have my photo taken with my daughters and sometimes wish I could be the President of The United States, just for a day, so I could have a photographer following me around. There are so many moments when my daughters and I are in the middle of something and I think outside of that moment and say "gee wouldn't it be nice if someone took a picture of this..." Well on Saturday, I got that wish and my wife Jennifer brilliantly captured the very raw emotion I was feeling at that very moment in time (well actually I recreated the moment for her to take the picture, but still...).
Lining up for the ride at 7am, the sun was just breaking through the clouds and everyone was feeling very positive. About one mile into the ride, the skies went black and it down poured for the next 15 miles. It's interesting how mentally one gets past that very quickly, I guess you have to, it's the 3 hours later and the wind hits you at just the right angle and you are reminded that your socks are soaking wet:( I generally take about 15 miles to get settled, then once I've calmed myself and set a pace I switch the bike computer display from miles to average speed. I've learned that counting miles for the first 50 or so miles is detrimental. Concentrating on my average and current speeds keeps me focused on something positive (one tends to ride the first half faster than the second half). Then at mile 63, I made a mistake and caught a pothole and one of the spokes on my front wheel bent and I had to stop very quickly or it might have jammed and caused the bike to flip... After pulling the spoke out, I told myself I could survive on the other 23 spokes, but when I spun the wheel it wavered enough to make me second guess that idea. Then out of the grey came one of the many volunteer road side mechanics. He took the tire and tube off of the wheel and tried to find a replacement spoke that would fit. None of them did, yet he never seemed to get upset or frustrated. He said hold on, and he went to the front of his vehicle and pulled out a brown bag and said, I picked this up last night just in case. It was a universal bike spoke replacement kit, basically a string and tension nut and bolt configeration. I was so impressed with his commitment that I forgot all about being wet, or being frustrated with what had happened. I started out again, hit the 74 mile water stop and several riders who had passed me, wanted to see what had happened. From mile 75 until mile 88 (the next and last water stop) I started to question my sanity, started signing "this land is your land, this land is my land" and started having deep philosophical conversations with myself. It is during this time that everything starts to hurt, you loose your legs and your neck feels like someone is slowly pushing a butter knife into it. You talk yourself into accepting a lower than expected average speed and if someone came by and offered a ride, I probably would have taken it:) Along the route at each water stop and certain intersections, there is a group of volunteers with cow bells, cheering you on. It's at the last water stop that you need this, you want it and it makes you smile. I've done half a dozen centuries, and I don't know how to explain it, but roughly just after the last water stop (usually 10-15 miles to go) something changes in me. I stop feeling pain or discomfort, and I can literally see the finish line in my mind, and I know I can do it... The last 5 miles, I had pictured in my head the shot I wanted taken at the finish line, I knew how excited Isabella had been about this and how emotional I would be when I saw her. As I came around the last turn, I saw the finish line and then there was Jennifer and Isabella, I yelled Isabella's name and I heard her say, Daddy... that's Daddy...
After crossing the finish line, I turned around, and headed towards them, as Isabella was racing towards me. I got off the bike, and scooped her up and she gave me one of the best hugs ever! I gave Jennifer my iPhone, and said I'm going to walk over there, when you see me hugging Isabella make sure the finish banner is over my head and please take our picture. Jennifer captured everything that that moment meant to me and I will always cherish this photo.
Michael J. Lee