Friday, August 8, 2008

Are we there yet?

As KT noted in an earlier post, we recently did the London-Cambridge bike ride. I was in surprisingly decent shape the next day but became much sorer the days after--likely due to sitting around the office. The ride was probably the hardest physical challenge I've undertaken, although playing a summer soccer game in DC's 100 degree, 100% humidity exhausted me and left me delirious in a much shorter time. In case you're interested, some kind person charted the course on a biking site--I've embedded a version of the map below, but if you look at the original map you can also chart the elevation (click the tab for "Show" and pick "elevation profile"). First, the map makes clear the 50 mile ride we expected, which became a 55 mile ride, was actually 58 mile. Throw in the rides to train stations, starting line: 60! And as the elevation chart makes clear, it wasn't flat. We steadily rose throughout the first half of the route, eventually ending up almost 400 feet above the starting elevation. Not much of a climb for Tour de France riders, but enough to get us walking up a few of the steeper hills.

The day was sunny and hot for England--low 80s--so that added to the challenge. I must admit, there were several points where I didn't think we would finish the ride. We stopped at all the rest stops, many of which were located at pubs, and made sure to drink enough liquids--water, not beer! Okay, we actually did stop for lunch about halfway at a pub and perhaps had a pint. Yea, that's the reason we took so long to finish--not because I was so slow!

We fortunately had no flats or major mishaps, though others did. One woman took a tumble off her bike trying to avoid a car towing a boat. We helped clean up her scrapes and calm her down. She soon sped ahead us and likely beat us by hours to the finish line. Another woman cracked her old bike's frame in half straining up a hill--she too finished before us, but because she hitched a ride on the race marshall's van.

Toward the end, we clustered with a small group of similarly slow riders. At the last pub stop, we talked to some of them and learned one was a microbiologist at a nearby lab. She was excited to get our cards. One can't avoid science in Cambridge.

As we entered downtown Cambridge, one of my legs started to cramp up. I had the agonizing thought that I would have to stop mere yards from the finish line. But I couldn't allow that to happen, could I? Of course not.

KT has put together a photoalbum of the ride, including my favorite picture of the guys who did the bike ride in pink tutus:

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