The last miles on the Burke-Gilman bike trail are always a benign kind of torture. Our final rest stop at Blythe Park was behind us, and the distance to our finish line at Magnuson ticked off in agonizingly slow increments: Ninety-two-point-four. Ninety-two-point-five. Ninety-two-point-six.
Our group of eight bicyclists pedaled along in steady silence except for an occasional leaden shout of “Walker Up!” or “Post!” I knew each of my biking compadres was “embracing the suck” in their own private way so I kept my misery to myself: my sitz bones felt like they were perched on roofing nails; my feet had long ago ceased to exist; and my last carbs had been metabolized into nothingness.
Ninety-three-point-six. Ninety three-point-seven. Ninety-three-point-eight.
Even though I was exhausted, I was elated. The sun was low and golden on Lake Washington to our left. The bike trail was oddly vacant for a late Saturday afternoon except for long shadows and a few joggers. I knew I was getting closer to my chocolate-milk-and-coffee mixture, along with bragging rights to my first hundred-mile bike ride of the year. I had no choice but to keep the gams moving in the circular motion I had maintained since that morning. After all, you can’t brag on Facebook about riding almost one hundred miles.
Ninety-four-point-seven. Ninety-four-point-eight. Ninety-four-point-nine.
I was the third biker from the leader and was relieved to not be struggling in the back of the pack, getting dropped for a solitary finish. My pal Bill was in front of me—I’d encountered him many times out biking on the road, but this was the first time we had completed a ride together. To break the monotony, I joked that this was the most I’d seen of his backside for any length of time. Behind me, my friend Suzi was keeping pace on her bicycle. The three of us shared a fellowship outside of biking, and I had enthusiastically recruited Bill and Suzi to join me in the bike training series with the sales pitch, “If you want to learn about your character defects, ride your bike long distances in a group of strangers. No really, it’s a blast!” Now here we were, finishing together at the end of a century bike ride.
Ninety-six-point-seven. Ninety-six-point-eight. Ninety-six-point-nine.
Even though the ride started early this morning, the journey to this point really began several years earlier. The first summer I was in Seattle, I had my Red Bike shipped out and reassembled here. I rode it a couple of times but it was doomed to yet another flat tire and more storage in the basement. In the summer of 2008, Carolyn and I fixed up our bikes and went riding a couple of times—we even ventured the entire five miles to the UW!
Finally in 2013, the biking gods smiled on my poor Red Bike in the form of a Groupon deal for mobile bike repair. The van pulled into the driveway, the repair guy set up his tools, and my Red Bike was resuscitated on a gloriously sunny spring day. For an extra handful of dollars, I had Carolyn’s bike tuned up as well. We immediately set out for a bike ride and it was magical.
This was the beginning of a new phase of bicycling adventures for us. On our bikes, we experienced a renewed feeling of youthful freedom. Through the spring we explored our area, gradually expanding our turf until it included Elliot Bay, West Seattle, and Lake Washington. Biking was also the missing link in my lifelong desire to do a triathlon and I signed up for one immediately (and quickly learned in training seminars how out-classed my poor Red Bike was by the real racing bikes.) We started perusing bike shops and although Carolyn proclaimed that she’d never want to ride anything but her purple mountain bike, the lure of carbon frames and zippy road bikes soon took hold.
In June, we found a Specialized Dolce aluminum-frame road bike advertised on Craigslist and made the drive to Ellensburg with six crisp hundred-dollar bills in our pocket.
One month later Carolyn found an identical Dolce on Craigslist and drove home from Puyallup with the road bike in the back of her Subaru. Although they were far from the fanciest bikes on the road, it was still quite a process to learn how to ride them and customize them to our needs.
Since the summer of 2013, we have ridden these bikes on trips in several states and over many miles, including the Seattle-to-Portland ride in 2015, two MS Bike Idaho rides and two years of the Cascade Training Series. I also tricked out my Red Bike to use for errands and short jaunts around town whenever possible—I wanted to “put my money where my mouth is” instead of complaining about the awful Seattle traffic. Our bikes have introduced us to a vibrant fitness community and we’ve made many like-minded bicycling friends.
Ninety-nine-point-six. Ninety-nine-point-seven. Ninety-nine-point-eight.
The group of bikers made a left turn off the Burke-Gilman and coasted down 65th in the bike lane towards Magnuson Park. We sat waiting for the light to change and talking with excitement about finishing our ride. I checked my Garmin once again: Ninety-nine-point-nine. Someone shouted “Rolling!” and we rode into the park. As we cruised down the hill towards the Cascade Bicycle Club where we’d started pedaling ten hours earlier, I took another look at my mileage. Finally. One hundred…point one!