Last week I went on a training ride, a very long, 100-mile training ride. It didn’t go well. It was my first serious ride after being laid up with the flu for a week, and I think I got ahead of myself. But whatever. Up until this point, I had felt great (well, “great” is a relative term, which in this case means “feeling less severe pain than I feared”) on every tough ride I’ve tried.
Until last week, my training had been going really well. I’ve been getting stronger, faster, all that six-million-dollar man stuff. Sunday, I got schooled. I rode from my house in north Seattle to Puyallup, which for those of you, (probably the one of you), who is not from here, is a long way. With long stretches of nothing. Energy-sucking nothing.
Once in awhile, when I’m out on the trail, I run across a cyclist or two who is clearly struggling. I try to offer a word of encouragement as I zip on by. I never know whether that’s actually encouraging, or whether the guy I’m passing is like, “thanks buddy, screw you.” I choose to believe the former.
This time, it was me. About 75 miles in, I was deeply questioning the point of all this, in a kind of oxygen-deprived, red-faced, nihilistic festival of self-pity. It must have been pretty evident too, because a couple in an Acura pulled up next to me, rolled down the window and said, “Hey man, you need a burger? It’s healthy!” Yes, I was in such miserable shape that complete strangers were offering to give me their drive-thru food. The Pity Burger.
I politely declined, and at first my mental reaction was something like, “What, do I look like a charity case out here? Am I really that pathetic?” But I realize that reaction was entirely wrong-headed. Now I choose to interpret the offer as a benevolent sign from the universe.
I.e., when you are on your last dregs of energy and hope, someone, even someone completely unknown to you, might offer to give you a Pity Burger. And if this ever happens to me again, I will take it.
My aforementioned goal is to get from Seattle to Portland in one day. This ride is six days away now. After my 100-mile debacle, I had begun to have serious doubts. But how can I not make it, when the universe is going to drop cheeseburgers on me?
That, my friends, is special sauce. Portland or bust, baby.