The Pity Burger (and other signs of benevolence in the universe)

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.



5 thoughts on “The Pity Burger (and other signs of benevolence in the universe)

  1. Waynkster says:

    Every inch, every mile!

  2. Matthew says:

    You can do it! I did it in the late 80s — before the internets and the chairs of slothiness. Treat yourself to a real burger at Clyde Common after you arrive in Portland. Did you get to the big hill in Puyallup? I remember that being a challenge, as well as the last 10-15 miles of the STP ride. Still did it in under ten hours. I’ll wish for weather in the mid-60s for you and the rest of the riders that weekend…

  3. Next time, eat the burger and ask for a drink. It took me decades to learn the value of eating on long rides.

  4. dougkimster says:

    Thanks Matthew! I did get to the big hill, wasn’t much of a problem for me, I started getting into trouble on the way back. You must have been really fast! Don’t think I’m getting there in under 10 hours. And Eric, yes, I will eat the burger. Actually I’ve got a regimented intake schedule, 300 calories an hour, food and sports drinks. Didn’t stick to it on the 100-mile training ride, but I did another 75 miler on Saturday and it worked fine. Fingers crossed for Saturday…..And Wayne, yes! That’s what I’m talking about!

    • Matthew says:

      I was only 19 at the time. Hardly ate anything during the entire ride — passed out in the park across from Nordstroms under a tree after sitting down. Thankfully nobody stole my bike. My Dad found me a couple hours later and drove me back to Seattle. The back of my shirt was white with salt. I miss riding.

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