As our cycling editor once told me, "You're a bike rider, not yet a cyclist."
For a man who subscribes to VeloNews, watches every stage of the Tour de France (yes, even post-Armstrong) and on occasion rides his bike to work (when weather permits), this blunt talk isn't so easy to stomach.
While I fancy myself tackling long climbs like Nairo Quintana—similar to how my 7-year-old self dreamed of dunking from the free throw line like Michael Jordan—I still think chamois should be pronounced "shamwah," I'm bashful about the way my thin quads look in a cycling kit, and I fear traversing cracked and damaged roads on anything less than 28mm tires.
I'm a wannabe, cycling-curious, a pedaling postulant (not clipless, mind you)—however you want to put it, I have yet to earn my wings as an official roadie.
But before I gain acceptance into the world of legitimate cyclists, I understand that I must first earn a stripe or two. Buying a road bike with drop bars would be a great first step, and clipping in would be another—hell, from there I'm halfway to getting a "Shut Up Legs" tattoo.
But the ultimate glory for everyday roadies lies in the century ride—100 miles of pedaling a two-wheeled steed in a single day. So, naturally, I've scoured the Internet and, mostly on the advice of my editors, registered for the most difficult single-day road race west of the Mississippi: the Hotter'N Hell 100.
For those who don't already know, Hotter'N Hell is a 100-mile bike ride that takes place in late August...in Texas. And for those who have yet to pick up on the aptness of the ride's name, or are used to beautiful summers in the Pacific Northwest and unaware of Texas' woeful weather, well, we don't need a meteorologist to tell us August 27 will be a hot day. Very hot.
At my current level of fitness, I find completing this ride borderline impossible and a purposeful act of torment on the part of the organizers. I mean, did Vlad the Impaler invent this ride on his deathbed as his final act of torture? Surely tackling this ride will catapult me to the official status of "cyclist," right?
But the scorching forecast remains only part of the problem. My skinny legs have also never pedaled anything close to 100 miles on two wheels, and I'm unfit to even join a weekend group ride with my current apathy toward exercising.
To put it bluntly, I am utterly out of shape, naive and, if I weren't 29 with a slender genetic makeup, I'd undoubtedly have some serious cardiovascular issues.
So, after registering for this race online—giving me seven months to train—I called my family as if I was making a decision to enlist in the Marine Corps. Yes, you could say I'm a little nervous.
I'll keep you updated every step of the way, through my grueling training schedule, road-rashed elbows, sore posterior and other maladies I can only imagine.
In the meantime, I will make sure my life insurance and final will are all in order—an overreaction, I know—and start my long journey toward becoming what I've always wanted to be: a cyclist.
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