Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Crepuscular Dawn

April, 2001, after 11 years of living with acute and chronic back pain and on the cusp of disability because of unrelenting back disease, I asked Deb, my physical therapist, when she thought I might be able to do something physical again.

Her response was classic: "Well, Susan, what did you have in mind? Let me remind you that your current rehab goal is to be able to roll over in bed." 

"I know", I said, "but I think I might be able to ride a recumbent bike." 

Now, I have no idea where I came up with that idea because I don't remember ever even seeing such a thing. 

But Deb was wise.  She didn't roll her eyes or laugh, or poo-poo my idea in any way. She simply said, "You get the bike and we'll figure out how to get you on it."

In less than a month I had bought my first recumbent (now on about my 5th), crashed it on my maiden ride resulting in a broken jaw, several broken teeth, broken wrist, and lots of lacerations, all without hitting anything or being hit by anything or anyone.

Thirteen years and 135,000 cycling miles later, April 1, 2014 age 68-1/2 after that inauspicious first ride, I found myself alongside Eagle Eye Road, a deserted desert road 5 miles south of Aguila, AZ about to begin my 2nd official attempt of completing 200 miles in 12 hours, a "bucket list" goal.

This 200/12 idea has been percolating since May 2011 when I completed 186 miles in 11:30 at Calvin's Challenge, a 12-hr Challenge ride in Springfield, OH. That had been my goal that day: a 300k (186 miles) in 12:00 or less. I stopped riding when I reached my goal. It was only later that that I began the mental calculations, both mathematical and logistical, of what it would take to successfully complete a 200/12. 

In the crepuscular scrim before sunrise, my husband Kirk, my friend Dan Fallon, and I busied ourselves with disgorging and gorging our respective vehicles of bikes and supplies. Kirk would deposit Dan's Subaru at the intersection of Eagle Eye and Salome and would then ride his own bike back to our vehicle left just under the Eagle's Eye. He would spend his day in Wickenburg while I hammered out solo miles and Dan served as my domestique. 

My first 50 miles were completed in 2.5 hrs, my second 50 in 3.0 hrs for an average elapsed speed of 18.18, two mph ahead of the minimum I would need to have a successful 200/12 completion.

All I had to do was ride and enjoy the faces and memories of so many who have been a part of my being able to be on this road on this day: Kirk who has supported my spirit and passion through it all for nearly 45 years of marriage; family who have encouraged me even if they aren't riders themselves; bent riders and upright riders who have pushed and pulled me through the miles; bike mechanics who have taught me self-sufficiency; PAC Tour who has helped me develop as a cyclist and provided me with the vision of things beyond my imagination a few years ago including completion of two transcontinental rides in my 60's, body workers and therapists who gave me hope that physical recovery was possible when I had lost all hope. 

By the time I began my 2nd hundred miles tumbleweed was flying across the road in front me and I either listed at a 15 degree angle or nearly ground to a halt in the head wind. 

With 135 miles completed I had only 4 hrs and 16 minutes left in my 12 hrs to complete the remaining 65 miles. Those were numbers outside my realm of capability. 

I rolled up alongside Dan's vehicle and said: "I'm done. I can't ride 65 miles in just over 4 hours." Would have been very doable with normal winds, but today's wind was not supportive of my efforts.

We loaded my bike in Dan's car and headed back to Aquila to meet Kirk. Dan got up at 3:15 that morning, April 1, to drive from Prescott, AZ to our rendezvous spot on Eagle Eye Road. We got up at 3:30 that morning to drive from Wickenburg to that same rendezvous spot.

I know I'll be back to Eagle Eye/Salome to vanquish the 200/12. Who knows, I might bring some other 200/12 hopefuls with me and we'll make it a party!