The concept: Mark the two-year anniversary of my weight loss by riding 1 mile for every pound.
Ninety miles in nine hours. Three times farther than I've ever peddled a bike in my life. It's a variation on last year's theme, when my sister and I ran 90 miles in nine days — and a meaningful reminder of how much work that original project required.
Trouble is, in my scramble to get a sick kid to Grandma's, I made a quick stop for provisions without realizing what we really needed was gas.
Now, on an unscheduled stop just 6 miles in to fuel up the support vehicle, Traci fields a call from another sick kid while I get my husband's take on a dental crisis: A chunk of molar that apparently broke off during breakfast. Thinking it was a piece of nut shell, I threw it away before I realized what it was.
Should we call this whole thing off?
It doesn't really hurt, though. It's more of a queasiness issue. And so, while Traci calls Grandma to fetch her ailing daughter, I decide to pretend this tooth incident hasn't happened yet. If it occurred later in the trip, say, after my dentist's office closed up early for the weekend, we'd have no choice but to press on, right?
So we do, already drastically behind schedule.
It's still dark, just 29 degrees, a much stiffer wind than expected. Our toes ache. This must be why real cyclists wear those funny little shoe covers.
“We can't possibly get frostbite from this, can we?” I ask.
We flag down the van. I confiscate my dad's socks, while Traci pulls gloves over her toes. Anybody who passes us on the way to Zanesville is going to think she's got claws.
This route Dad made up reminds us of rural trick-or-treating. Who knew you could burn up 90 miles meandering around childhood terrain? But Zanesville has no public restrooms at this hour, so we zig-zag toward Ossian instead, battling the wind in smaller doses.
As we pull into the Marathon station, Dad tells us we're a third of the way done. The bad news: The next segment takes us straight into the wind.
But Traci, whose mountain bike forces her to peddle much harder to keep up with my road bike, refuses.
“It just takes too much out of me,” she says. “It's not worth it for just 3 miles.”
Dad knows better than to argue with her, so we head east into Adams County while he plots a course adjustment to get us over the St. Marys River.
Eventually we cross U.S. 27. Now, for the first time, I'm on an unfamiliar road. It's hilly. Traci's grumpiness returns.
“I think it's about time we turned this into a relay,” she says.
We're at mile 49 when Dad takes over Traci's bike. Soon we can say there's only 30-some miles to go. Finally, we get to the Ohio border and turn south.
“Hey,” says Dad, giddy as a 10-year-old, “ride over on this side of the road so you can say you're in Ohio!”
I roll my eyes. We need to find a restroom. But Pleasant Mills, it turns out, has only one store, a bait shop, and it's closed. So we peddle toward Monroe, into an indirect but intensifying wind. Dad tries to draft behind the van. I just put my head down and ride, thinking how long can this possibly take?
We're only going about 6 mph now, a definite low point. Dad gives up on drafting and grabs hold of the van window, letting it pull him along for a while.
“See that grain elevator over there?” he says. “That's right across from the convenience store in Monroe.”
Eventually we arrive. Seventy miles down, 20 to go. I hurt all over, but nothing is debilitating.
“I can do this,” I think as I wait for the restroom to open up. It's being cleaned. I'd be freaking out about this, except in my fuzzy state I somehow believe we've already blown our deadline. Later, I'll realize I've confused our goal time with the time I was hoping to be done.
Twenty-five minutes later Traci and I are riding toward Berne. We're really flying with the wind at our back, but as far as I know it's just a question of finishing now. That, and another course deviation to avoid the wind.
Instead of riding back to our Wells County starting point, we decide to turn the 1-mile Swiss Days Race course into a mini-marathon. Thirteen laps, then a short ride to our revised finish line at the Berne clock tower.
On Lap 10, Dad informs us we're still short on mileage. The race course has a 1-block overlap we failed to account for. Grudgingly, we peddle an extra half lap before heading to the finish line.
“Well, you did it!” Dad says. Only now do I realize my mistake. We missed our goal by a mere 9 minutes.
So, was it worth it?
I think so. I'd much rather confront 90 miles than 90 pounds. This reminds me to identify patterns in life that hold me back and create new ones in their place.
Now, tired as we are, anything seems possible. And that's the best reward of all.