Big Goals, Big Eyelashes

This weekend was the Solvang Century and Half Century. It was my first half-century ride. I wondered if I was ready for this race. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this place.

At every turn, I found myself torn between being a budding triathlete or a tourist. You see, I have my father’s shutterbug gene. Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent with my dad in his makeshift darkroom, watching pictures come to life. In college, I spent a semester abroad with my roommate, a photojournalism major, documenting our adventures. My sister and brother-in-law have stopped taking pictures of their kids. Why bother when auntie shows up at violin concerts, baseball games and golf tournaments looking like a member of the press corp?

So, since this Solvang Half Century was officially a ride, not a race, I felt compelled to stop…when I saw my first bull, a gorgeous spread of fruit trees…and an ostrich of all things.

People would zoom past me while I tried to get the zoom lens to work on my cell phone camera. But then my 12-year old competitive instincts would kick in, and I zoomed right past them again…until the next photo op.

I was a bit apprehensive about the hills in Solvang. Especially after the previous two weekends of getting my butt kicked by vertical climbs. Last weekend in Temecula was not the confidence booster I had hoped for — my bike went back on the roof rack after 25 minutes of climbing 1,600+ feet in 35-knot winds. I was toast. No doubt a bit fatigued from the Great Silverado fiasco/foot race.

I started the day a little worried. I’ve never ridden 50 miles before. Was Solvang as hilly as I’d heard? Would I be able to keep pace with my friend’s husband Gary? I didn’t want to hold him back. And I definitely didn’t want to bonk like I did in Temecula.

But the weather was gorgeous. It was windy in places, but not enough to ruin my day. I felt like I was on a vacation because the scenery was so different — and that helped me relax. At one point, it smelled like steamed vegetables. Gary pointed out a huge cabbage patch on the left. No wonder it smelled like a boiled dinner. The hills on the half-century route were mostly the long, gradual kind — not the short, spanking, maybe-you-should-dismount-your-bike-ya’-weenie kind.

And after those long, gradual hills came the long, rambling descents. Wu-hoooooo! I love my new aero bars. I watched my arms gently vibrate in the tuck position as the speedometer climbed from 33.6 to 38.1 to 40 to 42.5 mph. I’ve never gone that fast in my life. What a rush. What a thrill. As we approached town, I felt like I came to the end of an E-ticket ride. It was time to make the final climb to the finish line.

When I crossed the banner, I looked down to discover I’d only gone 48.73 miles. What? I didn’t bike all that way to go less than a half century. Gary humored me and waited while I rode around the neighborhood three times to get the exact distance. Total time: 3:18:54.

Then I asked, “Can we please stop at the Ostrich farm?” After we loaded up the truck, we made a detour to see those weird beasts. We even had a chance to feed them. We were told, “Be sure to slide the food forward, so they don’t strain their necks.” I let Gary go first. He tried to be gentle with them, but they practically attacked him to get the food out of the bowl. It was the sort of aggressive behavior that reminded me of the bridal sale at Filene’s Basement.

Then it was time to feed us. We found a nice restaurant in town called a Bit O’ Denmark that served up a hearty, hot meal. It also gave me a chance to take one last picture of a windmill down the street.

The three-hour ride home was filled with endorphins and introspection. It was just a gorgeous day, looking out the window at the Pacific blue and listening to the blues. “Even though I felt like I could’ve gone a bit further, I couldn’t fathom running a half marathon afterwards,” I told Gary. We talked about it some more on the way home. By the time we reached our exit, my response changed, “Well, maybe….”

Magazines left: 11
New ones: 5