It was a weird week leading up to the Felasco Ice swim. I stressed about clothing. I stressed about my bike. The one thing I usually stress about(fitness) wasn't even on my mind. I had done my home work and the extra credit. The only thing I feared was the stuff beyond my control, like the ability to fix a bike. I had been driving Pete nuts with my bike for a week. It hadn't been shifting well, and we decided a new cassette and chain would be the fix. Pete squeezed me in at the eleventh hour, and started hitting my bike with metal objects.
Thursday evening Jim was in the best pre-trip mood of his life and asked me to ride with him. HUGE MISTAKE! Four feet into the Fern trail my bike was stammering and skipping like the tractor on Green Acres. I made it much better by complaining for every inch of the hour and a half ride. Jim offered to buy me a new bike if I promised to never contact him again.
Friday morning I took the bike back to Pete. He did his best but, we needed a five bolt chain ring. I called everyone in the cycling universe, and came up snake eyes. Pete gave me the shrug and hug of a doctor that has done all he could do for a terminal patient. Big Jim and I spent the rest of the day buying up all the cold weather gear in the county in what must have looked like a Benny Hill montage. We arrived at the jump off point, and as quick as you can say "enjoy your first class ticket on the Titanic!" we were on our way.
Friday night was the usual dinner and debauchery in G-ville. Some of us (I am not saying who, but definitely not me) got as poo-faced as Irish soccer fans and the following events took place:
1. Darnell got a tooth chipped by Frog Legs, because apparently you can't slam a beer can into a guys mouth without causing some dental disharmony.
2. Silk turned into a story teller with Alzheimer's and repeated the last word of every sentence.
3. Long Shanks became an amateur prison warden, forcing everyone to drink, as he guarded the door and randomly "checked the oil" of anyone he felt wasn't up to specs.
4. Spanish Mackerel proved he is funnier (without effort) than anyone.
5. Frog Legs tells great stories (with endings ...sorry Silk) and has the ability to make small amounts of urine escape, during laughter induced asthma attacks.
There is video evidence out there, and unless we drain our home equity, it will be available on Facebook and Youtube.
The actual ride: how should I start? Dear God it was cold. Shackleton cold. Hitler cold. My prom date cold! For the first segment we went at a pace that I will just describe as; conversational. Like sitting on a couch at the Airport conversational. Slower than Forrest Gump conversational. Really F#!^*#!g slow! That didn't stop Darnell (tongue checking his tooth every two nanoseconds) from red lining his heart rate. He was the first guy to jump out of the life boat and drink sea water. Worm tried to talk him down but after he started mumbling about dancing with hippos, Worm let go of his hand and we watched him drift away. Dan was leading the snail charge and one by one, we passed and split up.
My bike was an unbearable symphony of pots and pans falling down stairs, and the only thing that worked was the big ring. I rolled out of stop two first and rode alone, fearing my mood would ruin the day.
We all reconvened at lunch. Dan had to meet the family at an undisclosed location and absolutely could not do the whole fifty (ya know cause he has kids and stuff). Big Jim and Frog Legs were frozen solid. Worm was mugging old ladies and putting on their shirts. I was praying to all that was holy, that someone higher up the food chain would bail out and give me a dignified reason to leave this parade of zombies. Darien, did agree to bail (in a new cold induced language he invented that sounded like a cross between Cindy Brady and a Wookie) but since he just had a baby and all, he didn't fit the bill. I needed a guy I could point to and say: "Look he's a bad ass and he's quitting...I am too!" No one came to my aid and Worm and I headed out first.
Worm was in the hate cave, and I had already remodeled my hate cave twice, when we got to the power line climb. It is the hardest climb of the day, and it is ten minutes after lunch. My chain was dancing like a Chinese dragon in a festival. Worm realized why I had been so non communicative all day. Nothing relieves ones misery like seeing a less fortunate slob. Worm was all jokes and chuckles up the hill as I attacked it in my granny gear, in the big cog (the only gear that worked up hill). At the top we remembered we were friends and rode together for the next leg. We supported each other. I waited for him a few times to pee, and to take banned substances. I knew when my time of need arrived he'd do the same for me....unless Frog legs caught us (which he did) and then Worm forgot he knew me and rode away like Clint Eastwood during the credits.....excuse me while I clear my throat....
The last leg was the hardest mental, physical ordeal I have ever had the good fortune to live through. At the parking lot I hobbled up to the table, demanded my t-shirt, and told a guy doing a hotel survey, to have relations with his own digestive system. Back at the truck, Worm remembered he knew me long enough to laugh and point at how destroyed I looked. I acted like a polar bear screwing a greased beach ball as I Gran Mall seizured out of seventy two layers of sweat soaked Lycra. I was feeling like a really hard core cyclist when a guy rolled up to the car next to us. He was wearing two cotton long sleeve shirts, shorts and no gloves. Behind him came his female companion in a dress and (I shit you not) a Snuggie. In last, was their twelve year old son in sneakers, tube socks, and a hoodie. I fogged the window, as they laughed, joked, and loaded their bikes. Manhood? Gone.
We always say the same thing at the end of brutal rides:
"These are the rides you talk about for years."