Who knew.
Who knew I’d be a nervous wreck.
Who knew I’d have bike trouble with a bran new bike.
Who knew I’d  NOT get lost?
Who knew I’d finish on time?
Who knew … it would all be so easy.

I really was a nervous wreck.  I was worried deeply about three specific things:
1) That I would drive the hour to the race at 6:30 in the morning only to be turned away and then the child that drove me would be MAD.
2) That I would have bike trouble since my bike was new and I wasn’t familiar with how to operate it
3) That I would get such a late start and be so slow that I would get left behind and end up W A Y off the course… wandering like a lost toddler in a mall.

Some of my fears were unfounded… but not all. My sweet bike, behind my sweet boy .... and arriving at registration on site

James kindly drove me over to Washington/Wilkes County High School for the drop off.  The closer we got, the more I realized I was verbalizing my tension.  James said, “Mom.  Quit whining or I’m taking you home.”  ouch.  I didn’t realize I was “whining.”  Although, at one point, I teared up and found my voice beginning to crack.  Then James realized just how nervous I was and was … uhm… slightly more tender and patient with me.

BRAG did not turn me away.  I registered, filled my water bottles and got ready to ride off. James noticed that my tire had a “bulge” in it.  We had it checked out by tech support.  Dan at Free Flite was calming. He assured me that it would not go flat on me while I was riding. I trusted the guy. He’s a complete stranger, but he’s a professional.  I prepared to ride.

Keep in mind …. if I’m riding fast, I’m not picturing a “flat” … I’m expecting an explosion where I’m thrown into the street and propelled across asphalt, dragging my face, shoulder and hip as a brake pedal..these bikes go  F A S T. Andy was telling me on Friday about his ride on Thursday night.  He and a rider beside him were going 48mph down a hill.  I don’t always feel comfortable going that fast in my VAN where I’m surrounded by steel and belted into a cushy recliner. I’ve always been of the mindset that, God probably doesn’t want me to travel more than six miles an hour … because that’s as fast as I can run.  He probably doesn’t want me in the air or he would have given me wings.  And it’s unnatural to go really fast across water or snow, even if you have thin, wooden slats attached to your feet. I’m an adventurous person, UNLESS it involves speed… or bungee cords.  I’m just dramatic that way.  Me and my nervous self - and my view as James (in the white tshirt) walked to his car to abandon me ... I mean head back home.Back to the ride; while most riders had already left (since it was long after sun up), there were some stragglers.  I got on the road at 7:35 with a few people in front and behind me.

Within two miles of leaving the site, the bandana that you see in the photo above  slipped from my neck and lodged into my rear gear derailer.  I could no longer change gears. I stopped and some nice guy helped me clear the gears. But, I knocked something out of whack and then, my chain wouldn’t smoothly change gears…….

And my bulging tire is getting worse.  It’s starting to rub on the brake pad with every revolution of the wheel. I choose to always brake on the rear tire and try to keep my speed at all times under 20mph. And I pray….. and dislike the “CAUTION” sticker that is on the handle bars RIGHT BESIDE the speedometer : ) A scary sight for a woman who does not aspire to go fast

At the first rest stop (12 miles in), I get tech support to give me another look.  Corey from Cycleworks in Roswell is amazing.  He adjusts my gears lickity split.  Tells me the tire is fine.  Don’t fret.  I trust him.  I ride. Rest stop goodies ..... I got the very last peach on the table. It was DELECTABLE.

I ditch the common advice to “never pass up a rest stop” and I cruise on by the second one BECAUSE  I’m finding myself pretty isolated from people.  It makes me nervous.  I really, really, really don’t like to ride when I can’t see ANYONE in front of me OR behind me.  I’m SO afraid of getting off track and being the bicyclist that makes the news because the entire county police/sherriff force and a hundred fifty volunteers are out searching for her with dogs.  Do you sense my tension over this?

Turns out I made a good decision.  I was riding amongst riders front and back.  I was okay from then on out. My view along the way... I'm okay as long as there is someone within sight ahead of me

Mile thirty seven was really hard for some reason.  I thought I wouldn’t make it to 43 if it things  got worse, but I kept on and pulled right out of that funk within a mile.

The gears continued to give me some grief.  The chain wouldn’t stay on the large sprocket so I had a hard time keeping it in a low gear (harder to pedal) on the flat roads. The chain kept trying to jump back up into a higher gear.  It was irritating, but manageable.  beautiful flowers along the wayThe scenery along the way was beautiful.  I was surprised at how much of the ride was in “rolling hills” …. rolling for our area any way. I really can’t imagine what the first part of the ride was like.  The first three days of the ride traveled from Hiwassee to Dahlonega, Mt. Airy and then to Athens.

On this last leg from Washington to McCormick (SC), we  passed horse farms, ponds and many beautiful open fields…. lots of beautiful scenery to calm the soul.Fields of round rolled bales

I was surprised at the huge spectrum of people that I saw at the race.  With a total of 1,400 different people registered to race all or some portion of the race, there were all sorts of  “makes and models” of people. There were plenty of svelte, muscular, toned bodies on bikes, but there were just as many that were not.  I saw people who, had they been in street clothes, I would have expected to see a six pack of beer under one arm and a Nascar hat on their head.  There were plenty of tandem bikes.  Some were pulling trailers of toddlers.  There was a three seater, as well. As I sat and listened to the conversations around me at the final destination’s meal, I thought about how many of these people looked “just like me,” and they had completed the entire week of riding.  It gave me hope.  Maybe I can do the whole race, from start to finish, next year?

So, my BRAG experience was good.  I reached my goal:  I rode without injury and finished before “last.” I rode from Washington/Wilkes County High School to Savannah Lakes (right beside Elijah Clark State Park) for a total of forty three miles.

Monday, I’ll take the bike back to Andy Jordans.  I’m sure Nate can tweak the gears and change out this “freak” bad tire and I’ll be set and ready for another ride.  Maybe I can learn to go faster without being so nervous…. just maybe.


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