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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thank you for a great STP!

When I registered in May for the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, I knew it would be the biggest physical challenge I had ever undertaken. I'm not an athlete, although like everyone else, I make my New Year's Resolution to exercise more frequently. Riding a bicycle 100 miles two days in a row was not one of this year's resolutions.

So why do it?

Everyone has their reasons, and I have mine. I didn't do it for the party-like atmosphere at the midpoint and the finish line. I didn't do it for the gold badge you get for completing a double-century ride. And I certainly didn't do it in order to blog about it.

On the verge of 35, I did it to shake myself up: I needed to break the inertia of being a slug. I did it to prove to myself that I can train for a physical challenge and complete it.

As a shy person, I also felt it was important to get out there and meet people. I saw generosity in bicyclists stopping to help other bicyclists with flat tires.

I saw patience and humor as we waited -- and waited -- in long lines for food, showers and toilets.

I saw individual quirkiness in the types of cycles on the road (tandems, unicycle, you name it) and in helmets decorated with feathers, plush dog ears, and blinking lights.

I saw the landscape with a new lens, the kind you develop sitting on a bicycle. The trees appear alive. The road becomes a complex structure with indentations, debris and varying surfaces. And motor vehicles take on a more ominous note, especially those that are speeding. (My one regret was not stopping and taking a photo of a butcher shop I passed in southern Washington where they advertised frog, rabbit and alligator meat.)

And both during STP and before the event on training rides, I met a bunch of great people whose company I really enjoyed. I didn't get a chance to thank you! Anna, Carlton, Venki, Alex and Sonja, if you're reading this, thanks for your company and please e-mail me at

Well, now it's back to the "real world." But as I head off to work today, the aches in my hamstrings, quads and calves just remind me of what a special weekend it was.

I feel lucky to have experienced the fellowship of being among 10,000 cyclists. Crossing the Lewis & Clark Bridge into Oregon was just one sliver of many memories on the challenging journey Sunday marked by hail, rain, lightning and cold winds -- but that moment of us rushing down the bridge together in one streaming yell of glory is the one I'll treasure the most.

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