I'm privileged. I'm a straight white male. The only possible source of discrimination I face is when people know I'm an atheist, but they only know that if I choose to reveal it to them. So I have it pretty cushy, which is why I think that essays like this one are so important.
Those of us who don't face discrimination daily can't possibly understand what it is like to have to deal not only with the overt stuff, but the insidious and subtle hurdles that are constantly thrown in the path of those who weren't born straight, white, or male. Fortunately there are writers such as Tressie McMillan Cottom who are able to convey some of the reality that they are faced with in their lives, and as a result can open our eyes so that we may understand our fellow human beings better. Read The Logic of Stupid Poor People, and I guarantee that you will see things a little differently.
A few weeks ago I told several friends and colleagues that I would be participating in a cycling event to raise money to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. The ride entailed a 70-mile route on the first day, with an option for an additional 30-mile loop to make it a full century. It started in San Antonio, and ended in nearby New Braunfels. The following day would be a 58-mile return ride back to San Antonio.
I committed to doing the full distance, and asked the members of an online community I host to help by donating to this cause. And as usual, this great community responded generously, raising a total of $525! I want to extend my personal thanks to everyone who donated in my name – without your support I couldn't have done this.
The weather threatened to be ugly on Saturday, and as a result the number of people who showed up for the Rackspace team wasn't as high as we had planned, but those of us who did show up had a great time! (I'm the 4th from the right)
The ride on Saturday started off well, with a threat of rain giving way to bright sun, and temperatures around 90F/32C. I did manage to complete the full century, but I can't say the same for my phone's battery, which died just before the 88th mile. Here is the record of my progress, using the awesome free app RunKeeper: http://runkeeper.com/user/edleafe/activity/256143755
The extra 30-mile loop for the century started at about mile 69, with the farthest point out at mile 84. Those 15 miles were killer: lots of up-and-down, as we followed the road along the Guadalupe river. This first half was going upstream, and that meant a net climb of 150 feet. If I had started out here, no problem, but at this point in the day my reserve of energy was seriously depleted. When I finally reached the end of that segment I don't think that I was ever so happy to see a rest stop as I was then! I rested up for a bit, drank a ton of liquids, ate some food, and then started on the return leg. It was definitely easier, but by then I was running on fumes, and every slight upgrade was a challenge. I had to accept the fact that I couldn't climb hills at this point in the ride as aggressively as I had earlier, and had to instead simply pedal as best as my legs could manage. The few extra minutes taken by slowing down were not as important as continuing to make progress, and eventually that paid off. I made it to the finish line, got a big hug from my woman, found the RV that Rackspace rented for the event, and then settled into the air-conditioned bliss in a comfy couch with a cold beer. Ahhh...
A generous Racker who has a big house nearby was our host for the evening, feeding us, supplying more beer, and letting us sleep there overnight. They also had a pair of masseuses there to help soothe our aching muscles, and man, did I need that! It was a relaxing way to end a long day.
The following morning, the plan was to feed us and then take us back to the starting point for the return leg of the ride, but Mother Nature had other ideas. This was what we were greeted with:
That's just a close-up; there were several lines of storm clouds behind that moving in from the north. With severe lightning, heavy rains, and the threat of spot flooding, the event organizers made the decision to cancel the second day of the ride. Oddly enough, I was very disappointed – you'd think that the morning after completing my first century the last thing I would want to do is ride another 58 miles, but I guess I had psyched myself up for the full two-day experience that it was a let-down not to be able to do the full ride. We ended up packing our bikes and gear into one of our trucks, and drove back to San Antonio.
It was a great experience overall on many levels, even with the pain and exhaustion of those final 30 hilly miles. Most importantly, though, was the satisfaction of reaching a goal I had set for myself a year earlier. Now that I've done a century, though, I think if I ride in next year's event, I might just be content with the 70 mile route!