What does it take to be Best in the World?


But what if you have no ambition to be a world-class athlete?

What if the thought of covering your less-than svelt body in Lycra gives you nightmares, just thinking about doing crunches makes you break out in a sweat, and yogurt and tofu give you hives?

But still...what would it feel like to push yourself to the limit of your endurance, to reach, to stretch...to achieve? Just once, just to see if you can?

A few years ago, my eldest daughter and I both had milestone birthdays coming up (never mind which, because all birthdays are some sort of milestone). We wanted to do something significant, something to prove to ourselves that we weren't just getting older and fatter, but better. So we decided that we would ride a Century before we were another year older.

A Century is a hundred kilometers (or a hundred miles, but we're not that crazy!) ridden in one day. There are quite a few of them held every summer here in Oregon, so we started training in March, aiming at an annual event scheduled in early June.

Then we heard about the Monster Cookie. The very name appealed to us, both of us being unable to say no to a cookie in any shape or flavor. One hundred kilometers, fairly flat, with cookies at every rest stop. We could do that!
The Starting Line
That May morning dawned clear and warm, with a light breeze. At the start point, we realized we were about the only fat broads around. Everyone else was sleek, clad in bright cycling clothes (we wore tights and t-shirts), wearing the kind of shoes that attach to their pedals (ours were ordinary sneakers).

Nonetheless, we mounted our bikes, and started off, in the middle of a clot of riders. Winding through the streets of Salem, Oregon, we kept up, but figured they'd leave us behind as soon as we reached the open road.

Some did, but not all. We kept up pretty well, all the way to the first rest stop, where we gobbled down bananas, oranges, bagels spread with peanut butter, and, of course, a few cookies. Thirteen miles down, only 49 to go.
The second rest stop was in a state park at the end of a roller coaster series of hills and dales, and was also our lunch stop. We ate, rested, refilled our water bottles, and struggled up the hill out of the park. Both of us were a little saddle sore, and my feet hurt from shoes that didn't fit well. We were starting to slow down, but determined to finish.

By the third rest stop, I was getting really tired, but after more fruit, more bagels, and some sports drink, I munched a couple of cookies and we were off.

Thirteen miles to go.
The Halfway Point
Thirteen miles! A piece of cake.

What no one told us was that the two biggest hills were in that last thirteen miles. One was a long downhill coast, but the other--oh, wow! It was shorter, but steeper, and by the time we got there it was lined with bodies. Some of the reclining clyclists might have been waiting for friends, but most were quite frankly resting. Others were pushing their bikes uphill.

There was no way either one of us was going to get off our bikes. My front wheel was wobbling and I was seeing the world through a red haze at the top, but I was still pedaling. After that everything seemed downhill.
The Last Sprint
By the time we hit the Salem city limits, we had found unexpected reserves of energy, and for the last half-mile we sprinted!

Would I do it again. You bet!

I haven't kept that level of fitness the whole time since then, but I can still ride 30 or 40 miles in a day. Portland has lots of bike routes, and I regularly ride in good weather. I've even ridden in bad weather, but let me tell you, there aren't many activities more wretched than peddling along in a driving rain, your glasses steamed so badly you can't see and your fingers so numb you can't feel. So in the winter I use my stationary bike, and hope for sunny weekends.

One of these days, I'll ride another Century.
So what's the point of my story? Just that inside us all is the strength, the courage, the determination to do something difficult, something grand. That the reward for doing it is a sense of pride, of accomplishment, of victory.

And that, my friends, is also why I wrote Twice Victorious, to show the challenge one woman faced.

And how she met it.

So what are you waiting for? Stretch yourself!

Twice Victorious cover