So I didn’t conquer Death Valley the way I’d hoped. I tried to punch it in the face as one of my friends so eloquently encouraged, but I think it was more of a slap — and a weak one at that. I am definitely proud of what I was able to accomplish, but I’m terribly disappointed as well. I think there’s a small amount of “athlete” in my blood, and I can hear it mocking me about what I could have and should have done differently.
But looking back, I’m not sure I could’ve trained differently. The rolling hills of the desert are nothing like what I’m used to around here. The heat is completely different as well. I was burning up as the sun poured over my back, but I didn’t sweat much — not like I pour sweat riding in Alabama summers. And the aridness of the desert is something I completely underestimated. I thought the lack of humidity would be a good thing, but instead, my lungs ached. I spat and sputtered and coughed and choked the entire time I rode. I’ve never needed to concentrate on my breathing so closely as I did in the desert. Even now, a week after the ride, I still feel a slight ache in my chest when I breathe deeply.
I didn’t conquer Death Valley and as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t even come close. So now it’s time for Plan B. I’m going to keep riding and training and next year, I’m going to ride the 100-mile route in Nashville. You see, I have a few advantages with this plan. For starters, Nashville is not the desert and that’s a pretty big deal. Secondly, I used to live in Nashville and still visit regularly so I’m already familiar with the area. Thirdly, JDRF maps the course ahead of time, which means I’ll be able to ride the course throughout the next year and know whether I can hack it. Fourthly, there are no coyotes wandering aimlessly through Nashville city streets, which in my book, is always an advantage. And fifthly, Nashville is not the desert. Wait? Did I mention that one already?
After Nashville, I think I’m going to take on one more JDRF ride. I have no idea where that will be yet, but if I base the decision on breathtaking views alone, it will be Lake Tahoe. Although a certain friend of mine is trying to talk me into the Tucson ride. (Tucson is still the desert so that’s a preliminary thumbs down on that quality). And then the fourth year, after I have three rides under my belt — and two centuries — I will return to Death Valley. I will conquer that stupid desert and this time, I will punch it in the face! Before it’s said and done, I will have that photo from the top of Jubilee Pass with a ridiculous grin on my face.
Oh long, winding and never-ending desert road… you may have been paved by the devil himself, but I will be victorious. You may have won this time, but I will be back and you will be sorry!