I started the year with a goal to run at least four half-marathons this year. And I actually managed to complete two races — the Run to Read Half-Marathon in West Virginia and the Cowtown Half-Marathon in Texas — before the pandemic hit in March.
Since then, however, the race calendar has gone up in smoke.
Even if races were still being organized in the Era of COVID-19, I wouldn’t want to cram together with thousands of people on a confined race course where every runner is physically exerting himself and breathing hard into the air-space through which everyone else is running. (Honestly, it seems a little bit crazy that I’m willing to do this under more normal circumstances!).
So I did some long runs with a small group of friends — all staying six feet apart from each other — throughout the Spring and into the early days of Summer. But after we finished our self-devised COVID-19.755 Three-Quarters Marathon at the beginning of May, I took a break from running. The people from that group moved on to other projects.
So when I came back from my two-week break, I decided to choose a different sort of fitness goal. Some friends and I started cycling on the weekends. It was more fun than I thought it would be to see our mileage increase from week to week: 15 miles… 20 miles… 25 miles… 30 miles…
We started to dream about how far we might be able to get before the end of the summer. 50 miles seemed like a nice goal. So we were working our way towards that goal when two things happened: (1) Vacation season hit, when our small cycling group wasn’t able to go out together for several weeks, and (2) just as we might have been able to start training together again, one of the guys started to experience occasional episodes of vertigo, taking him out of cycling all together.
I thought about going back to running. But August is my least favorite month of the year for running. It’s so hot, and humid, and sticky in Ohio at this time of the year. So instead of setting a running goal, I made it my ambition to finish a 100-kilometer (about 63-mile) solo ride before the end of the summer. It’s Strava‘s definition of a “Gran Fondo,” and I just thought that would be a fun achievement.
This weekend, I made it happen.
I felt surprisingly strong for the first half of the ride. Even though I was climbing to the highest point in Portage County, I maintained a good pace. And the scenery was beautiful: corn fields, orchards, vineyards, pumpkin patches, forested hills, small towns… It was Ohio at its best.
I made it from Kent to Parkman in one hour and 45 minutes (for reference: it would take 40-45 minutes to drive there). I thought it was interesting to notice a lot of yard signs in support of Joe Biden’s campaign for U.S. President, as I traveled northeast.
When I turned south in Parkman, however, there was a noticeable political shift. Through Nelson, Garrettsville, Drakesburg, Ravenna, and all of the countryside in between, I’d estimate that yard signs for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign outnumbered Biden signs, maybe ten to one.
I felt pretty strong until I hit Ravenna; however, the last 10-15 miles hurt pretty bad. A headwind and some inclined sections of roads didn’t help, but I was also just running out of gas. My testicles hurt almost in the way it would hurt to receive one long, strong, slow kick in the crotch. (I honestly don’t know how Tour de France cyclists do it!). I held on until the end, though, and I have to admit that I’m pretty darn proud to have received my Strava “trophy” for finishing this epic ride.