In an instant, all my questions are gone. I'm no longer wondering, I'm doing. It is such a relief that for the first time today I'm smiling. Really smiling. One more glance at James as I clip in and I'm off in the mad rush of cyclists.
As we stream out of Logan, I notice a couple of things: There are cops at every corner and intersection clearing the way for us. This is really cool. Somehow I've become a real cyclist.
Also, we're flying. Everyone is rushing--anxious to prove themselves and anxious to let out some of that anxiety they've been suppressing the last few hours (or even days). I can't help but think: "This can't last. Not 200 miles." Slowly they stream past me. All of them. One by one. I can't go it alone--not at any pace--so I hook up and get in the rhythm.
My heart-rate is 157. Too fast. I can handle this for a few hours--maybe 4 at the most--but this isn't the effort I can sustain all day. After 10 miles of fast riding, I sit up and drop back.
Alone? Not really. I know there are cyclists behind me. After all, I wasn't in the last group. To console myself in my solitude, I smugly decide that all the rest really are going to fast for themselves, too. I'm the only one sensible enough to hold something in reserves.
My conscience fades and I'm a cyclist on a lonely highway running through rural Cache County, Utah. I pedal. I watch my heart rate. I drink. It doesn't occur to me to think of where I'm going. I don't wonder about when the next group will catch me. I just know I'm here. I'm moving. I'm a cyclist.
As if out of sleep, there's a line of cyclists streaming by me and someone shouts out, "Hop on!"
Riding in a paceline is not the same as riding. An experienced cyclist would disagree, but I have only a handful of thoughts at this point--and they are very acute in my mind: "Too far." and "Too close." For miles I'm studying the back of the person in front of me. If I drift back more than a foot or two, I'm lost--as are those behind me. If I get too close, or stop paying attention, I will cause a massive pile-up.
Pedal. Soft pedal. Coast. Pedal harder. Soft pedal. Pedal.
Though there are twenty or thirty of us, no one speaks. The only sounds are the freewheels ratcheting and derailleurs guiding.
And simple directions that might be missed by the hand-signal language of the pack. Together we move quickly--much faster than I was going alone, but reasonable this time. 139 bpm. That's more like it.
The sun is up over the mountains. The fog has cleared. I don't think I'll be needing those full-fingered gloves I have stashed in my pocket.