The Last of the Season

“So this is it, huh?” she asked as they walked down the sidewalk. The Apple Cider Century was already in place. Riders were zooming back and forth from the parking lot to the registration area and to the start and finish line. We got to Three Oaks, MI for the Apple Cider Century around 9:00am Michigan time. It was a pleasant drive up. My poor bird with his broken wing came up with me to enjoy the day. He looked at me and said, “You mean ‘this is it’ for the season?” he asked me? “Yep,” I replied sadly. Pete said, “You had a really good season. Enjoy this last tour and then you can rest and get prepped for next year.”

Pete was right. It was time to put my bike away and get ready for next season. But I still had one more ride left in me for the year. It turned out to be a quarter of a century ride because of severe sleeplessness but that’s okay. The day was beautiful and I so enjoyed this last ride of my race season.

The Apple Cider Century is a bicycle tour. A tour is not a race. It’s a relaxed reason to ride anywhere up to 100 miles. I love it. You show up with your helmet and your bike and you take off. There are SAG stops along the way with food (often vegan!) to eat and, in this case, cider to drink. People are so friendly no matter what distance you are doing.

As I picked walked my bike to the race line I had a feeling that today was going to be a tough ride for me and I turned out to be right. I hadn’t and haven’t been sleeping well and that always hinders my athletic performance. Quite honestly it turns me into a weeping, whining baby. And that’s ok. It’s my event and I can act how I want to act as long as I don’t bother anyone in the process.

I was supposed to do the Apple Cider Century with Pete but since he broke his collar bone there was no way that was an option. I missed my little bird with his broken wing bound in a sling. I think psychologically he would’ve helped me get through the 37 miles I’d wanted to ride instead of giving up and only doing the 25 miles which I knew I could finish. I was falling asleep at the wheel of my bike so it’s a good thing I turned back, but there’s always something to be said for a buddy that will keep you awake and not let you down. A good buddy, whether it’s a running or biking or swimming buddy, will not let you down.

As I started my tour I noticed how crisp the air was and how the fall breezes wrapped themselves around my body and gave my bones that cool chill. I coasted at first until I got to the first country road and picked up the pace a little bit. Then I saw it…the first hill. No matter what you read about Michigan, if you read the word “flat” don’t believe it. Michigan doesn’t have flat hills. In fact, flat and hills shouldn’t be in the same sentence with the exception of this blog post!

The Michigan colors were exquisite. There were so many sights to be seen like a mother and daughter on a tandem bike and their dad behind them pulling the dog in a bike trailer. I noticed a Christmas tree farm with lots of baby trees, a few daddy trees and one full grandfather tree. Off in the distance was a bright, orange maple tree burning like a beacon in distance. My favorite sight of all was seeing the leaves fall from the trees and twirl and dance around as they got caught in a breath of air and then waver as they shimmied to the ground. I remember as a girl crunching through large leaf piles in the fall and it gave me a good memory of my mother.

No matter how many sights I describe to you I can’t describe how much I wanted to have a buddy there to share the sights with me. There was no one to chatter with about how beautiful the fall colors were or laugh at me as my porta-john got broken into because I forgot to lock the door! Oops!

Hopefully my little man with the broken wing can go with me next year.

Tours are so relaxing compared to races. Tours are about being with people and experiencing the sights. Races are about getting it done. I like both experiences for different reasons. Sometimes having the clock is a good thing and sometimes using your senses to get you through the ride is a good thing.

This time I used my senses. I intend to incorporate both next year.

As I crossed the finish line whiny and cranky my broken wing was there to greet me and take my picture. I put my bike back inside when we got home and wished it fair well for the winter. My “season” of racing and touring is over until next year. Next year will hopefully hold great things in store for me. I’m running a half marathon this winter and doing a training program for it through Fleet Feet Sports. I’ve got a half Ironman program all picked out. Once my tattoos heal I’ll be back in the pool. And I plan on pumping my pistons at some spinning classes once or twice a week. And for cross training there’s always pole dance!

Lessons learned this season: always look for a buddy. I missed having a good buddy this season. I made it through somehow without one. The one time I got a buddy he wound up cracking his collarbone. So I’m looking for another running/biking/swimming buddy. If you want to be that person then just email me! I’ve done 5 triathlons and two tours this summer. I didn’t do hardly any running this season so I will be working on that next.

Sara Sawochka


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