By Jennifer Houston, 5th Grade
Thirty-five miles of easy biking on gently rolling hills? I wanted to do this ride, but would I be able to? We'd been riding along local trails almost every day all summer long and were steadily building up our mileage, but our longest rides were only about 22 miles, and the forecast called for 100 degrees and high humidity on the day of the Firefighter 50.
"What are the hills like?" I asked. "Isn't it going to be blazing hot this weekend?"
"Take a look at the elevation map," said my husband, Erl. "We're used to hills like this. It's probably shady. Besides, the steepest incline is only a couple hundred feet—we do this all the time."
We do? I thought. Those don't look like gentle rolling hills. I don't know if I can do this, but I definitely want to try. "Let's register," I told Erl.
We woke up at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of the ride in order to leave enough time to make the hour and fifteen minute drive to the Pleasant Valley Fire Station in Westminster, Maryland. Our supplies were minimal: shorts and t-shirt, two water bottles each , tire pump, sunscreen, helmets. The parking lot was overflowing with fancy bikes loaded on car racks.
What if I can't do this? I thought. I'm used to just riding for fun. These people look like serious cyclists.
We picked up our cue sheets, grabbed two frozen water bottles, and set off on the route. Almost immediately, we faced a long, steep incline. Maybe I should turn back, I thought. This might be too hard.
Soon, I realized that the reward at the top of each hill was an exhilarating and speedy descent. And even though the heat and humidity steadily increased as we traveled the route, I was distracted by beautiful views of the countryside and the hilarious sight of a goat relaxing on a picnic table. Most of the participants wore brightly colored performance gear labeled with the names of their previous bicycling conquests, but they were very polite when whizzing past this slow rider up each steep hill. "You're almost at the top," they would report encouragingly. As my water supply dwindled, I remembered the frozen water bottle that I had grabbed at the beginning of the event; the tepid liquid was well on its way to boiling. Luckily, the firefighters tending the rest stop at mile 26 produced coolers of icy cold water and pink lemonade.
For me, the Firefighter 50 is a lot like the rolling hills of a school year; there are challenges and triumphs, hills to trudge up and coast down, but most importantly the camaraderie of classmates and teachers. One person's gently rolling, shade dappled hills are another person's sun drenched mountains, but this rider is willing to try to climb them all.