The Bigs: 25 mile route on the Tour d'Arsenal. They were the youngest riders on that loop, and they didn't come in last. (That doesn't really matter, as this wasn't a race, and there were people of all fitness levels and cycling experience on the ride. But it did feel kind of good for young men testing their mettle.) They were all a bit shocked and awed (in a good way) when they got buzzed by a group of septuagenarians about the mid-way point in the ride, though. I guess it was pretty impressive and left quite an impressions on four young men, sucking wind up a hill, when the whirr-whirr-whirr of fast bikes comes up from behind and whoosh~~~ there they go. Good stuff.
Jacob: 18 miles. The youngest rider in the Tour. (The next two youngest being the Bigs.) It didn't even dawn on me that kids wouldn't do it. Didn't dawn on Jacob, either, until he ran out of steam at about the 15 mile mark. He'd done everything right, really - he was well-rested going into it, ate well before hand, and was staying hydrated. But it was hot-hot-hot and sticky beyond belief, and I think that got inside his head and made him question everything from the origin of the universe to why we didn't hire a rickshaw and take a scenic drive. We slowed our pace, I asked a few questions and then just listened as he talked his way out of his own head. He took a few deep breaths, and you could just see this kid center himself and refocus on his goal. It was amazing, and humbling, and uplifting all at once. The other riders were fantastic and so very encouraging with a kind word and a cheer of encouragement as they passed.
One lady, in particular, offered to share an energy drink packet she'd brought. I checked the label and it didn't have anything we'd find objectionable in it, so I said yes. By that time, Jacob had decided he could see this through and enjoy it, but the psychological boost that gave him -- both the generous gesture and the idea that he was getting a beneficial drink -- he flew the last few miles and could have happily gone another round if only it had been under 90 degrees. And burritos. We had burritos in the car for the riders. He said he felt great when it was over. "Probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but it felt good." I... have no idea where he gets it, but am so glad he's got it!
James wrecked near the start of the ride. Poor kid - he went over the handlebar over the weekend, too. Anyway, best I can make out from their stories, he and John needed to veer around an obstacle, but someone came up on James' right so he had to veer back left and they (James and John) collided. They must be pretty proficient at bike repair and first aid, though, because they got it fixed, treated their wounds, and were back on the trail before Jacob and I could catch up. We only heard about it later. There were a couple of more gnarly wrecks later in the ride, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured (and we weren't a part of those).
For Z and I, it was a great experience. Of course, you can tell we're not hard-core cyclists. When they start down a slope, they lean on the handlebars and streamline their forms. It's serious business. When we hit the crest of a hill and start back down, we put our heads up and our elbows out to catch some air. If you listen really closely, you might be able to make out a faint, "Weee!" I hope we're still doing that together 40 years from now, wherever we are. And that the kids will still want to come with us.
Kiss those babies!