There are times when we have the opportunity to voluntarily suffer for what we love. Through this suffering, we find deeper meanings within ourselves and we share our suffering with others. Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo is one of those events we voluntarily do. Some of our non-cycling friends may consider these sorts of adventures crazy, we may even consider ourselves crazy. However, the hyperbole within this journey is not as drastic as it seems. Sure, climbing 8400+ feet in elevation over the expanse of 103 miles seems ludicrous to some, but every true cyclist understands the courage needed, the resilience gained, and the grace bestowed upon us all during a journey of this expanse.
The Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo is created by Patrick Engleman and starts at the Jenkins Township Firehall. The course takes you through some of the most majestic scenery that Northeastern Pennsylvania has to offer. I would estimate that the route is 70 percent dirt road with the rest being hardball. This course is comprised mostly of hilly roads with steep climbs to test your legs, and fast downhill gravel sections to test your mettle. This last Sunday, 300 riders converged in on the Wilkes-Barre area to celebrate the ride, the weather, and the ability to endure such and event.
The day after a ride like this I am occupying two worlds. My mental capacity is at its fullest. My mind is sharp and refreshed. It is a noticeable effect that occurs when you put your body through such a daunting task as riding 100 miles. I enjoy this feeling I have. My patience is higher, the sun is brighter, my mood is uplifted to new heights. My second world is full of physical exhaustion. The legs begin to buckle as I stumble down the stairs. There are groans and moans as I reach down to pick up a crying child. The body is beat down, yet my mind is as sharp as ever.
It takes courage to not only go out and ride 100+ miles on a bicycle, but to climb 8400+ feet while doing it. The beginning is always easy and full of excitement. The spring brings us crisp, clean air and multiple clothing decisions. Most of us embrace the cold morning air and rejoice as the ride begins to increase our internal thermometers. The climbs are doable and the banter is plentiful. Some of the rarest of cycling breeds are only seen during the very first part of the ride. Even though this is not a race, there are the cyclists that are gifted. They ride the hills effortlessly and form the front of our flash flood. That is sort of what it’s like riding an event like this. We are a flood of riders; moving and flowing within the terrain. I’m somewhere in the middle of this flood; exactly where I like to be. You see so much in the middle of the flood. So much effort, so much courage, so much grace.
The ride becomes interesting at the first rest stop. Dave Pryor has staged beer at some of the rest stops. He breaks out his cooler and hands out some beers to his friends. They sit on a grassy hill near a church and bask in the sun, enjoy their time, and begin to tell stories. We are in the middle of the cycling flood. Riders come and go through the rest stop. We take our time to enjoy the day overlooking the lake. It is such a beautiful day and I can feel my Vitamin D stores beginning to overflow from basking in the sunlight. The winters are always long but then the spring comes, and as the spring brings rain it also brings sunny days to remember. I take a mental note that today is one of those days. “Enjoy it Aaron!”
We flow and flood the terrain. I begin to take note of each rider we pass. How they look, how they are coping, how they are breathing. I find comfort in hearing others breathe. It lets me know that we are all suffering together. I keep cranking my pedals up the hills, slowly ascending, and listening to the breathe of others. There is so much courage in each pedal stroke, in each breathe, in each effort. Just like a flood, we are fighting the terrain and pushing ourselves around the expanse of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Within our flood is so much grace. There are former professional riders that could ride at the front but choose to stay with a group. They help others along, provide encouragement, and give hope to others who may be struggling. There is grace in the way some riders negotiate the downhill terrain. They move over the gravel and rocks at high speeds. They flow downward with elegance. Their wheels float over the rocky obstacles, body positions perfect, speed exact. I observe the way others climb. Some people rage against the elevation, attacking like a wild bull, and then becoming exhausted at the top. A few climb with elegance and refinement that I take time to admire. Their pedal stroke is purposeful, breathing even, effort steady, and weight distributed. So much talent to be observed within a single gravel climb. The flood continues.
We hit a taco stop somewhere around mile 75. I know tacos are a bad idea for a ride of this length, but I’m ravished with hunger. Efforts like these need to be rewarded. It is a peculiar thing about pushing yourself to the limits. The things you eat and drink become magnificent. Those two tacos I devoured where the best tacos I ever had in my entire life. That is something unique to pushing yourself beyond normal. Just as a child may crouch down to stare in amazement at a scratch on the floor, you have an opportunity to taste a taco again for the first time. The body is getting desperate for food, and something in our brains enhance the sense of smell and taste.
The last 20 miles of any ride of this magnitude takes pure resilience. Your legs are tired, your butt is tired, and your hands are tired. Just as the flash flood begins to spread out and disperse along its path; riders begin to spread out and disperse. The groups have become smaller. Groups of 10 to 30 are now groups of 3 or 4. The cycling flood is spreading out and thinning as we approach our end. We are all digging deep within ourselves. We begin to question our own sanity, and long for the ending. The last 10 miles are the longest miles in the ride. No more banter, no more chit chat, we just keep pushing those pedals. The destination is near.
I completed the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo in 7.5 hours. We started our team with 5 riders and only two of us finished together. We started together and became shattered at the end. That sort of thing happens on every 100 mile ride I’ve ever done. During the last 30 miles each rider has to finish the ride on their own, some shattered and some stronger. It reminds me of a flash flood. Everyone is crashing down the trails together to only become spread out at the end. To say I “enjoyed” my day doing the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo is an understatement. I relished in the moment. It wasn’t one thing in particular like the team, the friends, the scenery, the tacos; it was the fusion of courage, resilience, and grace that set this ride apart. Even though I may have felt shattered at the end, I am whole again today. More whole than I have been all winter; I am blooming.
I can see why events like these are starting to sell out in 48 hours. It is a different experience than bicycle racing. I find racing bicycles to be exhilarating, but I don’t get any of the inspiration that I do from these long distance fun rides. There are no podium spots, no talk of sandbaggers, no worry about erratic behavior. Events like these are a challenge just to finish and they really are fun. We are not concerned about metrics, or performance, or tactics. We are just riding our bikes and enjoying the atmosphere set before us. I think race promoters could learn something from guys like Patrick, and how to set up an atmosphere. Races need to evolve into something more than just podium spots. Race directors need to work just as hard at creating an atmosphere, as they are creating the payout list. Otherwise, I see myself doing less racing and more rides like the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo in the future.