Saturday, April 12, 2014

On the Lam to the Lamb: Little Lamb 100K (4/12/14)

Mary's Little Lamb and Ajaz Telemon - Sterling Town Green

Ride: Little Lamb 100K*
Location: Bedford – Sterling – Bedford, MA
Distance: 68 miles (102 on the day)
Goal Time:  4:32:00
Actual Time: 4:05:13 (16.66 mph)

As I turned left onto Eldridge Road at mile 50, two thoughts came to mind.  1) That’s the closest thing I’ll see to Eldrick this Master’s weekend; 2) I have an outside chance to break four hours here. It was an outside chance – very outside; but, I was still going to go for it.

In the early 19th Century – in Sterling, MA – a girl named Mary Sawyer had a lamb as a pet.  Now this lamb had snow like wool.  Well, as the story goes, one day this lamb followed Mary to school.  Apparently this broke the teacher’s rule.  The story of Mary Sawyer was heard by a local seminary student who decided to write a poem about it.  This poem was extended by others and eventually set to music.  Mary the girl who had a little lamb was famous.  The town of Sterling commemorates this with a statue of her little lamb in the town common.

Before I could get to the Common and the Lamb, I had to get to Hanscom Air Force Base and the start of the ride. I headed out early – too early.  I was already in Arlington by 7am – umph.  It was colder than I thought it was.  In the shade and low early morning sun, my hands were frozen stiff.  I rode most of the way up the Minuteman with my hands in my pocket.

It was Palm Saturday (if there is such a thing).  Seems fitting that I’d be doing a ride to a lamb this time of year.  Back in aught-9 when I was teaching English in Greece I had a lesson where I got the students to discuss holidays.  These 12 and 13 year olds had a high level of English, but sometimes specific words weren’t known.

  •         After discussing turkey and Thanksgiving, I asked, “do you have any specific foods you eat on your holidays?” 
  •     "Yes, on Easter” one of the kids responded, “It’s like a sheep…just baby.”  So now everytime someone mentions lamb I think: “It’s like a sheep…”

Start in Hanscom

Like last week’s South Harvard 100k, this was a New England Randonneurs populaire.  So it is a timed ride and you are given a “brevet card” that you get signed at various checkpoints – called “controles.”  This event only had one intermediate controle (the start and end count as a controle as well).  That controle was at the Lamb!

There was a quick safety and informational check before the start and a little after 8am, we were on our way.  Early on I attached myself to the back of a group with two tandems and some other riders.  But, I felt good so I kept leapfrogging as groups split off.  The weather became perfect.  Riding through the beauty of the Boston exurb felt like a ride through Robert Frost’s head.  (miles to go before I sleep, but no snowy woods.)

Eventually we were down to just three of us.  Each taking a turn as the lead, either up the first categorized climb or through the superfast descents and flats.

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph.  The first recorded verse was what Edison called “practical verse”: “Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow/ And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.”  I often wondered if it was the first thing that came into his head or if he planned it.  It seemed like one of those times I might wanted to have a better rehearsed poem – like Canterbury Tales or something.

Sterling Center

As my own tale told to pass the time on pilgrimage continues. At about mile 25, the other two guys had dropped back and I rode the last few miles into Sterling (and the Lamb) by myself.  I pulled into the controle at Sterling Center.  I got my card signed, stuffed down an apple and two of my new Alex White red rice egg rolls.  I probably spent 10 minutes or so at the controle for a rest and to check out the most famous lamb. 

On the Road

Between the ages of 9 and 11, I lived in an early-20th Century apartment building in Midtown Atlanta. During that time I was first learning to play the trumpet.  The first real song I learned (it has an easy melody of three notes that are easy to play) was “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  I remember practicing it over and over again for hours (“hours” to a 10 year old was probably like 12 minutes in real time.)  But as I finally mastered it, I took trumpet from my mouth and gave my crushed lips a rest.  The new wave band who lived upstairs from us, the Now Explosion, now began to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” fast and punk.  And its lyrics were performed by the Now Explosion’s lead singer, RuPaul.  “Mary had a Little Lamb will always have this special connection to me… and I’m sure RuPaul.

(And I bet you didn’t think I could come up with four vignettes about lambs, did you?)

 The ride back had some of the most beautiful scenery this side of Worcester. The Harvard Town Library is perched on a little hill overlooking a beautiful pond.  Further up I caught a glimpse of a wonderful waterfall.  I thought about stopping but I was in my "break four hour" mode.  Maybe a stop would have been worth it.

The last tough hill is climbed right before mile 50.  After that it would be smooth sailing, if you weren't into the outer suburbs.  I ride my bike to work everyday but never notice how annoying traffic is. Once you are riding at 20mph and then have to crawl through town centers and what not, then traffic annoys you.  After spurts of traffic I was able to get back going into the flow.  After doing these rides a few times, the right on Old Bedford, left on Virginia at the end feels almost like "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" - except for there aren't thousands of people lining the street cheering.  Finishing a long ride is still such an accomplishment for me, I have this euphoria heading into the finish.

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I took a breather and had a coke before heading Homeward Bound – finishing ride. 

With two big races coming up in the next two weeks where I might not get too much riding in – BAA 5k and James Joyce Ramble – I wanted to get in a full 100.  So I took the long way home through Fresh Pond and an outer loop of River before heading back into Cambridge.

Jesse had a little lamb whose meat was spiced and roasted
post ride meal: Lamb Shwarma Plate from Moody’s Falafel Palace – Central Square and Rouge Chocolate Stout.


* The ride is officially called the “Boston 100K”; however, I have chosen to give it a different name for creativity (and it makes my writing work better).

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