January has been a challenge this year, mentally and physically.
I am used to getting regular exercise and soaking up the
outdoors to carry me through the sometimes dreary work day. I
am used to some sun, however muted and infrequent, in the
midst of winter rather than an oppressive gray sky that will not
yield. I am used to spending time on the road with a few, close
friends that know the “riding” me rather than those that don't
understand the love of the bike and the road and the freedom
that it not only promises but delivers. When Brian Borgman
was helping me put together my fixed gear (something that I
often think of when I begin to feel there is no kindness left in
the world), he let me pick a saying to put on my bike. It reads:
“My bike takes me places that school never could.” I have
found this to be true.
While there was a day befitting a century the first week-end of
the month allowing me to get my January century in, there have
been few days fit for even a short ride since. This has not been
because of the cold. I can deal with cold and freezing gears; it
was because of the ice and snow that covered the roads
claiming them as their own. Every time the roads would clear,
Old Man Winter would strike back, tatting furiously to lace the
world with white, panting his hoary breath in ragged gasps that
chilled to the bone. At one point, I contemplated joining the
SIW rides at Deem Lake, but trips to Cincinnati to deal with an
aging parent who had fallen always seemed to interfere when
Old Man Winter did not. My poor husband dealt with my sour
mood as I tried to temper it by slipping on running shoes to
travel the roads on foot that were not easily traversable by
wheel. Yes, I have an appreciation for running and the blessed
relief it can bring, the sound of my feet on the pavement, my
breath steaming warmly into the cold air, the chance to soak up
scenery in a way that riding does not allow, but it is no longer
my first love.
This week-end promises temperatures in the 40's and mostly
clear roads, however, and I am elated. There are no available
club rides that tempt, but a small group of friends intend to ride.
These are my favorite rides anyway, the ones where I am totally
comfortable with all the riders and don't have to worry about
stilted conversation and the other things that go along with new
relationships. I have traveled so many miles with these men and
spent so many hours with them that they are like family.
Because of this I know they will be patient with me on the
steeper climbs when I tend to lag despite my best efforts. I
worry about my ability to keep up with so few miles in my legs.
I know the route and I know that it is going to hurt. Larry
“Gizmo” Preble, when speaking of hills, once stated to me that
pain is “an acquired taste.” And indeed, part of me relishes the
thought of the ache in my thighs and the rasping in my lungs
that I am anticipating as a surety for this is a course that is
demanding even when it is midsummer and the legs are strong
and hardened by endless miles and challenges.
We meet at the ride start and as always I am surprised at the
ease of conversation despite the lapse in time since we have
met. I giggle to myself when Dave “Bam Bam” is late and
many times during the ride I think how nice it is that some
things never change, of how sometimes the foibles that define
individuals become part of their personalities and somehow
endearing rather than annoying, particularly and maybe because
of being tempered by absence. These are good friends, and I
never cease to wonder that they are my friends. I love the sound
of their voices, their laughter, and their jokes that cause laughter
to gush out of the deepest part of me, wholesome and real. I
know I will remember this and draw upon it to get me through
the rest of this winter, or at least until Hell Week where there
will be shorts, short sleeved jerseys, and friends.