Fall is always an unsettled time for me. The exquisiteness of the fall landscape as the trees don their festive colors in preparation for a final pas de deux with the wind prior to resting takes my breath away. It also leaves me melancholy with an undefinable and un-named yearning deep inside my heart. I could not tell you what I ache for. Spring? Youth? Warmth? Sunshine? Old acquaintances? I just know that I long to burrow deeply into a loved ones arms and find solace there. Memories resurface that have been buried, and I find I have an intense need to be alone despite the fact that I mourn the lost company of my friends that I have grown accustomed to seeing on week-ends. My pace begins to decline and my body protests at any demand for speed, refusing to comply.
Sometimes it helps if I force myself to ride and I know I will not be riding next week-end due to family plans, and so I head to the group ride this morning. I worry about losing fitness and not being able to keep up with friends if I do not ride. Things do not go well from the start. I forget my cue sheet holder. I forget my GPS. I forget my chewing gum, an addiction that takes the place of smoking. My odometer stops working. On top of all that, like some virgin to riding in rain and cooler temperatures, I forget to put on a wool base layer trusting the weather forecast for the seventies. When I arrive, I find I am at the wrong parking lot. I almost turn around and go home. Something in me does not want to be here. But yesterdays ride was so pleasant. 40 solo miles of mild temperatures with fluffy white cumulus clouds and little rain. I am hoping that if I come to ride, I will be glad I did as sometimes happens. But as I arrive in the correct parking lot today, the rain continues and the sky promises it will most likely be an all day affair. The skies are gray with no promise of sun. And I have ridden in so much rain this year. I feel enervated and I grow weary of rain.
A small group starts off into a wall of grayness, red lights blinking on the backs of bicycles. I am surprised and dismayed at the quickness of the pace, and I wonder if it is me physically or mentally resisting the effort. I am concerned because I don't know this area and have none of the tools to find my way if I drop back. I debate turning around, but instead ask Randy if he intends to ride this quickly the entire way. Randy is kind enough to say he will stay back with me. He has a cue sheet and a working GPS. It is good to see him. It has been awhile.
I am surprised that we can leave the city so quickly from here, and I must admit that the scenery is incredible, but I can't find my rhythm. At the first big hill, I find I am riding adequately if not well. I have no trouble scrambling up it at a reasonable pace leaving a few riders behind. At the top there is a group waiting. At this point I make another mistake, taking off my rain jacket because the rain has slightly slackened. As if taunting me, it begins again in earnest when we all have regrouped and started back up.
We reach the store stop. I am disappointed that they do not serve hot chocolate, but it is a road side ice cream store with no indoor service. I make another mistake ordering ice cream. With stopping, I begin to chill in earnest. Despite the beauty of the route, despite knowing that movement will warm me back up and I will not continue to shiver and shake, I have no desire to continue. I decide to cut the route short, something I rarely allow myself to do. Mark is going back as he has a wedding to attend and can't spend the entire day riding, and I decide to wimp out and return with him. Deep inside I know it is mentally harmful to my riding to force myself onward at this point. I think of a friend's advice about relaxing after PBP and doing some shorter rides, about being goalless for awhile. It is sound advice. I don't want to lose the love for cycling and I may be crossing the fine line that divides burning out with keeping an acceptable fitness level. Pulling out of the store, another rider joins us and we return to the parking lot fairly quickly. I thank Mark for allowing me to accompany him and head homewards picking up a bottle of wine on the way. When I arrive home, a hot bath and a glass of Merlot pick up my spirits. I even take a nap, a luxury I rarely indulge in. "Tomorrow's another day, and I'm thirsty anyway, so bring on the rain." Jo Dee Messina