It has been a long time since I have ridden with others, instead electing to wander in solitude: stopping to photograph things that strike as unusual or beautiful and that I will want to remember, choosing my route at random, varying pace according to mood and inclination. I am always amazed at how much I forget, and as I age my forgetfulness becomes more frequent. Sometimes I wish I could remember only the good things, the special things, the things that I hold close, like the times my family has told me that they love me or have done or said something that has strummed the strings of my heart or the times friends have said nice, memorable, special things to me that I can hold close to my heart and pull out when I am sad or feel deserted and alone. But that is not the way. And perhaps I would not be the person I am today if those were the only things that I could remember, if past hurts and grievances were completely forgotten. When I was younger I did not understand how older people remembered things from years before, but not from five minutes ago. Now I smile a wistful smile thinking I have joined their ranks. I briefly smile thinking about a joke shared with my husband about keeping note pads next to us in the living room so we remember why we went to the kitchen.
It is hard to get going in the morning, particularly as there are better days predicted for later in the week and I am on vacation from work. It is delicious to get up in the mornings and put on a soft, fluffy night robe instead of clothing, to nurse a steaming mug of coffee, to take my time and know I have a day to spend on my selfish self. It is dark and dreary outside, and there is no promise of sunshine. Wind is predicted. I have been sick as well with a chest cold and have not been on a bike in two weeks. The course the guys have chosen is a hard one with lots of climbing. This course hurts in May, the traditional date of the Pam Century, so I know it will hurt in December when there are fewer miles in these old legs. Part of the struggle is always overcoming the part of my mind that encourages sloth and laziness, the challenge of getting out the door, the challenge of beginning. Battling these feelings today are good practice for the upcoming brevet season when experience tells me there will be numerous occasions when my mind urges me to quit, to give up.
It is cold outside, and I curse myself for not taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather the first of the month for I continue to try to keep the Big Dog Challenge of riding one outside century ride every month of the year no matter the weather. Despite the fact I know that I have it easier than others who live where there is even more snow and ice and cold and wind, I briefly toy with the idea of stopping at my ten year anniversary. but I decide that this would make it all too easy to stop riding long rides altogether, and I don't want to stop. It would make it too easy to quit riding brevets, and I am not ready to stop. Normally, though not all the time, I am glad that I rode and that I rode the distance. And I have formed a group of friends that I would be loath to lose, friends that I share memories and good times with, friends who are important to me. Unlike when I was younger, I know that if I stop now I may stay stopped. Objects at rest, including people, tend to stay at rest.
As I drive to the ride start, I wonder if I will hold everyone up. They never say anything, but I will know by the look in their eyes, the same look my eyes sometimes have when someone has slacked off and is riding way below our normal pace. And this is winter with short day light hours. Being too slow can mean the whole group gets in at dusk, or worse yet, after dark. For unlike summer, the group seems to always stick together in colder weather, paces merging to a happy medium. I decide that I can always turn around if it looks like I will be holding everyone up. And I feel like I will ride at a reasonable pace. Prior to getting a cold, I made it a practice to climb lots of tough hills, but riding alone also normally means riding more slowly than you do with a group. I will just have to see how things go.
And things do go well. My legs tire, but I am able to maintain a reasonable pace. At the last store stop, Mark complains about the ceaseless hills and I know that mine are not the only legs that are hurting, aching, complaining about what I am asking them to do. Somehow this helps, knowing that I am not the only one who hurts but will muddle through. And I know my legs will be stronger for the next ride. Training for the 2014 brevet series has begun and I have passed the first test, the important test, the mental test: determination, persistence, forbearance. At least for now.