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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Carefree Century 2016

"This is my fight song, take back my life 
song, prove I'm alright song.....Cause I've still
got a lotta fight left in me."
Rachel Platten


Being the worry wart that I am, I worry about the ride today.  While the humidity and temperature is predicted to be a bit more moderate, it is still going to be hot and I know this ride, how one hill is followed by another hill and another hill until your legs have been pounded to a pulp and beg for relief.  After awhile, they no longer listen when you tell them to just shut up and do their job.  And I am not sure that I have any business at this ride.  I am recovering, but I remain slow, particularly on hills. This is not fair to a ride captain on a club ride who stays back with the slowest rider. But there is something in me that makes me want to do this, to see how it goes, to measure where I am and how far I am from where I have been. I have yearned for the sights and sounds that a bicycle ride brings, for the company and laughter of friends, for solace and assurance that all will yet again be well.

And so I set out into coolness that is unusual for an August morning.  No, not that crisp coolness that makes one identify with the horses running nearby in pastures, manes streaming, sleekly beautiful,  kicking their legs high into the air just because of the joy of being able to do so, but still cooler and less humid than it has been.  As I reach the ride start, colored  jerseys assault my eyes as if they were flags of celebration. How did I ever think they were ugly, for I did at one time.  I realize I love the ride start, the precious sound of friends and of strangers sharing conversation, laughter intertwined with chatter, anticipation lacing the air.  For you just never know where a day will take you, and particularly a day with a bicycle.  Burns was certainly right about "the best laid plans."

I have no idea how I will do on this ride, for I still have bad days, days when my neck or back or hands plague me as if I were ancient and withered, and so I have no idea who I might end up spending the day with or if I will spend my day alone.  I think back to the last time I rode this course, this beautiful course that winds around the river with the occasional view that takes your breath away.  My husband was still alive then and I was preparing for the 1000 K through Virginia and West Virginia designed by Crista.  Paul rode with me that day, and whether it was intentional or unintentional, pushed me on every hill until my legs and my brain cried even as they both grew stronger.  But neither is here today:  Paul is not riding today and my husband is beyond my reach.  I say a prayer that God holds him dear and keeps him safe and warm and that finally, after years of constant pain, he is at peace.

I begin the ride cautiously, trying to listen to myself, the sound of my heart, the rasp of my breathing on the hills, the feel of my leg muscles, and I realize with some surprise that I am feeling well and strong.  So after the walking bridge, I begin to push even as I note the lushness that surrounds me, for despite the heat, ample rain has left the trees and fields sumptuously green, a feast for my eyes and for my soul.   For a moment, I think I might like to ride the day alone, for I always notice the scenery more, but I realize that finishing will be easier if I ride with friends.  I push past one group and jokingly wave my blue bandana in the air as I leave them behind. Still, I leave the first store stop alone only to be caught by Steve, and then Sara, and then Dave.

It is good to talk to Steve for I am comfortable with my friend of many, many years now.  There are still times when I question our friendship, for we differ so, politically, socially, economically, intellectually, but still it is one of those friendships you can count on for we have remained friends despite knowing each others flaws and differences.  We talk about his  new bike he is building up, about how I hate the gearing on my Surly and hope to replace it.  We talk about hobbies and catch up as we have not really talked with each other for months.  I get hugs from Dave and I realize how long it has been since we have ridden together, another bicycling friend who time has made as comfortable as an old shoe or a favorite pair of jeans.  I think briefly about how one of the things I most loathe about being a widow is not having anyone to talk to and who makes me laugh, for my husband could almost always make me laugh, one of his traits that I prized the most.

By the third store stop, it is hot.  The sun shows no mercy and beats down on us demanding surrender. My legs are asking if I have lost the last bit of sanity left to them, but still we trudge onward toward the ride finish.  We treat the sun with respect, but still we thumb our noses at him and ride on. And I realize that despite being dirty, sweaty, tired, and hot, I am thankful.  I am thankful for the day, for friends, for returning health, for bicycles, and even for hills that challenge us because somehow they make us a bit more than what we were.  The ride is, I realize, my fight song, and today at least I have won. 


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you had a good day on the bike, Melissa.

    ReplyDelete