"We don't have a choice in how or when
our bad days will blindside us. But what we
do choose is how we allow them to leave us
once they're gone. You can use those moments
as a catalyst to spur you on to greater things
or you can let it be the event that breaks you and
leaves you shattered and forever lost in darkness."
The day promises to be hot, but there is no foreshadowing that it will be a "bad," or at least a "hard" day on the bike. True it is supposed to be unseasonably hot and I slept restlessly the night before, but when I left for the ride there was no indication that I would have the dreaded "bonk." Sometimes on the bike, things just happen.
The century is a tad over one hundred miles, and while we have not ridden it for a few years, I do remember that it has often left me worn out. This, combined with the weather, should have made me more cautious, but instead I start out like I am ten years younger, legs pumping, heart racing. True, I do tell the group I am with I am going to drop back, but then everyone dropped back, and while the pace slowed for a bit, I should have known it was too fast for my condition combined with the weather conditions and the course. Rookie mistakes. I still make so many mistakes, but I have learned to forgive myself and hopefully use those mistakes for growth rather then letting them stunt me or curb my ambitions.
Salt River Century, a route designed by Dave Runge, no longer a club member. And there are some beautiful roads on this route, isolated, scenic. The problem is that I am pressing myself too hard to enjoy them except for occasionally when something striking catches my eye: the silhouette of the trees against a blue sky, a flower, a heron gracefully winging his way to the next body of water. Even the river crossing, normally a time for laughter, is hurried. Interestingly, while I wait to cross, carefully putting on hospital socks left from my husband so as not to slip, a stream of antique cars ford the stream. And I do enjoy the companionship.
The difference in age and gender is beginning to become more evident, but I still enjoy being with Dave and with Steve. I think of Bill and how I miss his company on the bike. The three of us have so many shared memories and experiences from hours and hours spent together upon the bike. And I love them. But where before our paces were similar, mine is beginning to lag, and keeping up means I press myself more than I used to have to do. I can see myself riding centuries for many, many more years, but I also see my riding more and more by myself or with different companions. Still, the ride today will make me stronger and will help me adapt to the growing heat that is summer. The hard rides are what give you growth to make other hard rides seem easier. And the hard rides are normally the scenic rides. Hills are much less tameable or cultivatable than flat lands.
It does not help that once again, I am not able to easily or reliably shift into the big ring. Having had a new shifter installed and having been to the shop two times for adjustment, I figure it must be the derailleur. For now, it will have to wait and I will make do with the gears I have with my middle chain ring, for I try only to use the triple on rare occasions, and today is not one of those. Then my neck and back begin to ache until at one point I am almost crying, partially because I am afraid this will begin to haunt all my rides as it did last summer. The heat begins to play with me, sweat seeming not to evaporate and to sit on my skin.
At the third store stop, I tell everyone I am heading out alone as my legs are toast. Nancy kindly reminds me that it is okay. I grin as I tell her it has to be okay because it is how things are. I have no doubt that I will make it back to the start, but I also know it will be slower than the group is wanting to go. Could I press myself and keep up? I really don't know. I have before, What I do know is that I don't want to. My body will strengthen from what I have done without having to totally deplete it.
On my way in, I realize that I have finally ridden long enough to know that a bonk does not mean I am totally hopeless as a cyclist. It is just something that happens sometimes regardless of conditions. It is not a nice feeling, that feeling that every pedal stroke is a painful act of will, but it just is. There will be good days on the bike, and this is just part of it. And still I sing.
At the end Dave is waiting and his arms enfold me into a great big hug. Once again I realize how blessed I am with the friends that I have and with bicycles. Ride on. And don't let a bonk get you down.