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Monday, March 7, 2016

Kentucky 200K Brevet 2016

"The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; 
he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.  The
rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to
fit them." 
George Bernard Shaw

I have vowed I am NOT going to ride the brevets this year if the weather is bad, but the forecast does not look so very awful.  There is a 20 per cent chance of rain.  So I prepare my bike, but not so carefully as I would if there were, say, a 50 per cent chance of rain and if, say, I intended to ride no matter the weather.  I know the start will be cold, near freezing, but it is supposed to warm up near fifty degrees.  If it does rain, surely it will not rain for long.  Not my favorite riding temperature, but bearable if one is dressed appropriately. So I am surprised when I wake up, spend time convincing myself that I really don't want to go back to bed with a cup of coffee, a purring cat,  and a good book, open the door to take my bike and put it in the car and find a steady drizzle.    I suppose that what I am trying to say is that right now in a very roundabout way is that I am struggling with whether I want to continue to participate in brevets or if century rides are enough.

I am trying to find joy in things that meant something to me once, like looking in the face of an old lover searching eyes for a hint of a former attraction,  but I am not the same me anymore and I don't know if I can put the pieces that were shattered back in the same order.  Time, loss, and experience has changed me as it has us all.  Or perhaps it is that I no longer wonder if I can do it and wonder is no longer part of the equation.  Worse, perhaps I worry that I can't do it anymore, and not trying and failing would be more difficult perhaps than just taking a step backward.    

I have registered for the Colorado 1200 to try to motivate myself, but I don't yet know if it will work.  Yes, I definitely would like to see Colorado for I have never been there.  At times I am excited about it, and think of how to prepare.  But do I want to see it on a brevet or as a different, more relaxing and less taxing way when effort and sleep deprivation have not robbed me of some of the appreciation of the scenery whispers through my mind. The traditional nightmares....getting hopelessly lost, having a serious mechanical....wind through my thoughts despite my telling myself that these are minor matters.  It is not like I will perish in the middle of the wild wilderness that is Colorado if any of these things happen.  It is, after, 2016 and not 1816.

On the way to the brevet, I think of turning around as the rain continues.  "How does Steve do it," I ask myself.  "What are the probabilities that he can pick another day for the Kentucky brevet series where it rains?"  Because of my indecision about even driving there, sans rain, I am a bit late at the start.  When everyone leaves the parking lot, I still am deciding what to wear and what to carry, but I am not far behind.  I know how it goes anyway.  Everyone will pedal as if they are going to finish with the top group, and the majority will not be able to keep the pace.  When I register, Bill and Steve assure me that the weather man just said the rain was "out of here."  Typically, I believe them and end up doing something I might otherwise not do.  You would think that after awhile I would wise up.  Guess the old adage is true:  "There is no fool like an old fool." 

The rain continues, a cold steady drizzle.  Initially I think I am overdressed, but as the rain continues and I gradually become damp, that damp that I can never figure out if it is from rain and my raincoat isn't keeping me as dry as it might or if it is from sweat or if it is a combination of the two, I realize that I am probably dressed just right unless it turns colder.  Of course, I assure myself, if it turns colder it will become snow.  And I always carry my emergency poncho which would do in a pinch.  I pass the spot where, for some reason, I remember Susan and I stopping to put on our reflective gear on a brevet years ago.  Sometimes I wonder what makes us remember the moments that we do and forget others. 

On the way to the first control, Bill has chain issues.  I turn around when I see he is off the road, but he tells me to go on and so I do.   Being a woman, I wonder as I ride whether he really meant for me to go on or whether he was just saying that because he thought he should.  Overthinking again, I tell myself.  I try to ride hard, but at a pace that I will be able to maintain to the end or near the end.  At the first control, Steve Rice tells me the rain is supposed to get worse before he pulls out.  I complain to Steve Mauer who said he thought I liked rain.  And sometimes I do, but not today and not when it is cold despite the fact that these two conditions probably end up helping me complete this course more quickly than normal. Today I am fighting the depression of a recent anniversary that never was, that never saw life.  Today I am fighting my lack of control over things.  Today I need sun and brightness and happy thoughts. 

His words, however, do help me to see the some of the beauty around me, at least for a brief time.  The rain persists until after the turnaround, at one point becoming so stinging that I wonder if I will need to stop to protect my eyes.  I have never really found a good eye glass solution for very rainy days.  The brim of my cap helps, but glasses just don't stay dry and seem more of a problem than blurry vision.  I am concentrating so hard and looking so inward, that I almost miss the secret control.  Mark hollers, "Where are you going?"  Fortunately for me, I recognize his voice, for normally when men yell at me I put my head down and pedal harder, afraid that they are a threat.  Cat calls, whistles, and yells from strangers just have always struck me that way, rightly or wrongly, cause for concern rather than something that brightens and lifts and attracts. Pedal, pedal faster, take control.  I fight this instinct, turn around and have my card signed before continuing onward.  The world just seems more dangerous now that he is gone.

Daffodils promise to bloom and to make this a lovely ride for the 300.  The route winds along the Kentucky river and by creeks and everywhere there is the sound of the water that will turn this into a paradise of green lushness in the coming spring.  Spring provokes and tantalizes, but will play the tease for a few more weeks I fear, until I can barely stand it and think I will explode if she does not show me herself in all her glory.

At the turn around, I quickly down some fried chicken and a biscuit, then head out before my chilling becomes worse.  Chilling is, I know, the enemy.  Wool and my rain coat will keep me warm enough, but only if I keep moving.  My gloves are so wet that I need to wring them out before I put them back on.  Normally I carry spare gloves and socks to change into mid way or if rain stops, but I really had not expected this.  I am glad I had the foresight to put on my bar mitts.  I remain amazed at the warmth they provide for my hands.   I dream for miles of a bath tub filled with hot, steamy water and the delicious scent of lavender and how I will soak until every joint in my body is seeped through with warmth. I dream of warm, stretchy pajamas and furry slippers and the afghans I keep on the couch to snuggle in on winter evenings.  I think of other things, of course, and puzzle over things that have been said to me, like the girlfriend who told me that the local men are scared to death of me, something I need to ask about because I totally don't understand.  Or of where I want to go on my bike this year other than Colorado.  Of what I will do if I don't ride the series and qualify and if there is enough of the old me in the new me to even be bothered by it. 

Dustin is at the store stop, and I see him shivering, but he said he is not going to eat until the next stop and that he is not leaving the store until it stops raining.  I leave hoping for his sake as well as mine that the rain stops soon, and it eventually does, but not for many miles.  I curse the weather man in my mind.  "Twenty percent chance of rain, my ass," I think.  And I wonder briefly if God and my husband are up in heaven laughing at me, thinking what a silly predictable person I am and knowing that this was where I was meant to be.  The depression I had sunk into since our wedding anniversary last week has receded.  I am tired, bone weary at the end.  My right knee hurts.  But I am alive. And life is what is and what is missing is missing and won't return.  But life is pretty darned good sometimes.

The rain eventually stopped, one of the two main obstacles on this course.  The cold never did.  I don't believe it got much above the low forties the entire day.  There was, however, and I am thankful for this, little wind.   Actually, all considered, it was a fairly easy brevet for Kentucky. I don't know how many finished, how many states were represented this year.  This brevet was a mostly solitary ride as my life is mainly a solitary life now.  But it is okay and I am okay and things are always changing. Perhaps next year it will be dry.  Change, after all, while inevitable, is also not always a bad thing.