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Sunday, May 7, 2017

One More Year of the Pam

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily.
To not dare is to lose oneself."
Soren Kierkegaard 

Quite honestly, I don't want to ride today.  I remember all too well how cold it can be when it is in the low 40's and raining and I am on a bicycle. I remember how fingers stiffen, as if the cold freezes the joints, and toes ache until the only thing you can think of is a bath tub full of steaming, hot water.  Cheeks redden and noses run.  Rides starting with some laughter and jokes become death marches, quiet with one goal in mind, the only background noise the steady thrumming of the rain.  Rain mixed with road grit splashes from the road into your mouth, into your eyes or onto your glasses, onto your water bottle. But somehow I get myself out the door.  I unpack the wool clothing I thought I would not use till next year, my bar mitts, my rain cap, my rain jacket, and I go.  For I know how wimpy I am becoming, and how weak.  I had to turn down a ride I would have loved to have ridden because of it, and I know the only way I will gain strength is to go and hurt a bit.  For it is not just the unseasonable cold and the weather prediction, but the course.  I know all too well I am going to hurt before the day is through.  But I need to do this.  I am losing myself, and I am not ready to do that.

I don't know what I expect, but when I get there it is only Steve, the ride captain, Jason, and Matt.  Jason really surprises me because of the longest time he would not ride when it was at all cold.  It tickles me to see him and lifts my spirits as I see someone make their way over to the dark side of distance riding. It helps that it is not yet raining.  I remind Jason that he has not yet sent me a link to donate to the MS ride.  I have two friends who have spouses with MS and I try to donate something.  More than many people, I know what it is to love someone who is ill and has no way of getting better.  Later in the ride, when we talk about some political issues, I wonder how Jason feels about the new health bill for certainly MS would be a pre-existing condition.  I may or may not be the only Democrat on this ride, but I can't believe he would favor a bill that penalizes people for their misfortunes, even if the misfortune is not of their making.  I wonder if the others think of this as we talk.  I wonder if Jason thinks of it.  Briefly I think how most people become more conservative as they age and I wonder what it was that made me become more liberal. I think that I am glad we can have these discussions and still be friends.

The rain begins shortly after we leave the parking lot and continues until after lunch.  I chill at the first store stop and I am glad the stop is brief.  Matt drinks coffee to warm himself.  I stick to V-8 and a banana. I know I must make myself drink for I will not want to drink on the ride as I am cold.  I am surprised that Jason and Matt are still with us.  Steve undoubtedly feels obligated to stay with me, no matter my pace, since he is ride captain, but they are not obligated.

This ride is a beautiful ride, and in places the creek bordering the road practically screams with water from all the rain.  I like the sound of the water as it rushes toward the river, carving rocks and taking dirt and smaller things along with hit. I think of how as children we would float leaves and sticks in the creeks, or how we would block the gutters at the end of the street and cause ponding until we got caught. The trees are green and lush in a way that they only are when they first burst forth in the spring. In places there are wild flowers.  The only thing I miss that I normally notice on this ride is honeysuckle.  And then, right before Hanly Hill, as we cross a stream of water and mud running across the road, Jason's rear wheel slips and slides out from under him, dumping him unceremoniously on the ground.  Luckily, while he tears his rain jacket and loses some skin to the road, he is not seriously hurt.  Shortly afterward, on my climb up Hanly, a climb I made but was unsure that I was strong enough to make this year, I almost join him as I stand and my rear wheel spins out.  Steve later says he has the same issue.  I celebrate internally at the top of the steep climb.  I don't mind walking a hill, but I don't like walking a hill because I am too weak to climb it.  And I hurt.  My thighs threaten cramping that never quite materializes but hides in the background. 

After lunch it seems to be even colder as it always does on this type of ride, but at least the rain has stopped and, while steady, it was never a downpour, just a gentle drip.  I know we have the short, steep climb after the park.  Steve's wheel slips on the climb and he is off, but at least he does not fall.  It serves as a reminder to remain seated.  People climb hills in different ways.  Some rarely stand.  Some stand the majority of the time.  And some, like me, do both.  Today, however, until the rain dries, on steep hills there does not appear to be a choice. 

Soon afterward, Jason and Matt do decide to ride ahead, and Steve, being ride captain, stays back with me.  I get to hear about some of his interesting projects.  He reminds me of Lloyd in that way:  he always is into something new.  I briefly think that he would probably enjoy beekeeping if he ever tried it because the bees always outsmart you.  You can try to keep them from swarming, to reduce swarming, but you will rarely succeed, and if you do will not the next time you try the exact same thing.  In other words, you just never can really quite figure them out.  But it is not his thing.  It was my husband's thing.  The trait of liking to figure things out is probably one of the few personality traits that they share. 

Near the end of the ride, I realize that I am warm, even a bit too warm.  I also realize that I have made most of the hills albeit at a slow pace.  Next ride, perhaps, I will be a bit stronger.  I am not yet ready to lose this piece of myself.  Thanks, guys, for making it a doable day.  Tomorrow my bike will need a scrubbing, but tomorrow the sun is supposed to shine. 

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