RAIN Ride Report

            160 miles is a very long way!  Riding one’s bike from one side of the state to the other is indeed a tall order.  Some 1500 of us gave it a go last Saturday!
             I was well-trained and prepared, but had never done this before, and really wanted to accomplish it.  I guess I never really thought about the pain and agony of the process of making this hope become a reality.

The Moment I Almost Died

91 degrees was the high that day….full on sunshine…

            The moment I almost died lasted more like an hour.  Out in the countryside, floating between New Palestine and Greenfield, past the 100 mile mark, I suddenly found myself all alone on unfamiliar roads.  I was roasting in the heat, longing to return to the familiarity of route 40, or perhaps more precise, the familiar comfort of the air-conditioned car waiting there, that just might be convinced to take me home! 
            I was alone because I simply could not concentrate enough fire power into my legs to keep anyone else’s wheel.  I was floating in the middle of our 4 person group, yo-yoing between 17 and 20 mph, signifying that I was not concentrating at all.  I was running out of water and had no desire to eat.  Yep- the heat was eating me! 
            Fortunately I was making the last turn when our 4th rider came up behind with encouragement.  Alas I could not hold her wheel either at that point and really felt a nudge of despair settling in for that last couple miles before the rest stop where I would see Jennifer again (and likely beg her to take me home!).
            When I arrived, I was toast.  I really didn’t want to go on, but something about me knew that if I said that out loud it would be worse for me.  I sat in the shade, wiping the ice-cold washcloth on my neck, chest and head and appreciating every water bottle, power bar and snack my wife brought to me.  I knew I needed to cool down because even my feet were burning.  I knew I needed to eat.  I knew I needed to drink.  I hadn’t died….yet!
            In fact, what I realized as I sat there with the rest of my friends laughing about our collective suffering was that this period was the “Break Thru.”  You see, up until that point, I had only ever ridden 100 miles.  But here I was spinning into the 120 mile range and I could tell something was different.  It was hard.  I HAD to push and focus.  The days ride was 160, so I knew there was more to come, and if that knowledge wasn’t enough, I would soon look up to see my friends planning their remount and departure- so I HAD to go!  Prying my body off the sidewalk, I wiped one last time, pulled my helmet over my salty hair and lifted my tired leg.  I kissed my wife, thanked her for all the support and pushed my first pedal stroke down.      

            Once I rolled a bit on route 40, I realized I was not struggling near as much as those few miles before the rest stop.  Something had changed.  The heat was much more tolerable, perhaps because the gentle wind was now, and forever more on my back. 
            Perhaps it was a number of factors coming together for the perfect storm- only it wasn’t a storm anymore.  It was whatever the opposite of storm might be.  Perhaps it was a victorious calm.  I was not holding wheels like I did in the first half of the ride, but, I was also not yo-yoing speed anymore.  I was steady.  I was riding within myself- which is something I promised myself I would do before we started.  (These are the self-imposed rules we cyclists commonly disregard at the beginning when the pack is pedaling 32 mph and we’re in the middle of it!)  With my newfound steady rhythm this late in the day, I was even able to pass some people, especially on the hills.  Once I found this kind of steadiness, I knew…I could make it. 
            Sometimes we reach deep.  Sometimes we are able to reach deeper.  But I believe that there are some moments in our lives where the Force of All That is Good reaches down even further into our beings than we ever imagined, to find undiscovered possibility dwelling there, waiting to be tapped and brought to bear.
            That’s what happened to me on this RAIN Ride.  I didn’t die.  But part of my necessity to be in control certainly did.  Part of me decided to just be me.  We can not be bigger than we are.  We can not think more of ourselves.  We cannot ego ourselves to the finish.  We can only be ourselves, hoping that what we are at this moment is enough for the task at hand.

Somewhere along the way I told Jennifer I never wanted to do this ever again.  When she asked me on Sunday afternoon, I said, “I want to do it again tomorrow!”

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One Comment on “RAIN Ride Report”

  1. Katie Robinson Says:

    Thanks for this Stephen! I am training to run a half marathon in October and have been feeling discouraged about being able to make it. But your words are going to keep me going!! I CAN do it!!

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