Saturday was my first road ride of the season. I’m just going to cut to the chase and say I got my, uh, my, um, pride, yes let’s say pride, handed to me. The morning of the ride I woke up extra early to prepare. I put on layers of cycling clothing. Then came the all important jersey selection. I peered at the rainbow of jerseys stacked neatly in my cycling drawer. (Yes, I have a cycling drawer in my dresser. I also have a cycling drawer AND shelf in my garage. It’s okay to be jealous.) I decided to go with my favorite pink Fat Cyclist jersey. It has FAT CYCLIST emblazoned across the back pockets. Awesome. I slipped on my jersey and then headed over to the mirror to tame the bedhead. Irony stared back at me.
I’ve grown squidgy around the edges and there’s no hiding anything in Spandex. I’ve got muffin top. I’m too fat for my Fat Cyclist jersey.
Then me and the muffin top headed out to the garage to give The Rocket a little attention. She was sleek as ever, bright pink wire casings looking all happy at me. I gave her a little air in her tires. By a little, I mean her tires were at 30 PSI and I had to pump fiercely to get them back up to 100 PSI. As I was pumping, I noticed cobwebs laced in the spokes.
Muffin top? Flat tires? Cobwebs? Had it really been that long? Not good. Not good at all.
My friend, That Laura, met me at my house and we headed out toward Millville Plains, my favorite place to ride. On our way out there we saw some pretty cool things like a field full of itty bitty goats. Then we saw buffalo. Buffalo are so cool looking. They are unimpressed by everything. I tried to snap a shot of a buffalo right next to the fence, but as I got closer he moved away, no doubt freaked by my muffin top. Sorry, buffalo. Just a little ways beyond the buffalo we passed a manger scene. It had Joseph. It had a handful of animals. It had Mary, but no Jesus. This led me to wonder WWJD? What was Jesus doing?
We continued on, That Laura speeding ahead of me and then graciously hanging back so I could catch up. She could have totally stomped me and left me to my own devices to get home, but she didn’t, so that was nice. The weather was perfect, sunny, crisp and with winds at about four miles per hour. It doesn’t get better than that. In Millville we stopped at the Post Office and scarfed down some snacks. Well, I didn’t actually scarf. What I thought was a whole Clif bar in my saddle pack was actually half of one I’d opened last season. Clif bars are tasty, but this one had taken on the consistency of concrete. Don’t get me wrong, I ate it. It just took a long, long time, meaning That Laura had to wait for me. Again.
We reached Millville Plains and I was loving the sweeping views. That Laura raced ahead of me, and with the exception of one or two cars, it was blissful solitude. The kind of solitude that quiets the mind and steadies the heart. I was turning the cranks pretty slowly, but with snow-striped Lassen to my left, I didn’t care. I chugged along with a ridiculous grin on my face. I love riding my bike.
That Laura had mapped out a thirty four mile ride for us. I’d ridden most of the roads before and thirty four miles is usually a pretty easy ride for me. Not Saturday. At about mile 25, I got what I call hollow legs. Hollow legs are when my legs start to ache, not muscle ache, not cramping, but a deep ache in my bones. Each pedal stroke feels like my legs are empty aluminum cans, ready to crumple at the slightest strain. I have ridden with hollow legs before, but usually at mile 75 or 80. To be greeted with hollow legs at mile 25 was disheartening.
This is the part of the story where I get philosophical. Feel free to skip ahead. I’ve learned a lot from cycling. For example, it really is all about the journey. The destination is just icing on the cake. Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s possible to cry and ride at the same time. In fact, it’s quite rewarding, even invigorating at times. Fortunately, I had no need to cry on Saturday because the most important lesson I’ve learned on my bike is that my mind is stronger than my body. Much stronger. If I can convince myself to just keep pedaling circles, then I know I can ride beyond the pain. Hollow legs are no match for a strong mind. My body listens to my mind and my mind is one tough cookie.
After nine miles of mental fortitude, we were back home eating minty ice cream sandwiches. I slumped on my couch for a few minutes until I was confident my legs could carry me to the bathroom. I eased my salty, sweaty self into the shower. My shower is about as big as a refrigerator. Single occupancy only. No tub. No frills. Not even room for big ideas.
As the scalding water ran down my head and turned my flesh pink, I sunk to the floor of my shower. I closed my eyes and the water swirled in rivulets down my cheeks. The water pounded my head and legs, massaging the aches away. A singular thought rose from the steam. I can’t wait to ride my bike again.