Normally, I ride my bike on Saturdays and run on Sundays, but this weekend, I craved more time on the bike, so I rode both days. It took me back to the summer of 2012 when I was working less and riding out on the road (as opposed to in spin classes) multiple times a week. Multiple times a week of actual riding did wonders for my bike strength. With just twelve weeks to Ironman Wisconsin, I’m actively chasing wonders.
On Saturday, I had company. On Sunday, I rode alone. On Saturday, I saw goats, cows, rabbits, dogs and birds. On Sunday, I saw dozens of cyclists, mostly men, in large packs. On Saturday, I rode long. On Sunday, I rode fast. On Saturday, I felt fresh. On Sunday, the saddle wasn’t exactly my friend. But I rode. And I rode happily both days.
Both days, as I rode, I grew a deeper appreciation for my health and my strength. I thought about how difficult my first ride was an adult felt – how scared I was, how little I knew about how gears worked, and how ready I was to get off the bike after just a ten miles. That was more than a decade ago. I’ve since ridden more than a hundred miles with energy to spare. I thought about the first time I rode the hill on Loop 360 in front of Riverbend Church. I couldn’t get all the way up. I had to pull into one of the driveways to rest before tackling the second half. Now, repeats on that hill don’t phase me mentally or physically. I didn’t know then how much stronger I would be a decade older.
I also had a moment of wonder at my own filth. Both days, but especially on Saturday, I felt the salt and sweat on my skin. I removed my drenched clothing. Even my socks were soaked as though I’d walked through a puddle (which I sometimes do at low water crossings), but I hadn’t this time. My feet hadn’t touched water, but they were damp and smelly. I had grease marks on my calves and bits of leaves in my hair. I had to shampoo my hair twice to feel clean. And this, just after a ride? No swim in fish-infested water beforehand? No marathon after? I had to laugh.
Today is the first day of summer. My training is well under way for this year’s biggest adventure. As with any Ironman, the time on the bike will make the biggest difference. This year especially, with lots of turns and relentless hills on Wisconsin’s course, the bike will matter. I’ll be spending lots of time on the open road in the coming months — strong, filthy, and in pursuit of one of the deepest joys I’ve ever experienced.
It’s going to be a good summer.