For the last two weeks, I’ve been anticipating today’s training ride. This was my biggest training ride towards Wisconsin. My schedule said to ride for 7 hours. My plan was to ride the dam loop (a 43-mile hilly route) twice and then (energy permitting) make up whatever additional time I needed by riding an out and back on Parmer. I emailed some friends to see who I could wrangle together for this ride, and, oh my goodness, they came out in the best way.
I rode from my friends’ house up north and was joined on my first dam loop by Fred, MJ, Devon, and Dave. We started about twenty minutes later than intended, in part because I forgot to pack socks and had to borrow some from MJ. (Thank you, MJ!) Once we got going, it was a lovely loop, made lovely in part by the cloud cover and in part by great conversation, especially with Devon, who is a newish friend. Fred got two flats that loop, but flats aside, we rode smoothly. I felt pretty effortless the whole way, and I loved seeing Dave complete his first dam loop ever.
We got back to the house about an hour later than I’d anticipated. That meant my friend Catherine, who was joining us for the second loop, had been waiting for a ridiculously long time. It hadn’t occurred to me to let her know we’d started late and had some flats. (I’m sorry, Catherine!) But Catherine being Catherine, she didn’t lodge even a single complaint. Instead, she said hello and, when we were reloaded with fuel, happily hopped on her bike for the second loop.
Fred, Catherine and I rode the second loop, mostly together. They are both far stronger riders than I am, but they were out there to support me, and I felt it. I felt great the first half of the second dam loop. I loved riding up the Riverbend Church hill a second time. Every time I ride that hill, I’m reminded of my first attempt years ago, which resulted in me putting a foot down in the first driveway about half way up the hill. I love thinking about how far I’ve come!
Then, when we were on Bee Caves Road, not quite half way through the second loop, I started to fade a bit. It was hotter, and my legs were tiring. But because Catherine and Fred were with me, and we were talking, I kept pushing through. Then, out of nowhere, Catherine rode over something that caused both of her wheels to go flat. So we stopped and worked on her bike. We realized we didn’t have two tubes with long enough stems for her bike, so we called Dave.
Did I mentioned that Dave drove SAG for our second loop? He showed up at different spots cheering at some points and offering a cooler full of cold water, Gatorade and Pickle Juice at others. He happened to be passing us just as Catherine got the flats, so by the time we called him, he was already within our sight. He loaded her and her bike into the car and drove her to a brand new Bicycle Sport Shop that had just opened down the road. While they worked on her bike, Fred and I rode on to the next gas station stop. Once Catherine’s bike was fixed, Dave drove her back to the gas station, and the three of us headed out again.
The hardest part of the dam loop is the far stretch of 620 that has three big hills, including one that is a 9% grade at its steepest. I was tired by the time we got back to that hill, but I pushed up and felt a tremendous amount of pride at the top. The hardest part of the day was behind me. The rest would just be time in the saddle.
We made our way back to the house, refueled one more time, and then MJ and I headed out to Parmer. Technically, I only had to ride for 47 minutes, but MJ agreed to ride longer with me so I could hit 100 miles. We rode into some rain, which I’d normally complain about. But today, the rain cooled us off. And Dave – my sweet Dave – appeared at random places cheering for us, even in the rain.
102 miles, made possible by five friends – or four friends and Dave! I am amazed at how generous the people in my life continue to be with their time and energy. I’m the only one who was “training” today. Everyone else rode to ride and to help me get my long training ride done.
No one had to get there at 6:15 a.m. Any one of them could have chosen to start at a more civilized time. Devon didn’t have to put so much of her energy into talking to me. She could have focused on her own ride. Fred didn’t need to ride two loops. He could have ridden just one and called it a perfectly good day. Catherine didn’t need to wait over an hour when we didn’t show up when I’d said we would. She could have gone out on her own or gone home. MJ didn’t have to get back out on her bike for the Parmer add on. She could have chosen to shower and left me to get my final miles on my own. Dave didn’t have to be out on the road supporting us after he’d done his own big ride. He could have parked himself on the couch or in a restaurant, enjoying air conditioning and food. And not one of them had to be as verbally supportive as they were. It does a girl good four weeks before her big race to be called a badass and to be told she looks strong. Each person cheered me on in his or her own way, and I soaked up every bit of that encouragement.
Fred, MJ, Devon, Catherine, and Dave. They are how 102 miles happened today. I’m so grateful.