It wasn’t fun. Well, it was. It’s always fun to be out on the bike, but it was also miserable given the heat. We started at 6:30 in the morning to try to avoid the heat as best we could. We were doing a 32-mile loop three times. The first hour of the ride was quite lovely, but by the end of the first loop, the heat was too much. The second and third loops were difficult, but we managed. Just barely.
As with most long rides, my mental state was all over the place. Part of the time, I was telling myself, “I can totally do this. It’s flat. It’s much easier than what I’ve been riding. I’ll be fine.” Other times, I was thinking, “Maybe I’ll wreck and not be able to ride any more today. Or even better, maybe I’ll total my bike and not be able to race Wisconsin.” Obviously, I wasn’t right in the head much of the time, but I chalk that up to the delirium that comes with heat and exhaustion. It’s particularly bad when the corn starts to scowl and the trees turn into incredibly angry people. Not that that happened today…much.
The bright spot – because there’s always a bright spot – is that I got it done. I’m five weeks out from Wisconsin, and my body feels strong. I’m hopeful that my race will feel good this year.
The other bright spot – because there’s often more than one – is that I felt supported out there in the best way. Dave came out and rode the first loop with us. Then he supported me and my friends who are also training for Wisconsin. He had a cooler in his car stocked with water, cold drinks, grapes and even watermelon. I thought he’d be in the parking lot where I could refuel at the start of each loop, but twice he turned up randomly on the course.
The first time, Dave turned up about twenty miles into the second loop, at a beautiful church along the course. Minutes earlier, I had told my teammate that I was fading and needed some help. I’d even stopped riding for a minute and just drank and tried to get myself together. Then he turned up, and I was able to refuel with cold drinks, rather than the warm water that had practically been boiling in my bottles, and I had watermelon. Glorious watermelon.
The second time, he turned up on the long and windy stretch that I’d complained to him about at the church – the road I hate most on this particular route. I nearly started to cry when I saw him. I pulled over, got off my bike, sat on the ground, and ate and drank myself back to a state of wellness that I knew could carry me the last fifteen miles.
And did I mention he had flowers on that long and painful road? He did. How lucky am I to get an aid station with flowers? Super lucky. I know.
What we’re doing isn’t easy. It eats up nearly the entire day each Saturday because we ride and then have the energy to do little but recover. It also eats up Sunday mornings and most mornings before work. And since the mornings are critical, I’m often going to sleep – or falling asleep – much earlier than I normally would. So evenings are often wiped out too. But this training thing – it’s worth every bit of the effort.
Like today. It was awful for sure. But I’m so proud of my effort and the fact that the negative thoughts in my head didn’t prevail. I rode 96 miles in 97 degree heat, then I had a fun and delicious meal with the world’s greatest Sherpa, and now I’m home looking back on my day and patting myself on the back. There’s something incredibly gratifying at doing something hard. Today was hard.
Today was also a ton of fun. The ride was fun. The meal was fun. The afterglow of the ride is fun. The anticipation of being in Wisconsin again in five weeks is fun. It’s all fun. And it’s fun despite the heat, which I will suffer through for another five weeks…with the help of my sweet Dave. And who knows? Maybe once again there will be flowers…