So there I sat, on the side of the road, cowering under the eave of a strangers’ home in torrential rain as lightning struck every side of the field I was next to…shivering and soaked, I had made the heart wrenching but very intelligent decision to get off my bike and seek shelter during my 20 mile ride between Almont and Crested Butte. As I hovered under the small piece of overhanging roof, and let the feeling come back to my numb fingertips, I contemplated how I got to this place….
It all started a week before last, as we geared up for the 109 West Bike Tour, my boss suggested asking an injured rider we knew if they would want to join us on the tour as a volunteer, to still be a part of the tour. While I appreciated the sentiment, my response was that working a bike tour you wanted to be riding was a special kind of torture. And while I was somewhat joking, there was a layer of truth behind the jest.
I love what I do, the people, the interaction, seeing my plans come to fruition…but it is hard to sit on the sidelines watching others enjoy something you wish you were a part of. I know it is not just me, I am sure every tour director and member of support staff feels a slight twinge of jealousy a a rider departs for an epic day while they stay behind to tie up loose ends or move ahead to make sure all is set for what lies ahead.
As I have become more motivated and in love with cycling, sitting things out has become harder. I have struggled over the past year to eek out time during tours to ride for myself, always a difficult endeavor as it is often time crunched, cut short or all together forsaken when duty calls. I know I can’t complain. I could work a 9-5 where the option to escape my computer screen for physical activity could be non existent. But it is hard to be right there, seeing cyclists smiles as they get in unforgettable miles as I drive support or man aid stations.
This dilemma is what led me to thew spot I described. After a full day of work, my boss and I had made the goal of trying to ride the last leg of the tour into town. As the clouds moved in and the sky darkened, we stayed set in our resolve. After dropping off a group of riders at the hotel, I turned south and returned to Almont in the off and on downpour, handed over the keys to the truck, and mounted my bike for the return.
At first it wasn’t bad. The rain was a light drizzle, the coolness allowed me to push my pace without overheating. The shoulder was large and allowed for me to ride safely without splatter from passing cars. I knew I had a reception to be at shortly, so I kept a quick, almost race pace along the way, trying to time out my arrival and very necessary shower to follow.
As Crested Butte approached, lightning began to strike in the distance. As I rode on, diligently counting the seconds between strike and rumbling thunder as to gauge my distance and safety, I started to rethink my almost manic decision to ride that day. I am a parent, I have a child who depends on me, and I should most likely not be playing chicken with bolts of pure electricity to get in a 20 mile ride. So I stopped.
Because in that moment I realized what I often forget during these tours…that I ride 3-4 times a week, I attend great spin classes during the winter, I have ample opportunity to be on my bike. That there are plenty of things I would take risks for,but a ride less than 2 hours from my front door,one I could accomplish any given weekend, was not of value and easily worth forsaking.
Sometimes it is all about perspective, about stepping outside yourself and your immediate wants and needs and weighing out the worth of your actions. Sometimes life is about being an adult, sacrificing your own desires for the greater good. Sometimes it is worth listening to the good angel on your shoulder, following caution instead of throwing it to the wind. IT is hard to remember at the time how many more opportunities you will have ahead of you follow the road you have not yet ridden,to remember there are roads you don’t even know are in front of you, and to opt to see what lies ahead instead of staying on your (very clearly) poorly chosen path.
After a much needed hot shower and some sustenance, all the manic fog began to clear. I have the time. I am 33. In the less than year I have been riding, I have covered roads, ascended passes, raced and won..time is on my side, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. In less than three weeks from today, I will be riding my first metric century on Tour de Cure (shameless promotion here, could really use donations towards my fundraising goal, look below for a link). That is a whole new adventure awaiting me, as is my first attempt at gravel road riding next month in Indian Peaks Classic. So much awaits me that I cannot even foresee. If someone had told me a year ago that this is what I would be doing, I wouldn’t have believed it. SO as I continue on this new path, I try to keep this all in perspective, that on the arc of my life, this is but a small turn, and years from now I will not remember the day I gave up on a ride, but will remember all the amazing things I have done as a cyclist since then.
And PS- Tour de Cure is a great charity ride, and while my personal rider minimum is $200, I have joined the Primal Team to try to help them reach a much larger team goal, and hugely appreciate anything you can pledge towards the cause: Donate Now