Last night was my normal club ride – 30 miles of pure joy. The weather, a cold front having just pushed through a few hours earlier that brought rain followed by immaculately clear skies, couldn’t have been better – with one exception: 20 mph wind gusts.
Normally I’m good to stay with the horses in that group for about 20-25 miles before they kick it into a gear that I simply don’t have. This isn’t bad news of any sort, the guys that I’m talking about are all current or former racers – they’re fast. As well, I’d never judge my fitness by whether or not I could keep up with them, they’re next level and put something into their workouts that I’m simply not willing to give.
On windy days the group is just brutal. One way or another I always find myself in the gutter of an echelon with no protection from the wind. Last night was pretty cool though – right around the eight mile mark I was on the good end of a double echelon so I had protection both in front and from the side and I was cruising gloriously. Then the wheels fell off going around a sharp turn. The group shattered and when it reformed, the only slot left was in sheer misery. It wouldn’t be so bad at 18 or 20 mph, but at 25 with an obnoxious 20 mph cross-headwind it was just too much. I detached and fell off the back to pedal easy for the rest of the ride. That was right at the ten mile mark. For the next two miles I thought about taking a shortcut I learned while riding with my wife and the slower group a few weeks back – it would have turned a 30 mile ride into a 24 mile ride with just a turn of the wheel… Oh it was tempting. The wind was just sucking the life out of me.
Nearing the shortcut turn I thought to my self, “Self, you’re not going to be a punk today. You’re going the full 30, now quit your bitching and get on with it”. And that’s exactly what I did. I could see another rider about a mile up who’d fallen off the back as well so I made it a game to see if I could catch him (he’s a stronger rider than I am, but not by much). I got my butt in gear and was with him in a matter of three or four miles.
Folks, this is the only way I know to get and stay fit. On those days when most mere mortals sit on the couch and even the exceptional one’s would take the easier route home, I choose to go the extra mile (or six in this case). Let me tell you, the traffic on the extra mile is pretty sparse.
All told, with my warm-up, I logged 35 miles yesterday, that last thirty at just a shade under 20 mph average. With the wind that we had yesterday, that’s a big number – fastest I’ve ever ridden in that kind of wind… And I could have taken it easy and felt lousy about a 29 mile ride instead. Pity.
This is what fitness is to me. It’s not about who I can beat or even how fast I can ride… It’s about pushing my mind to accept the work, like it or not, so when I look in the mirror the next morning I can like what’s staring back at me.