We headed out with another 40 miles this morning. We ended up with just shy of that, 38. But who’s really counting (I am, don’t worry)?
I’m the awesome lookin’ guy on the far right. My wife is to my left, then Chuck and Phill, Matt and Mike best buddy, Mike. Sherry is up front holding the tandem. Dave and his wife on that tandem are hella fast and Dave is, without a doubt, an “A” guy. The rest of us make up much of the “B” group. Of those in that photo, Mike and I are next in line as far as brute strength on the bike goes. Mike’s got me on endurance by just a smidge and I have him on raw power by about the same amount (and age… and hair for that matter). This will matter in a minute.
It was obviously a little cold when we started out this morning. 26 degrees, or -3 C if memory serves. I was dressed perfectly though. Oh, and I wear that neck gaiter like that because, as my buddy Mike pointed out, “it makes me look like a bandit”.
Anyway, we “B” guys were feeling quite happy as we rolled out because we had the “A” guy outnumbered. A mile later we picked up four more of the “A” guys, and one A+… Dammit.
Then, much to our amazement, heading they kept it pretty respectable heading out into the wind (18-20 mph, it was only a little more than a breeze). I stayed in the second bike spot, behind the tandem for almost five miles before moving back behind a few of the racer dudes. And there I stayed for 13 miles before we started taking turns up front, and I definitely took mine.
We held on as the B group for more than 17 glorious miles before we turned onto part of the Tuesday night route. I’d talked to Mike a couple of miles back and I had a feeling we were going to have to break the B group off lest we hammer them too hard with too many miles left.
They stopped for a nature observation break and we headed southwest with a bit of help from the wind. We’d already dropped Matt and Chuck who’d turned and headed back towards home. So it was Mike, me, Phill and my wife… with 21 miles to go and tailwind for all but five of those. Not so bad.
After a few miles the A guys caught us and we latched back on for several miles. The pace was fine for Mike and I but I knew it was going to hurt my wife. Then we turned east and with the crosswind and 23+ mile an hour speeds, I knew my wife and Phill couldn’t hang. Mike and I would have taken that back all the way home. I pulled up to Mike and said, “Man, we gotta let them go. Jess can’t handle this pace”. He agreed and we all pulled out of the line, forming an echelon of our own.
What that means though, is a lot of time up front for Mike and I. Mike and I took 2-4 mile turns at the front between 19 and 21 mph while my wife and Phill would take a mile each.
When we turned to head back south-ish we had an 18.5 mph average. When we pulled into the parking lot we were exactly at 18.5 mph for the trip.
I saw the back of the pace line twice. 36 miles I was fourth bike or better. The last 15 miles I was either first or second bike. I did my job and then some, for the group. As we were packing up the bikes, my buddy Phill, who spent the last 20 miles at the back making sure my wife connected back with Mike and me, said…
“Man, you’re an animal this year”. He thanked me for spending so much time up front and I thanked him for looking after my wife so I could. My wife did her part too. She spent a few miles up front and didn’t quit or complain one time. We all did what we do and ended with smiles on our faces.
I live to love being that guy. The animal. The guy who will leave his guts out on the road so his bros and wife can go just a little faster and farther because I’m there. I feel useful, and there is no better feeling than that.
Life on two wheels is awesome.
I’ve mentioned on this blog that my wife and I were pretty close to divorce at one time but I’ve never written about why.
Now, my wife was a tremendous pain if my butt back then, of this there is no doubt. This is the last I will write of that fact because it doesn’t matter. What does matter, what I can do something about, is me. Oh, you can kid yourself into believing it’s about them but, excepting physical abuse, the idea is largely silly.
If not for your spouse’s faults, they’d have picked a better mate. Let that sink in a second because it sure hit me hard…
Okay, now with all of the tough guy stuff out of the way, allow me to get down to the good stuff.
I was afraid to love my wife all the way. Simple as that. I went to a therapist, solo and with my wife for three years to figure that simple truth out.
What if I gave it everything I had and she didn’t change? Then I’d be hooked and still miserable!
What if I went all in and she ended up cheating on me? I’d be devastated!
What if it didn’t work?
Notice that theme there? A lot of “what if’s” and not a one of them any good. This was my worst fault in my marriage. Entirely fear-based and useless.
I had to let that part of me go. It wasn’t anything ridiculous or sexy, like an exorcism or something. I just had to let go of my fear and love my wife… and what do you know, when I did my part, I noticed an immediate change in my wife. The harder I worked at being a better husband, the harder my wife worked at being an awesome wife – we fed off of each other’s willingness to be a better spouse.
That’s not the end of the story though – it gets a lot better. Once we had a decent foundation under us, once we had something to work for, we had something to protect. And we did. We protected what we’d worked for and our marriage grew into something that several years ago, I’d thought was impossible.
This is my favorite part; if you ask my wife, she started this. She reached out and I changed because she did first. The cool thing is, I’m perfectly okay with her side of the story because it doesn’t matter how we got to this place. It just matters that we did.
End of story.