This is going to start out with a nice story about my weekend ride and come together with a massively important point at the end…
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this has been one of my best years on two wheels – in fact, better than all of that speed stuff (which is fantastic), my wife and I have learned how to enjoy our tandem and have ridden it almost every Sunday since April. On top of all that, I’m up to 9 centuries and 14 metric centuries for the season.
I was excited for another century Saturday. The goal was to head to Laingsburg – a 77-mile round trip going the long way out and heading straight back home. The morning, excepting the wind, was wonderful. Sunshine, cool but barely arm warmer weather (the boys didn’t bother, the girls wore theirs for a time). Chuck and I were taking decent turns into the wind, three to five miles, and the pace was fair – 18 to 20-mph. We had a six mile south stretch into the wind that was just brutal but Chuck was dug in like a tick and hammered the whole chunk keeping the pace right around 19-mph. That was one of the toughest turns I’ve seen all year.
It was so epic, I didn’t even bother sprinting for my favorite City Limits sign. I straight up gave it to him. He earned it.
After that stretch, just 14 miles and change into the ride, we only had six more miles of straight headwind the whole rest of the ride.
My wife and Diane split off after 28 miles to head home, so that left just the three of us and some of the most glorious miles we’d turned all year long. We made the most of a cross-headwind, but when we hit the turn-around in Laingsburg, we hammered home with a little help. We dropped Mike off at his last mile home (I was at 77 miles) and Chuck and I headed off to lunch.
The wind had a little more west to it so it was a little tougher into it, but I still managed to crush out a couple of miles at 20 before turning north with a tailwind. We pulled into our favorite 100-mile lunch stop at 83 miles. We sat in the grass in the shade of a tree and ate.
Getting started after lunch sucked. I was a little better than a 19-mph average but Chuck was at 18.9 and he wanted 19. Initially he took off heading west and it looked like we’d be able to jump right back into our pace but he slowed after a half-mile and said, “Maybe anything in the 18 range will be okay.” I almost puked on my top tube a quarter-mile later on the way up a slight incline. Chuck took a mile of headwind and I came around for a little chunk. We back-and-forth’ed the next few miles and I could sense I was running out of gas. Still, we were looking at that 19 average as we exited our favorite weeknight subdivision and headed for home. I was up front and took a mile and a half with a cross-tailwind, taking a corner heading into the wind at almost 20-mph. Chuck asked if I wanted him to take it but I shook him off. I told him I was good and got him to the cross-tailwind. He took a mile, then I took one. That left Chuck to a headwind mile that he took between 19 & 20. I had a mile of cross-tailwind that I hammered at 21… and I ran out of gas. I had 96 miles and some change.
Chuck asked if I was going to ride home with him to get the extra miles but I passed. I’d had enough and took my toy home. My last mile into the headwind was between 12 & 16-mph and that was everything I had. I dropped down to the baby ring and spun home, shutting off my Garmin at 97.07 miles. I didn’t even care about that last three miles. A 5k in an 11,000 km season.
Chuck called about five minutes after I plopped down on the couch for a breather. He’d pulled into his driveway with a 19.03-mph average. The exuberance in his voice was cool. He thanked me for hammering as hard as I did because “every last second mattered”. He thanked me again, commenting on Strava a few minutes later.
That he made 19 and was so stoked that I helped made me feel pretty awesome. Definitely worth leaving three miles on the road for my friend.
This is just one day in a massively awesome life that started when I was 22 and decided to stop fighting the fact that I was, without question or hope, an alcoholic. I was a pickle. I wasn’t capable of enjoying something simple as a bike ride with my wife and friends because I was too busy fighting a losing battle to keep my head above water in the midst of a spectacularly fiery and mercifully short drinking career. Without recovery, last Saturday is impossible.
Once you’re a pickle, you never get to go back to being a cucumber. And for that I am grateful, because peace and happiness are good.