Typically, you know if you’re ready for a 100-mile bike ride. They’re old hat for my friends and me. We’ve done dozens upon dozens together over the years. Conversely, you also know when you’re not ready – an unsettling feeling going into the hardest century of the year… and it also being the first and longest ride so far this year. By double.
The evening before, I’d offered to ride with my wife for the hundred km option. I knew it was going to be hard for her and I was nervous about the full distance anyway having only completed a fifty-miler on the tandem so far this year. That, and now that my wife and I are kicking on all cylinders again, the thought of her struggling alone out on the course… well, it wasn’t easy to accept. My wife, however, tenderly placed a hand on either side of my face and said, “Sunday. We’ll ride Sunday together. Tomorrow, I want you to ride with your friends.” I agreed.
We rolled out to cool temps and cloudy skies but there was barely a breeze. It was perfect for a start to a hundred-mile bike ride. The pace to start was marvelous. A little on the fast side, but not too much to handle. My wife stayed on for ten miles before sliding off the back… it was not easy to let her go. She fell off on my turn up front and when I dropped to the back, I could barely make her out in the distance. I rolled on with the group, though.
We stopped at the first rest stop and topped off water bottles and used the facilities. It was to be a quick stop. Just as I came out of the porta-john, I looked up and my heart skipped a beat. My wife walked up and kissed me and said, “I busted my butt to catch up so I could see you”. I knew she wasn’t going to hang on long when we started off again so I offered one more time, implored, really, to ride with her. I was really unsure of whether I’d make the full hundred anyway. She stuck to her guns and said we’d ride together tomorrow, that I should go with friends.
We rolled out. My wife played cat and mouse with the group for a few miles but before long was off the back again. The group was punishing up hills. Downhill and on the flats, my wife is mega-strong, but she has trouble with hills. And there’s lots of them on this ride. I came to the back after a turn and could see her off in the distance. It took everything I had to stay with our group.
And that’s exactly when I started praying about what in God’s name was going on in my head. I’d never had a problem letting my wife do her thing in past Horsey Hundreds! I literally asked God, pedaling away, holding the wheel in front of me, “What is going on!”
And the answer came in a flood of emotion; “You love her so much it’s hard to ride away and leave her out there on her own”. We’ve made such great strides in our marriage lately, staying with her on a bike ride had triggered a biological/emotional response to stay with her rather than my friends.
It all made so much sense. This is exactly how a husband should feel in a situation like that – a feeling I’d suppressed for decades because of resentment and marital angst between us. Resentment and angst that was all but gone.
I stuck to what my wife said, though. I fought through the desire to ride with her and I rocked that hundred out. At the lunch stop, I texted my wife our location and ate my lunch. She called after I’d finished to say she was struggling and needed a pep-talk. I’d planned on telling her what I’d learned later that evening but figured that was my prompting. I walked away from earshot of my friends and explained it to the last detail. I told her she was awesome and she’d walk all over that 100k and I’d see her soon. Her mood buoyed, we said our “I love you’s” and hung up.
I’d almost cut out for the 75-mile route with a couple of others a few miles earlier but had decided to stay on to the end. I wanted my 2022 pin to add to my collection.
And so it was. And we ended up with an average more than a mile-an-hour faster than last year.
My wife was waiting outside at the hotel as Mike and I rode up. My heart skipped a beat again.