Set the temperature to 42 degrees, add rain, an occasional thunderbolt, and whip it up with 15 to 20 mph winds and you have the makings for a nice day on a bike. That is, if you’re nuts. That was my wife’s exclamation as I took part in the traditional cycling season opener in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Ironman® Bike Ride this past weekend. I was not alone. Four thousand other nuts with their bicycles, tandems and unicycles were with me. But only one of them mattered.
Tackling a century ride (mine was a metric century – 100 km) is akin to climbing a mountain. You do it because it’s there – the goal is it’s own reward. Or at least, that’s what I kept telling myself during the freezing onslaught of wind and rain. It’s easier to amuse yourself with thoughts of the finish line when enthusiasm and energy is still strong, however.
Someone once said that the size of your commitment can be measured by what it takes to stop you. By the time my three riding companions and I had reached the first rest stop at 25 miles, the strongest rider weighed in on the size of his commitment. Frozen fingers bested him. He packed it in. Before the day was over, more than a thousand others would join him.
Admittedly, when he bailed, I had second thoughts too. I might have been easily swayed to the comforts of a nice bath had my friend Andy not shown his resolve. He was my inspiration to endure and claim my prize. We may have been nuts to continue, to risk hypothermia, but because I did, I not only reached my goal, but I picked up a few reminders as well.
You do a lot of thinking over hours of pedal churning when the wind and rain are against you. I thought a lot about quitting. I really was nuts. Yet, every once in awhile I’d look up from my hunkered down position and see Andy, pedaling like a metronome. His presence inspired my grind. Who can I help keep going by being a constant companion in the storms of life?
When we turned into the wind, I thought about drafting. As the stronger rider, Andy silently encouraged me to follow in his draft by slowing his pace to mine. By tucking in behind him, his body acted as a shield from the headwinds, allowing me to preserve my energy for the long haul. Professional cyclists call it a slipstream and they use it, too, to nab their prize. Had Andy not slowed to my pace, I would have tired more quickly and may not have finished. Am I aware of the needs of those around me or am I oblivious as I race ahead?
When we crossed the finish line, I thought about gratitude. Certainly I was thankful the torment was over, but even more so, I was grateful for my riding companion who helped me endure. In my own personal storms, who can I express gratitude to?
My wife was right. It was nuts to be out there. But I was fortunate. I had a draft from the storm, and something more. I had new resolve to be a better draft for others.
SOUND OFF: How have you been helped by someone’s draft in difficult times?