Monday, April 13, 2015

Finding Strength From Friends

Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing,
but to turn it into glory.
-William Barclay

The willow is my favorite tree.  I grew up near one.  It's the most flexible tree in nature and nothing can break it--no wind, no elements, it can bend and withstand anything.

I'm always amazed by how friends know when to push, when to ease up and when to step away.  I've found many of my friends have taught me to be more "willow like" in my way of thinking and living. This weekend of riding was just that--a test of how pliable yet strong I could be.  Although I've done bigger miles, more hills and harder rides than the two I did this weekend, I was pushed into a different level of knowing my strengths and who I am because of these great friends--some old, some new.

I sit here, legs so fatigued I can barely walk down stairs, eyes so tired I could fall asleep sitting up and with one hell of a grin on my face.  One ride, which totaled 96 or so miles, with two stronger riders and one fairly matched rider made me question what the hell was I thinking when I signed up for this.  I was pretty good 'til after lunch and the turn around point and then zap--all the umph from my legs was gone.  Being a person who hates having friends wait up for me, I instantly went into my "guys, go ahead...I'm fine, I'm just going to take my time rolling back" mode.  The answer from one of my friends was "Nope.  We'll slow down.  We've got all day...finish this together."  I'm not sure if my sigh was audible, but at that moment I just had to suck it up, dig deep and roll on.  I thought to myself, "well, if I fall off my bike somewhere and end up in the fetal position on the side of the road, maybe one of 'em will come back pick me up".  Thankfully, this didn't happen.  I finished the ride--in a painfully slow manner--but with a smile on my face (especially once that first sip of beer touched my lips).  I felt good.  Almost like I had accomplished something, even though that something was just a long, hilly ride.

When I finally rolled home, showered, and ate more, I realized "shit, I have to wake up and do this again tomorrow."  I woke at 6:30am to the sound of the wind already rattling the windows.  20+ mph winds to start, ramping up to 25 as the day wore on.  This was not going to be pretty.  But, I had my friends with me, I was on my bike, the views from the top of the climbs would be beautiful, and yes, although I wasn't sure of it at the time, I would survive.

The miles ticked by along with the hills.  The wind shifted to make it seem like we were always going into the wind and I remember laughing hysterically at times because I found the wall like wind to be funny (I'm not sure if I get this joke now).  Towards the top of a few of the climbs I thought I may puke a bit, but then I didn't so I rode on.  It was warm, the sun kissed my face, once again I was on my bike with friends, and although my legs felt like lead, I was so blissed out just "to be".

At the end of the second ride, I knew I hadn't ridden fast or strong but I finished both with only small complaints about the wind.  I finished next to friends, with a beer in hand, and wanting to repeat this entire scenario every weekend.  I can't thank these guys enough for knowing when to push me--in a nice way--and getting me out there to play all damn weekend.  Cheers!

End of ride #1
photo by Marc Sharer

End of ride #2--yep, same place

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