Despite all my angst and trepidation, last week’s ride was my favorite so far. I’m sure there’s a life lesson there.
We set out under gray skies with much debate over whether to wear raincoats. The route was mostly rural, rolling through small towns, farmlands and some woodsy bits. There were long stretches with no traffic at all, since most people are indoors drinking coffee and reading the paper on a cool, gray Sunday morning and not biking for 7 hours.
We rode south and east from Bellevue on roads I’d never been on, past Cougar and Squak Mountains, and south to towns I’ve never heard of, like Ravensdale (wasn’t that a city in Lord of the Rings?) and Kanaskat (are we in Alaska?), north to Black Diamond, west to Renton, and more north back to Bellevue. I love how these rides show me hidden, secret bike routes near neighborhoods where I’ve lived for the past 20 years.
I greeted the Green River Gorge like an old friend. I biked there for the first time a couple of months ago, surprised then that I hadn’t known such a spectacular place was so nearby. I figured if I’d made it home from there early on in this bike training thing, I could make it home this time. Half the group made an unofficial stop for a team picture, oohing and ahhing at the view.
I’ve started thinking about Green #4 as my team, finally getting to know names and stories. That I can be social and ride my bike at the same time is the best sign yet of my level of biking fitness. I think I may be emerging from survival mode if I can start cracking jokes.
To my great delight, we missed a turn somewhere along the way and shaved 3 miles and 300 feet elevation from our ride. “If I can’t finish the STP, I’m blaming this ride,” I told our cheerful ride leader. We agreed an unscheduled coffee stop at the Black Diamond bakery was called for.
My mood drifts radically during a long ride, anywhere at any given time between tired despair and contented euphoria. The first half of the ride was a fairly steady uphill, and I found myself wondering whether I was having fun. I tried to eat and drink a lot. And then we passed the quarter-of-the-way mark and then the half-way mark and I found myself sweeping along, wishing the ride wouldn’t end (despite the next paragraph). That’s the feeling that will keep me coming back as a bike rider.
About halfway through the ride, my back started tweaking. It hadn’t bothered me on any previous rides, but I may have overdone it in the garden the day before. Part of my learning curve is that a full day of gardening before a long ride does not count as a rest day. Probably not a good sign when effort on a hill causes an involuntary moan. I was worried my back would spasm out in the middle of nowhere, and that I would have to call my partner for a ride, curled up like a cockroach on the side of the highway, but I got home safe and sound with a couple of donated ibuprofen and felt much better with a beer.
Like a meta-mood, my anticipation of upcoming rides drifts radically from week to week. It’s interesting to have it documented here, so I can remember how confident or scared I was on any given week.
This week I’ve been thinking about childbirth. (Hang in here with me.)
At the beginning of each of my two pregnancies, I was terrified of childbirth. I mean, it hurts like hell and women die doing it. But by the end of each pregnancy, I felt calm and strong, a “bring it on” anticipation of labor and natural childbirth. Something mother lion about it.
I feel that way about this week’s upcoming 82-mile, 4,000-foot elevation ride. I know it will be hard. Bring it on.
Too bad I don’t get a cute baby at the end of it.
The beautiful Green River Gorge Kathryn Saxer is currently enrolled in the Cascade Training Series, a 13-week training series designed to prepare Cascade members physically and mentally for the Group Health STP or RSVP. She’s a personal and professional coach in Seattle. When not learning how to bike long distances, she likes to run in the mountains, share adventures with her 7- and 9-year-old children, and cook terrible dinners for her beloved and long-suffering partner. She’ll be reporting on her CTS journey weekly.