Friday, March 02, 2007

Against the Wind

"You know it’s windy outside when you look out of your window and birds are walking."

The weather was a stormy here in Charleston, SC last night, with the wind waking me up several times.

I was reminded of such a night in England back in the mid 1970s; I commuted on my bike, 29 miles each way to my frameshop just outside of Worcester. It was nine-thirty at night, raining heavily and with gale force winds blowing. The bad news was that the wind would be directly in my face on the ride home.

I was extremely tired after a very long day and while changing into my cycling clothes, I contemplated the ride ahead of me. Seated on a chair, I bent over to tie my shoes, and fell asleep. I woke suddenly when I almost fell over. I got my bike, staggered outside and locked up the shop. Succumbing to the realization that I had no choice but to ride home; I would make the best of it.

A mile into the ride I was not only wide-awake, but was riding into the wind as if it wasn’t there. I had somehow found super-human strength and was on one of those epic rides that happen just a few times in a life. Finding occasional respite in some sheltered areas, but mostly on roads across open farm land, I battled against the wind.

Meeting every strengthening gust with matching effort, uttering curses at the wind as if it were some demonic monster; never submitting or allowing it to beat me. Finally arriving home, wanting more, and only slightly slower than my normal time.

Years later, living in Southern California, it was a mid afternoon and I had to go on a long business trip by car. I was very tired and knew that I would be asleep at the wheel in a very few miles.

I remembered my epic ride home that stormy night back in the 1970s and how exercise woke me up. I got my bike out and rode about three or four miles as hard as I could. I turned around and didn’t ease up until I arrived back home again.

I showered, changed and took off on my trip. Once again, the physical effort had done the trick. Got my adrenaline going and woke me up.

Do you have a story of an epic ride against the wind?

1 comment:

VintageSpin said...

Yes I do…
California, 1979, Willows Road Race, my first USCF race. I was on a 1958 Bianchi Specialissima (a little too big for me) with 47/52 13-21 gears, and this course has a significant climb. I had climbed Palomar Mountain the weekend before for the training, but I’m untested against competition. Faliero Masi is there from Italy visiting with our team’s president, John-Paul Simonetti.
We start the first of two eight-mile laps and it starts to rain before we’re half way round. It rains heavy, our pack still together after crossing the start/finish line to begin lap two. The climb, a lung burner that gets steeper as you cross over I-8, is the place I had in mind to make some kind of move. At the start of it, I am somewhere in the middle of the pack, but feel good so I stay in the same gear and get up to dance on the pedals. I pass by the leader not really thinking strategy, and after crossing the freeway I glance back before starting the rolling part of the course to see I have a good lead.
I think of what the pros must look like as I tuck in and push as hard as I can, the fear of being caught right with me, that forces my legs around steady and smoothly. I’m flying now, on the downwind leg, then the base, then final approach and have a mile or so to go. As the finish comes up I’m so motivated I don’t even think of sitting up and relishing victory, only in obtaining it. I do, and somewhere along the way the rain had stopped, the rest of the pack strings in, and Mr. Masi tells me (translated by John-Paul) I remind him of when he was young, he wants to build a bike for me, and gives me $20 to take my girlfriend out to dinner. I didn’t hear the part after he found out I was 21 that he considered me too old.
A rider came up to me afterwards and asked what gear I was in on the climb. I stumbled not having a clue, and then questions about training and invitations to group training rides followed, but I was just learning so mostly I listened.
Today, the impact of that day is even more evident. It motivates me, even defines what I am like. I have always come back to cycling-I think it emulates so much about life.
Like your story Dave, our ideas live through them.
Those that have done the same with their lives know what that means.