For our recent D.C. Randonneurs 300K, I had imagined a ride that also served as a sort of bike therapy. Based on previous outings on this course, I conjured up a head-clearing tour through the hills of orchard country, tempered with peaceful farm roads in the middle, and a nice glide into the ride finish.
Instead, an overcast and muggy morning led us through the choppy first part of the course with apple trees just shy of blossoming, and our buddy the headwind charged out to play like an unleashed dog for the final 90 miles.
And unlike us, the wind was in a mood to romp. Note to self: even if you have previously ridden a course more than five times, never ever EVER think that the next time you ride it that it will be the same. Because then, the joke’s on you, ya idiot.
“Go away wind, find somebody else to bother!” The wind paid no mind and continued its enthusiastic gusts, obligating us to linger on the rural Maryland back roads as long as possible as we fought our way over the segments in the second half.
I wasn’t going to let the wind hold us, though. Felkerino and I kept digging in and pedaled with vigor. I drew my eyes to our cue sheet and watched the miles tick away. A plus of east coast rides is the frequent change in cues, giving the illusion of progress.
While I concentrated on deliberate pedaling and our incremental clawing at the miles, I recognized that the pre-sunset finish I had hoped for was pretty much out of the picture.
It can be dispiriting to encounter a course that delivers more than one expected to bite off, or when it shakes out differently than in previous iterations.
For me, that meant not only a necessary recalibration of expectations, but a search for the positive on the ride. This is our leisure time, after all.
I had Felkerino, my favorite human faring in front of me, taking the brunt of the wind blasts for the team. I looked up and blue sky and scattered clouds peered back.
Dry warm air whipped across my body as we parried with the headwinds. My arm hairs danced along in the breeze.
That was when I realized that we would make it through this ride without defeat. Yes, the headwind was battering us about and there was no easy riding along.
Yet we had this gorgeous sky and rays of sun that seeped into my skin while the wind grasped the hair on my arms and swayed it back and forth, back and forth, mile after mile. A sweet tickle of springtime in the midst of this brutal headwind. I delighted in the sensation, and felt grateful that I could be out with Felkerino experiencing this lion-like April day.
I can’t say this was a fun ride. The wind sucked away my energy and I didn’t fuel correctly for the conditions. As we rolled into the finish I was more than happy to kiss our companion, the headwind, farewell. I can only imagine my face at the finish.
Good riddance, headwind. Time for all of us to go home.
Still, it was a good day on the bike. Those arm hairs swaying under the sun reminded me of the many reasons I keep doing these rides. I experienced that tantalizing burst of pleasure amid the tedium or frustration that a ride can present.
And as always for me, brevets are about my partnership in pedaling. Felkerino and I are lucky to ride our bike all day – and into the night sometimes – together.