It was time at noon on Saturday to start my fundraising ride for BJU The Ride. The goal was to get as many miles possible during a five hour period riding around a .85 mile course. Yes, you read that right… 5 hours going around a .85 mile loop. I’m still going round and round in my head!
The coolest thing about the whole day (other than the weather) was the fact that my son rode over to the event with me. It was his first ride on his new Specialized Allez! He earned it working hard in school and getting this multiplication tables memorized. I kept looking over at him with a big smile on my face. Yep, life was good.
We got there and we started right up. On the first lap it was obvious it was going to be a tough day! After the nice slightly downhill where we were protected somewhat from the wind by large buildings, we made a right hand turn into a howling headwind. It was going to be a long day for my friends, Eric, Dave, Mike, Kirk, Chris, and me.
The six official participants finish a lap (Photo Eddie Helton)
Not only was that headwind strong, it was coming straight down the only major climb on the course. It made that 40 feet or so of climbing that much harder. Before the day was done, I would hit that climb and wind 105 times.
The road then curved that made the headwind turn into a crosswind. Turning another corner put you on another downhill — but back into the headwind. Really, on the whole course, you only had one short respite from the wind.
Jonathan Jr. hung with us for several laps. His little body was nearly being stopped by the wind! I tried to work with him to help him find shelter, but it was his first group ride and he wasn’t that confident coming in close to some of the other bikes. It was a little too much for him. I was proud of him though and he did well! I’m looking forward to riding more with him in the days, months, and years ahead.
I was very fearful about the rain. The forecast was calling for it. Thankfully, we only got a few brief showers for the most part. There were a few times when there was rain on the back side of the course and dry as a bone on the front side. Overall, the rain was not an issue. Until later in the ride…
Before long it was every man for himself. The varying riding abilities of the different riders made it so that it was hard to stay together. A few times I thought I was pulling the crew and looking back realized I had dropped them. I mean one of these guys hadn’t ridden in some time. He finished all five hours!
It was really neat to see Eddie Helton show up for the ride. Racers will recognize him as the photographer that takes some great pictures of our events here in the Greenville area. He was so kind to take some pictures of our little event AND get out his bike and ride with us! Several other riders came over to encourage us as we made our laps. It made my heart warm on an otherwise cool day.
Kirk Flinte was there and we ended up connecting and riding for a good bit of time. The two of us put in some hot laps, but for the most part just rode tempo and talked. Shortly before the four hour mark, Kirk went in front of me and pulled me through the wind for about 10 minutes. Then he was gone and I was alone again.
I eased up a bit in that final hour. My legs were starting to let me know they hadn’t ridden this far since October! The wind picked up even worse and the clouds were threatening. The last 30 minutes could be brutal!
With only about 15 minutes to go, I was starting up that climb into the wind. It had just started the rain and the wind was whipping my bike about. Then the rain started to hurt! It was like it was cutting my face. “What is going on?” I thought to myself. I had to bind my head to keep the rain from hitting my face.
As I looked down, I noticed the “rain” was bouncing! “That’s not rain,” I thought. “It’s hailing!” Then I made that turn from the crosswind to a headwind. I could not look up to see where I was going. Thankfully, the brim of my cycling cap was protecting my face.
Before the lap was complete, the hail let up and not longer afterward the rain did as well. The wind never did. It fought us the entire time.
I have ridden 100+ mile numerous times in 5 hours. This was one of the hardest rides I have attempted. The course wasn’t exactly thrilling, but it was the conditions that made it hard.
One thing I know. It is the hard rides that you remember the longest. The easy rides are most enjoyable at the time, but they are so many they all meld together. “Remember that ride where we got hailed on?” Any one of us can say that and it will bring the ride back into full focus.
The funny thing is that time will make the pain enjoyable.