It was cold and misting when I left the comfort of my house this morning to join the team and 15 others who did the same for our weekly Saturday training ride. I was wearing a rain jacket over my Scholars Inn vest but was otherwise under dressed for the conditions. I had a brief stop prior to the ride, a serendipitous meeting with a good friend, some stretching, small talk then headed to the Bakehouse. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently, no different than you most likely, so I was looking forward to just riding today. The kind staff at the Bakehouse offered me a mug for coffee which I gladly accepted. I hadn’t bothered to make coffee earlier in the day. There were a few cups still in the pot from the night before. I thought of just heating that up, but morning coffee is part of a ritual; preparation, measuring, grinding, brewing… the small manufacturing process of creating and consuming. A small but important step by step operation that provides a backdrop to the rest of the day. I skipped it today.
On Friday, I rode to work in the rain, then home afterwards. It’s only a few miles to my office, and most of it on the often sublime Cascades, along the river there. I arrived to work almost breathless. There was a car behind me all the way from the playground to Gourley and I wanted to keep to the 20mph speed limit up the small rise to the top. It was cool and wet outside. I was on my ‘Winter bike,’ an old Cannondale with a fender strapped on and lights and reflectors. I was in jeans, dress shoes a sweater, rain jacket, helmet. The bike has Look pedals and I didn’t bother changing them for the commute, or wearing my cycling shoes for the short trip. It was exhilarating! Of course, I was mad to ride in the rain, but that proved just a small obstacle. I parked the bike on the porch of my office. It’s remarkable what even a slight commute can do for the soul. We know this intuitively and physiologically. But how many of our non-cycling colleagues understand this? My staff is worried about me. I went to the day’s first meeting with a reflective band still strapped to my jeans, wearing a slightly damp ‘dress’ t-shirt, the heat from the morning’s ride still rising. I rode home that afternoon, a much easier ride down Cascades. Then I returned on the bike for a 6:30 pm meeting at the Bakehouse with Aaron Prange to begin discussions on the Scholars Inn bike race this year! Now, it was raining in earnest and I was wet when I arrived. A Stella and a Bakehouse burger helped to put things in perspective as we discussed the event. I rode home again, in the dark, alone, in the rain.
A fine group assembled today for a 40 + miler that we call West Side Story. If memory serves, it was Colin, Gary, Fred, me, Lyle, Emily, Joe, Cam and James all from the Bakehouse. AEP was there with Brett, (Cam), Adam, Sam and Brad. Wes joined as did Kevin (Newkirk).
The West Side Story ride is a hilly counterclockwise roll through rural roads that travel North and West to Ellettsville, then back south on Louden towards Clear Creek then across to 446 via Schwartz ridge. The course allows for lots of conversation as well as several bail-out points in the event of a weather change or a change of mind.
We travelled in twos, gracefully managing the front for several minutes before relinquishing our spots to the younger riders. Two by two. It wasn’t that long ago when even a ride like this would be a test for some of these. Now, they were pedaling easily, having put in many hours on the bike, in the saddle, overcoming many obstacles in the pursuit of power and speed, perfection and pain. Today, these young riders were holding back, restrained, leading the group. It was good to see them begin to take their place at the head of the field.
One young AEP rider, Sam, was having some difficulty in the back for a good portion on the way home, drifting off the pace, pulling himself back to the group, hanging on. Never complaining. He was being nurtured along by his teammate Brett, who was in the same position just a year ago. It’s a ritual that I’ve witnessed for nearly 30 years on the bike. The ritual of rising up from obscurity through the ranks, from the back of the field to the middle of the group, to the front. For some, it happens quickly. But there are no overnight successes. I thought about this and reflected on my time at the front of the group, now witnessing the slow but necessary process of a generation of young riders, testing themselves on their journey to become high performing athletes. It begins by showing up. By training, racing, participating, by realizing that coffee cannot just be warmed over. It needs to be made from scratch, day after day, before it can be savored. It’s part of the process.