Friday was a bad day for the Will-man!! After years of having amazing success in one area at work I got some bad news. This is going to sound counter intuitive but I pride myself on not having much of an ego. My dog, Lenny, naps 20 out 24 hours and HE thinks I’m laid back.
Yet it was a big hit to the old pride and it took a lot of support from my team mates, Nichole and Cheryl. and friends Steven and Lori for me to get over it. It also helps a lot to have a sympathetic wife who was a teacher up until retirement last year. I’ve worked harder this year than ever but….. If you’re in education in Virginia then you know what I mean.
Now I sit here at my kitchen table on a gorgeous Sunday morning across from Lynn (who is reading the Sunday paper) and I feel renewed and back to my optimistic self. Why?
The reason is I went on a long painful bike ride yesterday. OKAY DON”T STOP READING BECAUSE THIS IS YET ANOTHER BLOG ABOUT BIKING, HIKING OR GEOCACHING. I’ll stop shouting now. What this post is about is the importance of living a balanced life – something that has only taken me 50 some years to learn.
Yesterday Lynn and I threw the bikes on the rack and rode the hour long trip to Waverly. There’s a group of us who ride a more leisurely pace just for the company and scenery. There’s always plenty of rest stops and chances to regroup thanks to ride leader, Jack. Our friend Joel, who bikes with us, met us there at the Mexican restaurant along with about 30-40 others of all shapes, sizes and experience levels. The plan was to ride from there to Chippokes State Park and back with lunch being at the restaurant. It was about 60 miles or so.
We started out at an easy pace but you could tell the day was going to heat up to be a scorcher. I try to talk to as many people as possible along the way and this ride was no exception. It’s always weird to me that I’m that way because growing up at the end of a dirt road had me scurrying to hide under the bed whenever we had visitors. I was that backward.
I stopped at one point to check to see if I remembered my keys and to check some rubbing I heard from my bike. The rubbing was an ominous sign. I then had to pedal very fast to catch up to main group who was riding at a C-pace. Once I caught up to them (Lynn was there) I decided I would keep going fast and try to catch up to the faster paced B group up the road where Joel was. I never could catch them because Joel told me later they were going more like an A-pace. So I soft pedaled back to the main group.
Our first rest stop was at a lady named Shirley’s house who is a friend of Jack’s. It was the best rest stop ever!! The best part was the watermelon which really hit the spot.
We took off to Chippokes which would be at mile 29 on the ride loop. The temps were climbing and we were all getting a bit toasty. I rode with a couple of guys into Chippokes and Lynn showed later. She looked really hot.
The views from Chippokes overlooking the James River were amazing!! Lynn and I were well acquainted with this park after geocaching here numerous times. We spent a LONG time here shooting and enjoying the breeze. Joel told me he was going to drop back and ride with us since the pace was too fast for him in the B group and also because of the heat.
We headed out of Chippokes taking the scenic route very slowly. The temps were heading into the 90’s and it was starting to feel a bit tough. As we pedaled back toward Shirley’s house for more watermelon, which would put us at mile 42 in the ride, you could see more and more people starting to slow and spread out. Lynn and I were going progressively slower and I was regretting all that fast riding I had done at first. I bike about 100 miles a week (which may seem a modest amount for some) and even I was starting to feel it. We limped into the third rest stop at Shirley’s house and devoured some more melon and cookies. The gatorade, watermelon, cookies etc.. were all under a carport that was set up with chairs. The place looked like a triage unit. The dozen or so chairs were filled with some very hot looking riders.
After an extended rest, Lynn, Joel and I limped off to finish the ride. We thought the remaining 16 miles was doable if we drank copiously and took our time. Joel went ahead and Lynn and I took a much slower pace. I kept an eye on the cue sheet, so I was surprised when the group we were riding with took an unexpected turn. I thought maybe we were going back another way so we just followed. It was indeed a wrong turn that was to add another 4 miles or so to an already hot ride. We doubled back and got back on track but Lynn was looking done in and starting to suffer.
At about mile 54 the rubbing I alluded to earlier turn into a POP and a broken spoke. I break spokes often. Road bikes are not meant for someone of my “manly” stature so the “entry” level wheels I have don’t hold up all that well. I keep an eye on the wheels all the time to see if their running true. Once they start running out of true then I can expect a broken spoke. Riding faster hasn’t helped the situation at all.
Thirty seconds after I broke the spoke a car pulled up from the other direction with a tandem bike on top of it. Enter Winky and Juanita. Winky and Juanita had ridden part of the ride on their tandem and decided to shorten their ride to 36 miles or so due to the heat. They were kind enough to muscle our bikes on top of their car and give us a ride back to the restaurant. Lynn looked so grateful I thought she was going to cry. Winky and Juanita are retired and LONG time bikers and hikers. They were totally engaging and inspiring. Role models for sure.
Once back at the car, we thanked them profusely and tried to cool down. We went inside and had lunch with several of the other riders. I enjoyed a beverage that immediately made feel better in many ways. The company was quite enjoyable.
After we got back in Richmond we headed over to the bike shop to discuss wheel options. Lynn kindly allowed me to order a special set of wheels that may be more up to the challenge of a “manly” rider. Lynn says my bike is like a boat in the way it eats money and I must agree but it has helped much with my health both physical and mental.
You’re now saying to yourself. “I thought he said this blog wasn’t going to be totally about biking. At least that’s what he shouted at me.” Well it isn’t. What it really is about is – balance. You see if I had stayed at home all day and piddled around then I would have started to obsess about the bad news I got at work. I would have started to get depressed and feel bad about myself despite all the success and extenuating circumstances.
The bike ride literally took me out of myself and surrounded me with interesting people, beautiful scenery and exhausted the worry out of me. As Lance Armstrong once wrote “It’s not about the bike.” It could be shopping for some, the beach for others, golf or yard work or a myriad of activities. You have to have good healthy balance of things in your life. Your eggs need to be in different baskets. Again it only took me 50 years to realize this so I’m quite proud of myself. In the end all we have is each other.
I learned a few things yesterday:
- Even if you try really hard sometimes thing don’t go your way.
- It’s good to work with people who love and support you (and vice versa)
- I really do still love teaching despite a VERY tough year.
- I love meeting and talking to new people.
- There are a lot of kind people out there.
- Something cold after a long, hot ride tastes especially good.
- Watermelon tastes extremely good after riding dozens of miles.
- I love my wife more every day.
- It’s not about the bike or the bad news at work.
- It’s about balance.
I’m going really enjoy summer vacation this year. More so than ever.