On Sunday, February 28th, I joined thousands of other cyclists in riding around beautiful Bainbridge Island, to mark the 2010 opening of bicycling season, as marked by a nice event put on by the fine folks of the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Chilly Hilly was a great reason to get out and enjoy a morning going up and down hills. I didn’t feel particularly well-trained. Since the new year, I’d been dealing with a foot injury, which prevented me from running. So I’d been biking more than usual for me (which is usually not very much). My longer rides had topped out at about 30 miles – although more often about 20. So this would be a nice challenge. I would be able to see whether I would go out more easily, showing better judgment riding than I do running sometimes.
I woke up early on the morning of the ride, ate a light breakfast, and headed over to the ferry dock in Seattle. I took my time registering, and getting my bike ready, and then wandered over to the ferry about twenty minutes before scheduled departure. The sight of several thousand cyclists lined up in the lanes ordinarily reserved for cars was amazing. And it was a beautiful day to ride too! No rain, a few peeks of sun, and the temperature was supposed to get close to sixty – rare for this time of the year in Seattle.
As this is a ride, not a race, the start was staggered. People coming over from Seattle would ‘start’ as they rode off of the ferry. As we approached the dock on Bainbridge, people jostled for position coming off of the ferry, crowding up so we’d be able to ride off ahead of the crowd. And so we did.
The first couple of miles were people sorting themselves into rough pace groups – lots of passing. I’d felt some concern about how I’d deal with this, given my narrower field of vision, but it really wasn’t too bad. I didn’t take it as easily as I’d planned to (and would pay for this later), but also didn’t feel pressured or freaked by the concentration of riders. As we headed up the east side of the island, I felt strong, and challenged my pace a bit. There was a lot of up and down on the course – and I tried to focus on keeping a nice, steady effort.
Shortly before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped functioning. I couldn’t see anything wrong near the chain, and it didn’t look like the cable had broken. I was stuck on the small chain ring, which was great for uphills, but meant I couldn’t pick up speed going downhill. Definitely better than getting stuck on the big ring though. I pressed on, figuring I could finish this way if need be – just not as fast as I’d like.
Just past the halfway point, I came upon a rest area where there was a guy from REI tending to bike repairs. He gave mine about a two minute look and indicated that there was an issue with the front shifter, but that I could probably coax it to work by squeezing the brake while shifting. I took off and tried it, and found that he was right. So I had a full range of gears again.
Unfortunately, my legs no longer had a full range of gears. I’d indeed gone out too fast, and was feeling it. So I geared back a bit, but kept going. Winding around the the hilly sections around Baker Hill, and Point White, I felt ready to be done. There was still about 15k to go though. by now I was holding a steady (but slower pace), with the chain at the midpoint of the rear cogset, and cruising on the middle chain ring, Not enough to keep pushing the pace, it was just time to focus on finishing.
Just over two hours into the ride, we reentered the town of Winslow – which was good, because that’s where the ferry was. I noticed a sign that said “FINISH”, but thought it pointed me straight along the road, so I kept going. About a mile later, we headed back out of town though. So I rode up next to two guys and asked “hey – where’s the finish ?”. They chuckled and said “well, you’re close – but don’t worry, you’re probably in the lead”. They clearly thought I was either complaining or just making dumb conversation, so I kept going. After another mile or two, I spotted a sign that I knew I’d seen close to the start. This time I asked someone “silly question for you – where is the finish?”. He said “have you already gone around the island? you can turn back and go into town then, or you can do another loop”. This guy was just starting the loop, so I’d inadvertently done four or five bonus miles!
I treated the trip back into town as a cooldown. When I slipped into the ferry line with a bunch of other cyclists heading back to Seattle. I noticed familiar faces nearby, and started talking with Lee Ann and Catrena – two of Kris’ triathlon training friends. Now that I’d found the finish, I could stand there and enjoy the beautiful day, and some nice company. The sun was out, and I’d attained my B goal (2:15). Not bad for the training I’d done.
I felt good about doing the ride, but have reflected a bit about how riding in general makes me feel, in light of my accident about 20 months ago. As much as I try to focus forward rather than thinking too much about what happened in July of 2008, there are some things that still definitely trigger anxiety for me. I worry about riding in traffic (not surprising). I worry about doing faster downhill stretches – possibly losing control. I worry about having to check my mirror to see the road behind me, as this involves turning my head a bit (the natural inclination when doing this is to also turn your bike out into traffic, which would be bad). These things all occur several times over the course of even a short ride. Why would I ride, if it makes me anxious or afraid?
The truth is, I ride to heal. And confronting my feelings about being on the bike helps me do that.
What a beautiful day to be out there!