this is a rarity: a pre-ride post. today is the Big Ride day, and I don't know how long it will take me or when I'll get back (and crucially: after I return, how much energy I will have left for thinking and typing). Therefore I decided to post now, beforehand, to assure that at least something will be posted here today.
last year the Big Ride took me 9 1/2 hours, riding 135 miles, from my house to Huntsville and back. my rear tire blew (the tire, not just the tube), I had a mile-long stretch where my stomach wanted to explode, we got sprinkled on and threatened by the thunderstorm gods, and I returned home feeling like I was among the toughest, most capable people on earth. that ride was a turning point for me: after I completed it, I knew that I could do the 206-mile lotoja ride. up to that point I had questioned myself frequently.
this summer has been better, psychologically speaking. I have had my times of "burnout," but I have had more experiences of feeling capable than I remember from last year. four days ago I rode from home to the top of city creek and back (a 27-mile ride) and at the end of the worst climb on the way home I thought to myself, "this ride was nothing." I am stronger.
not that I expect today to be "nothing." I expect it to be challenging, and I am prepared to want to stop, to want to vomit, to pray for certain hills to end, to feel my legs aching, and to at times just feel pretty crummy. none of this is unusual during a tough ride. but I also expect that I will return home feeling like I can do anything.
which is the best gift cycling has given me: the knowledge, based on experience and understanding, that I can do anything. I can survive anything, I can conquer anything, I am capable and competent.
I may not be the first one up the hill, but I know that, at the end of it all, I will always be able to take my place among the last ones standing.