Is it always true the hard things are the most fun? Is that how it works for you?
Last Saturday morning I cycled the Paluxy Pedal 60-mile bike ride, which is famous, they say, for several extreme climbs (at least in the context of Texas). The hardest is named The Wall, at 19% grade. The website carries this quote: "The published grade at The Wall is 19% - that must be an average. Every year I ride, my GPS shows a section at 24% for a few hundred feet. Don't be too embarrassed if you walk it - you will have plenty of company."
Here’s the truth: I rode the first third of The Wall but had to bail out and push my bike the rest of the way up. I was standing on the pedals and gasping for air, knowing I couldn’t make it to the top without eventually toppling over onto the pavement, an embarrassing outcome I hoped to avoid.
We’d been climbing steep hills all morning and by the time we got to the big one at mile 45 my legs were too dead to ride up all the way. However, The Wall was steep enough, and I’m flatlander enough, I doubt I would’ve done much better with fresh legs. Maybe if I’d been on a mountain bike with a set of granny gears. Maybe if I were twenty-five years younger, or better, twenty-five pounds lighter. Maybe if I knew what I was doing.
It was a fun ride. The route was beautiful, along winding tree-lined roads that snaked through green north Texas hills. The only flat places were bridge crossings.
Since it was October I’d expected the morning to be cool enough for long sleeves, so I wore my new Cyclefest jersey. But since it was Texas, I got hot and regretted my choice. Still, I heard from several riders who’d been in Ft. Davis this year.
During the early miles the voice of resistance in my head kept a constant chatter about how I should turn back before it was too late, taking one of the shorter less-vertical cut-offs. As my friend Frank used to say, “Let’s don’t and say we did.”
I’m familiar with that voice because I hear it during the beginning miles of every big bike ride, and I used to hear it during the early part of every marathon. At least being familiar with the voice helps to ignore it. Knowledge trumps fear.
The curious thing is I don’t hear it later in the ride (or run) when the serious hard work takes place. I only hear it in the early miles. Later, when climbing, which is when would’ve expected to hear discouraging words, the voice is surprisingly silent. I wonder why? Does the effort and concentration crowd out discouragement from my brain? Or is it because by then I’ve invested too many miles to quit?
A Great Day
I traveled to Glen Rose to ride all my myself because a year ago our family bought a house on Lake Granbury, which we mostly rent on Airbnb but occasionally enjoy ourselves. Last June I spent an afternoon checking out Granbury bike shops to learn the good places to ride, and someone recommended the Paluxy Pedal. “You need to experience The Wall,” he said.
Afterward I didn’t have time to stay for the post-ride party, which was all consumed by the 38-mile riders by the time I finished anyway. I had to leave for Midland right away since I had Sunday morning responsibilities and I was supposed to pick up Cyndi at the airport in Midland that evening. Driving home by myself I listened to Science Friday podcasts all the way, learning about human interactions with robots, fossil hunting in Utah, Martian habitat simulation in Hawaii, new solutions to light pollution, particle physics, paleontology, and microbiomes.
And even better, I got to spend the afternoon in the rain, which always makes this West Texas boy happy. Except when driving I-20 among the giant herd of big-rig trucks. It rained so hard west of Abilene traffic slowed to 40 mph (at least the smart ones did). I eventually pulled over at a rest stop to wait for the blinding rain to pass. I knew Cyndi would be disappointed if I was engaged in a multi-vehicle accident and missed her at the airport. Fortunately, her flight was delayed by the same storm, so I had plenty of time to work with.
It was a great day. Thank you, Carroll, David, David, and Mark for convincing me to try cycling. Thank you, God, for keep me safe, for giving me the heart and desire to ride, and for one more turn doing the things I love.
And, I have to go back next year. I owe The Wall another attempt.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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