The end of daylight savings time occurs the first weekend of November. This is also the same time I typically hang my bicycle up on hooks in the garage.
My legs welcome the "off-season" as a time to heal and rest. No riding for me until daylight savings time starts again in mid-March.
Well...that was the plan at least...
In the days just before Christmas, I was having lunch with my friend Robin. We were discussing our plans for 2012 when the subject of bike riding and centuries arose (a "century" is to bike riding what a marathon is to running).
I told her that I wasn’t planning on going on any long tours this year (I had ridden down the coast of California the previous two years) but that I had the goal of doing a few sanctioned century rides over the upcoming year. These weren’t races but just endurance rides to use as a training benchmark.
Robin shot back at me. "Well then you’ll have to do the Tour de Palm Springs with me in February!!...the weather there is perfect that time of year and unlike most century rides...this is almost all flat...plus it’s Valentine’s Day weekend...you can bring Susan out to Palm Springs for a fun and relaxing weekend!"
I told her that I would think about it but she was unrelenting in the days to follow.
I finally signed up for the ride a few days before the beginning of the year.
With only six weeks before the ride, I needed to work myself into riding shape again. Two long rides each weekend and two more evenings spinning indoors on a trainer would probably suffice. It was a flat course after all and the weather in February wouldn’t be a real factor.
Last Friday I drove to the desert with my girlfriend Susan, who thought a weekend in the warm desert was indeed a good way to relax.
The weather on Friday was perfect...83 degrees and sunny. We checked into the hotel and lounged around the poolside until Robin and her date arrived.
Robin and her date arrived shortly thereafter and we all went off for an early dinner. Upon our return to the hotel, Robin and I decided that we would meet downstairs at 6:30 am and ride over to the starting line, just a few blocks away.
The next morning I got up early to dress and eat a hearty breakfast. I poked my head outside of the room to discover that the overnight temperatures had dropped to the low 40’s and that there was a brisk wind blowing.
I met Robin downstairs a few minutes later. As we rode to the starting line it was apparent that the wind was now really blowing hard...really hard from the west.
We arrived at the starting point just as the first century riders were leaving. The ride was expecting over 6,000 riders for the 100-mile portion and some 10,000 additional riders for the lesser distances.
As we rode north out of downtown Palm Springs, the taller buildings no longer provided any screening from the wind. The winds were now blowing desert sands across the road and into the first group of riders. The sand stung the sides of our faces, arms, and legs as we rode through the cloud of dust.
This wasn’t the fun easy ride that I had signed up for. This was miserable.
I continued riding as I watched several people turn back for the starting line or walk their bikes along the side of the road. Five miles into the ride and cyclists were already calling it quits.
At the seven mile point the route turned west taking us directly into the teeth of the biting winds. I estimated that the winds were gusting at speeds of well over 40 miles an hours. Typically I travel on flat roads at a speed of 16-20 MPH but today I was limited to less than 8 MPH as I needed to use my "hill gears" to fight the strong head winds.
It took us nearly 2 hours to reach the 15-mile point and I felt as though I had spent more energy than I normally might have spent after riding 50 miles.
Based on the present conditions, there would have been no shame in heading back early. However a commitment had been made to myself and I wasn’t about to let the course conditions get the better of me.
As I rode, I wondered about other times that I had ventured into something unknown, thinking that it would be very doable only to find out it was turning out to be much harder than I first had anticipated.
I thought about the different businesses that I incubated over the years. I began these ventures with the thought that it would be fun and easy. Later I would discover that it was really the unexpected that created the most difficult challenges for me.
I also thought about relationships, marriage and raising a family. How often do we start things with the best intentions thinking that we know more than we really do...only to later discover the difficulties that stand in our way?
As we hit the 21 mile point, we suddenly veered easterly. The wind was now at our backs as we sailed down the road, traveling nearly 40 MPH!! The downwind section lasted for some additional 37 miles which we covered in slightly less than a single hour.
Sometimes this also happens in our lives. After struggling for what seems like eternity, the road suddenly gets much easily to transverse. The wind is at our backs. What was hard is now simpler.
I knew with all the downwind travel that harder peddling lie ahead of me soon. And my expectations did not disappoint me as we neared the 60-mile point where we once again turned north and west to battle more winds.
One of the more interesting things that struck me was how the riders began to group in packs. This allowed the weaker riders to ride in the wake of the stronger riders in front. Each of the riders took turns riding hard in the front, battling the winds for the others behind them. Working together enabled us to reach our goal of crossing the finish line.
We did complete the ride...in a time much longer than I had originally anticipated.
I am quite certain that we would not have finished if it weren’t for the help of other riders we met along the way.
My experiences last weekend helped to demonstrate that no one really finds success on their own. We all need some help from time to time.
No matter how much one prepares there will always be the risk of unexpected head winds ahead. Life can sometimes be a breeze...or sometimes a hurricane.
Every day we need to find a way to continue to push ahead... keep moving... and finding our way to the finish line.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we hope the wind is always at your back and if not we’ll be there to help.