A light rain was falling on my Wednesday morning ride. It was my first real ride in the city in two weeks, just before I left on a trip, real meaning I was kitted up and wasn’t carrying a backpack with me. There was no raining when I left the house and I had the vain hope that I wouldn’t get wet as I rolled further into the convergence zone. As such, I didn’t bring the small light translucent jacket that I love, but had only come back into my possession the day before, after what turned into a two month loan to a Boy Scout who I lent it to back in April when I tried my hardest to help him earn his cycling merit badge, last one he needed to become an Eagle Scout. That ride, was supposed to be on the route I’m riding this morning.
The rain didn’t suddenly start falling. It was more like I eased my way into its increasing insistence. It was warm enough that the vest I was wearing was enough to keep me warm, and the water on the road was laid thin enough that there wasn’t too much of it coming off the my wheels to soak through my chamois.
I’ve been doing this route at least once, but in most cases twice a week for the last four months. Recently I’ve been throwing in a variation that takes me between the main road to the Whidbey Ferry and Boeing’s Paine field. By going that way I still get the thrill of a quick descent but with the added bonus of a series of ninety degree turns. The variation works two of my weaknesses as a rider corners and descents. That way has become the standard, but today I opt for the straight and fast descent.
Fifth street rises from near the waters of the sound and at some point, unknown to me, becomes Mukilteo BLVD. Its one of the longer climbs in town. Though not sustained for is four plus miles, giving way for two short dips before rising again. If I’m having a good day I can take this climb in the big ring without ever touching my last cog, which happens to be a twenty-six. On my normal, or bad days I take it in the little ring sometimes spinning lightly and sometimes having to push and move my upper body a bit in order to will the bike to the hill’s peak. I don’t know if today is a good day or bad yet. My legs are a bit worn out from the last two weeks of long rides and neglected recovery, so I decide to find out.
For the first time since I started taking this route I have to stop at the red light at the bottom of big straight descent. When I’m given the green I turn right and rise from the saddle to try and get on top of the big gear. Bringing myself up to speed with a steady effort before settling back into the saddle. Last season my spin was such that a friend told me that I was “dancing on the pedals”. I haven’t had that spin this year, but last week near Hoodsport, Washington it came back and its still with me when I get into the saddle.The rain is more persistent now. It falls steady and the road has been wet for some time, allowing more water to come off the wheels, soaking my feet and my bibs.
Halfway up the climb and through the two little dips I feel the burn in lungs more than legs. I decide to not dwell on whether the burning in my lungs is just overwhelming the burning my legs, or if my ability to intake oxygen is diminished.
I pass through the light at Dogwood, which if its red can wreck my ambitions of doing the climb in the big ring, I stand once more to get a little more momentum before the final steep section. Now I’m starting to struggle and allow the seeds of doubt to take root in my quest. I decide to be stubborn and deny myself the easy way out that is shifting into the twenty-six cog.
My spin wasn’t’ the only thing I gained (or regained) on my trip, where I learned a new level of belief and revelations that come from protracted times alone. Those insights are easy to have, but hard to maintain, and that is my biggest struggle. Intellectually I know that my ability to sustain the changes I need to make won’t be broken if I give up on this climb. Though emotionally I know if I sit down and then shift down all I’ve just started working for will crumble.
The command to “Believe” audibly slips from my lips. A trite and new agey way of compelling ourselves to our true selves, or at least what we want to be our true selves, like the time I wrote the reminder to breathe on the left one of a pair of Birkenstock clogs. “If I say it out loud it will be true”.
I don’t know it helped or not, but I make it over the apex of hill and gain enough speed to leave the bike lane for the traffic lane. Which is the best way to set up the right hand turn into Everett proper, where the rain still falls with persistence.