THE HARD MILES
The sound of the alarm pierces the silence and darkness. 4.30AM. I’m not ready for this I think to myself. I fumble for my phone and hit snooze. In what feels like thirty seconds, that annoying sound is back. Groggily, I turn off the alarm and commit. My feet hit the floor and I shuffle out to the kitchen to turn on the espresso machine. I’ve been doing this routine since my daughter was born two and a half years ago. It hasn’t gotten easier, especially during the fall and winter months, just more predictable. There are some mornings when I’d really love to go back to my warm bed but it’s not an option. Going back to bed would mean letting my friends down. I remind myself on these mornings that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m lucky to have friends as crazy as I am – who will ride in the dark for the majority of our ride week in and week out and often in the rain and wind. These are the hard miles. They test your soul. They wear you down.
After I turn on the espresso machine I head downstairs to get ready. I’m still on autopilot. Everything was laid out the night before and it’s a matter of falling into my kit at this point. The smell of embro starts to bring my senses into focus. I’m now keenly aware of the sound of rain falling outside. Where it lulled me to sleep hours earlier, it now makes me frown. I look into the mirror and give myself a look – you can do this.
I head back upstairs to check on the espresso machine. Thank goodness it’s ready. Freshly caffeinated, I begin the final preparations before heading out the door – shoes, rain coat, gloves, shoe covers, helmet, and testing the lights. I close the door behind me and power on the lights and Garmin before swinging a leg over my bike. The first few pedal strokes are easy but I pick up the pace as the wind cuts right through to my core. I question my layering strategy but within a few minutes I’m warmer and my focus shifts to avoiding the potholes that seem to leap out of the shadows.
A few miles later, I’m at the designated meet-up spot. On this morning, it’s just my friend Jeff and I. He’s already at the spot trying to find cover from the rain. He smiles as I roll up and that gesture erases any doubt I may have had about riding this morning.
Our ride meanders through the darkness of Seattle’s side streets before we end up along the shores of Lake Washington. A car passing in the opposite direction illuminates the road and in my peripheral vision, I get my first sense of just how hard it is raining. I point this out to Jeff and we laugh. I’m not sure if we laugh as a way to mock the rain or because we could imagine the driver wondering why anyone would choose to ride in these conditions. I resume my focus on the small circle of road illuminated in front of me and good conversation carries us south to our turnaround spot. The roads have been devoid of traffic. It’s not completely unexpected for a Sunday morning but as reach our turnaround spot, I look at the clock on my Garmin and it reads just past 7.30am. I’m a little surprised we still haven’t seen anyone, then again, it’s still dark and pissing rain.
As we turn North, the headwind is a shock to the system. We slowly march back to the city. It seems like it takes forever but the closer we get to downtown Seattle, the more activity we see, and it provides a welcome distraction to the effort.
We finally make it to downtown Seattle and Jeff and I stop and chat briefly before we bid goodbye, each now forced to finish up the last few miles on our own. Neither of us want to linger long as the fatigue has set in and there isn’t much more to say at this point. We talked the entire ride, perhaps a mechanism for coping with the weather? We joke and say that maybe next weekend will be dry but we know it’ll likely be more of the same.
As I soft pedal home, I reflect on the morning’s ride. These are the hard miles. They test your soul. They wear you down. But I have the antidote: friends. And we'll be ready to do it all over again next weekend.