26 MilesToday is bike to work day and after having a beautiful week of warmth and sunshine, I awoke to a wet, cold and dreary mess. I am no 'fair weather rider' so the rain was no deterrent, especially on National Bike to Work Day. However, dragging exhausted and no responsive butt out of bed from a restless night's sleep and try to pry my eyes open was another story. It almost took a crow bar to do so. The kids weren't moving either but after a lot of coercing I finally got the kids to school and packed all my gear for the day, including my bike shoes and clothes.
Last week I offered to host a noon ride on Bike to Work Day to anyone interested. I received no responses except from one of my firms principals, Mike, a lean, mean, Iron Man competing machine, and he wanted to do a ride to Pryor Creek and back, some 26 miles. What on earth am I doing? I offered so I just had to suck it up and endure the punishment.
By the time noon rolled around the rain had picked up, not quite pouring, but still coming down pretty consistently. We took off down the road dodging traffic until we finally turned off on the Old Hardin Road. From there it was climb, climb, climb until we reached the crest, some four or five miles away. I really tired to keep up and pedaled hard as long as I could, but I am out of shape and definitely out of form. Mike was patient and went at my pace while chatting it up for awhile. We talked about his Iron Man and triathlon races. I asked how long each leg of the Iron Man really was. He said, "Let's put it this way. Let's say you start at the office and swim to the intersection of King Ave. and 24th Street (2.4 miles), then pedal to Livingston, MT (100 miles) and then run a full marathon to Bozeman, MT (26.2 miles). I don't even like to drive that route! I am way out of my league here! Eventually Mike decided to peel away and wait for me at the top. I watched his lean, cut legs pumped like pistons in a super up engine as he quickly left me in the dust.
Huffing and puffing, I finally made it to the top, an 800 foot climb behind me with a 600 foot descent in 3 miles waiting for me. 'Great, at least I can keep up on the descent,' I thought, but I was wrong there too. Mike made me work to get down the hill. We almost hit 40 MPH down the backside and I pedaled like a mad man until I ran out of gears and could do nothing to increase my speed. I again watched as Mike pulled away leaving me behind.
After reaching the bottom, we turned around to crank back up the same three miles that we near effortlessly cruised down in a matter of minutes. Getting back up the hill wouldn't be so easy. I kept him in my sights although I lagged behind. After reaching the top, we started back down the hill towards Billings. By now the rain had picked up even more and the wind had started to blow. The rain was painful as it pelted out cold skin. I was cold, wet, and becoming very hungry, but it was almost over, and I wasn't completely spent yet.
Despite the cold and the rain, we had a good ride. I was slow and struggled but am consoled by the fact that we climbed over 1,400 feet over the coarse of our ride. I'm not sure what I was more greatful for, the warm shower in the basement or the microwave containing my hot serving of left over tater tot casserole.