Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lightening up

The last months of school leading in to the summer are a time that seems fraught with stress and a sense of too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Coupled with the final graduate school projects of the semester and you have a recipe for "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". But now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't a train about to run me over. I'm feeling everything about me letting go from the stress; I feel lighter.

I've had the good fortune to do some really great bike rides this past month. Cycle to Serve was unbelievably fast as my first experience with the 62 mile version proved to be a barn burner. The best part was getting to ride with Golden and some of our teammates in the second group on the road. The weather was cool, the rain held off and we rode a strong pace. The next day was The Ascent at Reynolds Blue Ridge. Two words: effin' steep. I climbed 9 miles in 1 hour and 4 minutes and had an epiphany that compact cranks would be a good thing to have. The views were spectacular and once you reached the top, you looked out on an endless sea of rolling green hills spread out in all directions. The folks at Reynolds Blue Ridge treated us like honored guests. Put that ride on your calendar for next year!

Two of my rides stand out as some of the best moments in my life and they all happened in the last couple of weeks. The first was on my morning commute the day after the bad thunderstorms rolled through. The rain had poured down, blowing hard against the house and strong winds ripped trees apart and scattered them all over town. I hit the underpass on 321 and rolled through, only registering a man laying down after I had gone by him. I have to admit that I thought he was dead the way he was laying there awkwardly. I turned around and asked, "Are you ok?"
No response.
"Are you ok?" He rolled over *sense of relief* and said he had gotten into the underpass to escape the storm.
"It got real bad," he said. I poured him some of my coffee and split part of my lunch with him. He said, "I'm not gonna lie mister, I could use a beer." Well hell, it's 7:30 am on a Tuesday and I'm heading off to teach High School students about Magnetism, I understand that sentiment completely.
"Well, coffee is the next best thing, so drink up."
We talked a little bit, he kept asking me to pray for him. I don't pray, but I have thought about him quite a bit since then. I think our interaction did more for me than it did for him. That quick realization that I could easily share what I had and be no worse for it was immense. It was a good reminder.

The best ride I've ever had happened this past Sunday. We headed out to Dark Mountain. I rode a lap with Jeremiah the FNG and a couple of guys we met in the parking lot. We ripped around, I crashed (and laughed about it), we talked about bikes and made one of those quick friendships that seem to naturally occur on the trail. I got back and got Owen ready for his first big mountain bike adventure on his own bike. We've ridden trail together with him on the tag-a-long and he did a little offroad on his own at the Aquatic Center, but this was going to be the first real mountain biking he'd ever tackled on his own. We pushed up a steep little rise and caught a climb up to the corridor trail. He rode some of the climb on his own, but his gear is just way too big for sustained climbing, so we walked some too. Golden was out trail running and she heard us, so she decided to come join us. We pushed up a very steep rise to the main corridor trail and Owen rode while Golden ran. At the end of the corridor trail, we turned around and started riding back and Golden kept going to finish her run.

The best thing about riding with Owen is he constantly talks about anything and everything. He especially likes to talk about being faster than me. We rode to the very steep descent at the beginning of the corridor trail and I told Owen we should get off and walk it down to the next trail junction.
"No," he said, "I can ride it."
Well, I am not standing in the way of that kind of commitment. Whether he rode it or not, I wasn't going to kill his confidence.
"Stay on the brakes and stay in control." I said.
We pointed the bikes down and I rode the brakes to show him a reasonable speed. I didn't hear anything as we rode down, so I assumed he was remaining upright. I got to the bottom and came to a stop. Owen shot past me and started heading down the next trail.
"Dude! Did you ride that whole thing?" I asked.
"Yeah." he said in that little kid no-big-deal tone.
"You ready to do the next down hill?" I asked.
"Yes!" he said with more than a little excitement.
We got onto the next trail which wasn't as steep, but was much more technical with lots of rock, roots, dips and turns. He rode behind me. Wiped out a time or two. Led down the trail a bit. Passed a couple of riders who were climbing up, making quite the sight: this rail thin 4 year old all knees and elbows riding a little bmx bike down the trail with confidence. I'm idiotically proud.


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