I set out on my bike at first light but there wasn’t much since it was raining. The sky was dark and the streets were wet but today was the day of my 100-mile ride and months before I had committed myself to doing those hundred miles today –- and I was going to do them. Whatever part of your brain that you use to register bad weather, well, I turned it off.
Bruce, a riding buddy of mine, had come on his bike to see me to the starting line, but like many pro riders his approach to riding attire is that you wear the same shirt you always wear no matter the weather. Sometimes you’re hot; sometimes you’re cold; in the end it evens out. By the time he got to my house, he was was already dripping wet.
I was glad he had come. While I went over my bike the night before the race, I had discovered something that had troubled me all night: a bald back tire. I had been so focused on building my muscles and stamina for the race, so afraid I wouldn’t complete, that I hadn’t noticed something as simple as a treadless tire until the moment it was too late to do anything about it. I had visions of blowouts on a downhill stretch, crashes on the slick, wet pavement or of being shuttled ignominiously to the finish line in someone’s car, my bike stuffed in the trunk.
Both an experienced rider and an engineer, Bruce took a quick look at my tire and said, “Racing tires usually don’t have any tread anyway. Makes for less rolling resistance. You’ll be fine.”
My mind at ease, we were off. I had about eight miles to get to the starting line. It was early Sunday morning and there were few cars out, let alone any other bicycles. Any hope of the weather holding were dashed when the storm clouds opened up on us. At a stoplight, Bruce ventured that it might be a good time for him to turn back and get home.
I agreed. He had gotten me started, ridden on many training rides with me and that was all I needed. Now I was under way, pointed in the right direction, and if I didn’t think too much and avoided any mishaps, I had a good chance of making it to the end. I ducked my head deeper into my hood and rode on.
Throughout the months of training for the race I had told myself that the real accomplishment was getting out to train at all, finishing the race was secondary. If I could make it through the training rides, sometimes with friends, often alone, then I had done the hardest part. You’re either trained or untrained, I repeated to myself through the long and tedious stretches. Anyone can show up for one day of thrills; it’s the six months before that are the real test.
In the end, I rode 112 miles that day while 50 percent of the riders who signed up for the race didn’t finish.
I guess I was trained after all.