was One of the things I have learned since taking on my fitness lifestyle is that there are extremes to every activity. I know people who live and breathe exercise, cycling, swimming, whatever, almost to the exclusion of all else. Endurance athletes must train and train, work and work, just to maintain a level of activity to keep them on their game.
I’ve never considered myself any sort of extremist, about anything. But a couple of weeks ago I realized just how committed I am to this whole thing when I set out for a ride from home to my contracting job in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a distance of about 24 miles by bike trail.
It was a great morning, cool, with just enough sunshine to make it comfortable. My goal – to ride from home to my office for a full day of work there. I had made arrangements for my work backpack and clothes to be at the office when I arrived so I could travel lighter. So, in theory, all was ready to go.
The morning started out perfectly. The ride from Jamestown, Ohio to Yellow Springs requires about 90 minutes, nonstop, at my current speed and endurance level. I use the Jamestown Connector Trail to Xenia, then on to Yellow Springs from there. The only downside normally is that I have to backtrack through the lake community where I live before I can get onto the bike trail – some 3 miles. No problem that day, however. I was on my game and ready to settle in for a mid-speed ride.
What I refer to as “mid-speed” is about 13 mph, that’s about 4 mph less than the fastest pace I can hold for more than a few minutes at a time. I tend to ride in intervals, so holding 13-14mph is no big deal at this point. I got to the bike trail from my house without incident, even the traffic was low at that time of day, around 7:15 AM. I was on my way.
My phone was streaming NPR Morning Edition into my Bluetooth headset and I was settled in for a reasonably fast, but easy ride. Things were going so well on the connector part of the ride, I even did a live stream from that section. Everything was rolling along smoothly.
Before I left home I’d checked the weather reports once more. Most of the forecasts agreed that we would be dry through 10 AM, that gave me nearly three hours to get to work, double what I needed. But by the time I got into Xenia, about 12 miles into the run, the sky had begun to blacken.
I generally plan a stop at the Xenia Station bike hub to have some water and grab a quick protein bar or restroom break. A few raindrops while waiting at the intersection just across from the station changed my mind. I decided to keep going straight on. I could stop along the Xenia – Yellow Springs route if necessary. I made it about two blocks, to the center of town, when it began to rain a bit harder.
I took cover under the overhang of an office front and used that opportunity to scarf down half a protein bar and water. As the rain eased a bit, the crossing light went green and I got going again. I’d lost maybe three minutes, tops. And the rain had subsided but didn’t totally stop.
Moving along the north trail, I had about nine miles to go when a tiny hint of blue sky and sun shone overhead. I thought I’d be outrunning it since it seemed the storm was moving perpendicularly away from me to the northwest. Boy, was I wrong.
A few minutes later, there was a huge clap of thunder and it just started dumping water on me. The rain wasn’t too hard at first then quickly increased both intensity and volume, and the wind had kicked up. I felt like I was riding inside a car wash. And then there was the lightning.
Soaking wet and pedaling faster now, approaching what I guessed was about 18 or 19 mph, I couldn’t actually see my computer anymore, I kept moving. I remembered that a few miles ahead there was a covered bridge over the trail where I thought I might take a break from the deluge and clean my glasses. I was now looking through a tiny, clear spot on the right lens of my prescription goggles, the rest was either fogged up or so wet I couldn’t see through. Where was that bridge?
It seemed like I was moving so slowly and yet I know I was making my best speed on this trail in some time. A huge clap of thunder hit and I leaned down over my handlebars and closed my eyes. Wham! The lightning strike that accompanied the deafening noise hit no more than a hundred yards or so to my right. You could feel the electricity in the air. I pedaled harder. Where was that bridge?
Another thing slowing me down though, along with the torrential rain and the wind, was the darkness. The trail is heavily wooded and the clouds made it feel like 8 o’clock at night instead of morning. It was very dark, wet and I was beginning to wonder why I’d done all this. And the bridge? Still not apparent.
As I thought about my situation and where I had been in my life just a few short month ago I actually started laughing. I was soaked, through to my socks, I couldn’t be wetter if I were in a swimming pool at this point. I wasn’t all that tired, but it was exhausting just keeping the bike upright through some heavy water that occasionally flowed across the trail. Finally! There it was! That stupid bridge!
I slipped under one side and was startled when I took my goggles off to see two runners hunkered down up under one of the bridge supports. They’d been caught in the freak storm as well and taken shelter just a few minutes earlier. A cyclist I passed along the trail sometime before also glided in behind me and stopped. After a few minutes, I decided it was time to keep moving.
Back on the bike and clipped in again, I pedaled my way the next two miles or so into the village of Yellow Springs, where I exited the path to the main road. I was calculating in my head the shortest distance to my office from where I was and proceeded. Of course, it was then that the rain started to subside quite a bit and the sun was coming out. I was less than a mile and a half from work now. I was as wet as I would ever get and I was ready to be done.
I made it to work with time to spare, changed my clothes and set my bike out to dry, along with all of its soaking wet accessories. It was quite a ride. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that, and I certainly wouldn’t intentionally go out for a ride in such a storm. But in the end, it turned out to be the best training ride I could imagine and one of my favorite rides so far in my short cycling career. Why? Because I found out what I could do. I was a cyclist now, no question about it.
I wonder what will happen next?