One day last week I sat with my younger sister in an Applebee’s, which, as I pointed out, basically serves airplane food. Applebee’s may serve airplane food, but some of its menu caters to the gluten-free crowd, and I belong to the crowd, and I needed the food, for the next day I planned on riding the century–one hundred miles on my bike.
My brother say directly across from me, my sister, Christine, to his left.
Christine said to me, as I received the plate of salmon and spinach and potatoes, “Tell me why I should ride this century.”
So I set my fork down and pointed out that we were one a bike tour, so we might as well bike and that she would regret it if she didn’t and that she would probably feel awkward if she knew I completed it and she didn’t.
I don’t know which of the points was the strongest advocate for waking up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning and pushing the tent into its bag before squishing our way across the sopping grass to our breakfast and our bikes, but there we were nonetheless. Christine pumped her tires and I pumped my fist singing a whispered, “All I do is win” and we set off for one hundred miles.
You never know what your day will look like, do you? This is true. It feels more true, though, somehow, when you’re about to take off for a bike ride on roads you’ve never seen for a distance you know will take hours to complete.
We knew this. But, we started strong. The corn fields blew in the morning wind, the sky was a deep overcast grey. The fields passed, the miles passed, the hours passed. We were riding about thirteen to fourteen miles and hour, with stops every hour or so for water or bathrooms or honey-roasted peanuts (my guilty-pleasure snack-of-choice). The sun came out, we passed a few towns, we turned into a wicked headwind. We began to slow and tire. The hills became harder to climb. The sun became brighter. Our thighs began to tighten and complain.
Then I saw a hill in the distance, another one, but larger than the last few. And I exhaled all, ” I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”
But Christine was like, “GET UP THE HILL! YOU ARE CAPABLE!” as she pushed past me.
And, mentally, I was like, “You know, she’s right, I am capable,” so I pushed up the hill, too.
Later, once we had arrived, we parked our bikes and high-fived our friends, signed in and went to use the bathroom.
In the bathroom there was a full-length mirror, which I looked into.
I was covered with sweat and dirt and probably dead bugs. My hair was squished down, my body bloated from the long day. My face was sun burned around the outline of my sunglasses. I took this all in, disappointed.
My sister walked up to the mirror, too, and looked in.
She surveyed herself, turned, and said to me,
“Dang. You know, I look pretty good.”
Then she spun, turned, and walked out of the bathroom.
Then I did, too.
I have a lot to learn from this woman.
Attitude of a champion, that one.