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As I started out, I could feel the winds pushing mildly against me, but I continued on. As I rounded my first corner of the rectangle, I faced the winds head on. After the first mild climb, there is a downhill portion. I knew I was in trouble when the downhill that I normally cruise down at speeds of 20+ mph had a maximum speed of 8 mph. Two cyclists passed me. I shook my head as I wondered how they were able to power through the force. Disappointed in my ability to maintain a reasonable pace, I considered turning around to have the wind at my back, but as I was contemplating this plan, realized that there was a road coming that I could cut through to shorten my rectangle. I had decided that was as good an option as any and carried on.
Then, the shortcut road came into sight. As it did, I was pondering this harsh wind - and life (typical thoughts for me while riding). I thought about how these strong winds are really such a parallel to the challenges we can face in life. When something presents itself as an obstacle or a force to be reckoned with, we can turn around and avoid it all together, we can sneak across through some loop hole or shortcut never really dealing with the issue, or we can face it head-on and deal with the issue at hand. In that instant, I passed on the shortcut and headed into the wind (which I swear must've heard my thoughts and got stronger the moment I made the decision to press on). I felt as though this wind was offering me a challenge and I was determined not to let it get the best of me. I could still see the two cyclists who'd passed me. My mental goal was to attempt to catch them before my next turn (as a side note, they turned around before I caught them). This would surely keep me motivated, I believed.
When I reached the next turn, I shouted for joy. "Ha, ha! I win! You didn't beat me." Okay, so it may have only been an internal exclamation of glee, but it felt good to have won out over this seemingly supernatural presence. As I pedaled through the turn, it seemed as though the wind had shifted. Was I riding into a headwind? Still? Feeling as though I'd lost my mind, I scanned for trees or anything that might be blowing, but there was nothing tall enough to offer a clue. I looked above me and there was a bird, fighting with all his might to head the same direction I was going. "Well, I guess that's my answer," I actually spoke aloud this time. The wind had definitely changed direction.
Thankfully, this was the short stretch of the rectangular route, and I smiled broadly as I hit the next turn. I have realized, however, that sometimes the side-winds are even worse than the headwinds. With a headwind, I know what I'm dealing with - strong and direct forces of nature - and if I pedal harder/faster, I can keep moving even if it's a slow pace. With the side-winds, it almost feels as though the bike could be whipped out from beneath me without warning, and I dislike that feeling very much. Pedaling downhill, I was braking, feeling that the wind was definitely in control, and I most certainly was not. Again, the parallels to life are amazing to me.
In the end, I finished my short ride feeling accomplished despite my mental setbacks along the way. I had cursed the wind as I did it, but near the end realized that sometimes I need these moments to recognize that I am capable of doing whatever I set my mind to do, and remembering just how many similarities I find in bicycling and life's journey. There are always options to give up, to sneak around or avoid an issue, or to take it head-on. I hope that I more frequently make the choice to deal with things in a straight forward manner. It can be very rewarding in the end.