Monday, April 21, 2014

Sometimes, I Welcome the Wind

Most of the time, I dread days of riding in the wind. A little breeze is fine, but the strong winds can really get to me and more often than not result in very short rides (sometimes even shorter than the short ride I'd already planned). If Chicago is the "windy city," I'm convinced Colorado during the winter/spring seasons is the "windy state." It's almost a given that if the day looks beautiful and sunny, during this time of year there will most assuredly be strong winds.
*Image found here
Venturing out on a short ride recently, I was aware that the winds were blowing in a spring storm. It is to be expected and I took note as I prepared to take it on. When I know the winds are strong, I frequently plan a rectangular route, knowing that I will experience tailwinds for at least a portion of the ride. Somehow, it seems to get me through the more difficult portions. This day was no exception. I was ushering in a cold that was taking hold quicker than I'd prefer, but wasn't about to let that stop me from getting in a little time in the saddle. In April (a fickle month in these parts), I have to take what I can get.

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.

8 comments:

  1. i don't like windy days either. I read somewhere that in the Netherlands, it gets so windy and noisy that people riding bikes actually wear earplugs. I would rather ride in the rain or summer heat than fight the wind.

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    1. Wow! I can't imagine dealing with that sort of wind, but I realize I don't have it so bad. :O)

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  2. I don't miss the Front Range headwinds (or even worse...crosswinds!) but I can relate. I've always felt cycling into headwinds or with tailwinds was a good analogy for the trials and jubilations of life. My first real taste of the dichotomy of the Colorado winds was right after we moved to Denver. I took off one overcast day heading south on the South Platte Trail. I was flying! 20+ mph for 10 solid miles. Then I turned around to head home and realized the reason I had been going so fast was because I had a tailwind and to get back home I was going to have to swim upstream against it. It took me twice as long to get back home as it had to get away.

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    1. Ugh. That would be a horrible realization (and all-too-real for many of us here) at the turnaround point. The crosswinds really are seemingly even worse often times. I'll be glad to see the warmer summer heading in over the coming months over the current winds.

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  3. Wind, so very important! I think I can take climbing a long steep hill better than a nasty headwind. At least the hill eventually concedes and presents its crest.

    On my regular ride, I welcome a southerly wind, as it means I will have a tailwind while climbing the steepest hill. Here, a wind out of the south means changeable and even bad weather - but I will take the prospects of stormy conditions over climbing with the wind in my face.

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    1. Its always nice to know which direction the winds are coming and to know that you'll have a tailwind at the worst part of your climb is great too! We tend to get them from pretty much all directions, but for the most part the storms come from the northwest (Canada) or the southwest (So Cal). Having mountains to our west seems to prevent direct winds from the west, but they still seem to find their way regardless. :O)

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  4. I've also learned to embrace the wind, to let the weather be whatever it wants to be. There's something about commuting on a bike on a regular basis that encourages consent to things as they are, not as a kind of fatalism about problems that can be addressed, but as an acceptance of things that cannot be changed. When the wind is fierce I just remind myself to put it in a low gear and spin. I'm in no hurry.

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    1. I think embracing the weather is all we can do, particularly for those who ride in all different types of weather. I think when we figure out how to make it through the more challenging elements, we enjoy it all the more.

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