Saturday, December 15, 2007

Raining Cats and Dogs!

Today I had my FINAL time trial... the one and only, 10 mile bike. 25 minutes of agony at the end of an already stressful/exciting/intense fun-filled week! Rather than bore you with yet another blow-by-blow account (hey - I love writing them, and I the sensation of living each moment again is neat- and I really feel that the "inner-me" comes out... but 3 deeply-intense reports in one week? Holy Cow!), I'm going to lighten the mood and recite a poem from one of my favorite authors, Pablo Neruda.

In a bit...

First, it really was raining cats and dogs today (and you thought I couldn't get another animal reference in - ha ha!). When I woke up, the overhead clouds were dense, heavy, and saturated. The atmosphere was just waiting to erupt - and I started my piece just after it let loose.

I drove up to Milton, all the while watching anxiously as big, fat raindrops spattered off the windshield. Rain, I could do. Lightning, not so much.

After reaching my "start" point, I parked the car and waited while the rain fell. I figured that - as all the storms on the Florida Panhandle do - this one would soon blow over.

Boy, was I wrong.

It kept raining. And raining. And then raining harder.

After 2 uneventful minutes in the car, I had had enough waiting around. Let's just say I'm not a very patient person when I've got a mission to accomplish. No piece, no test, no race is perfect. I can't control the weather, won't always be able to decide when I can and can't race/train. So I figured that my wonderful bike - Sjofin (she has a name, its Teutonic for a Warrior Goddess who inspires passion - good, huh?) - was due for a cleaning, and by riding in the rain I would get a heckuva head start.

About 3 minutes into the warm-up, I was drenched, cold, and cursing the cold front that was about to move through. But it didn't matter: I put on my blinders, hunkered down, redoubled my efforts, and thought to heck with everything and that pouring sheets of rain weren't going to prevent me from riding my hardest.

So I did.

The piece was great and I felt the crazy woman in me laughing manically at the rain. It came down in sheets; it was spraying in my face, hard pellets bouncing off my helmet and off my shoulders as I propelled myself forward. The rain did nothing to dampen my drive, my spirit. I howled in the wind, forced my legs down, and held steady at 24 mph.

It was awesome.

I was 3 seconds off my previous best, but felt that my effort was much steadier, much greater. And then I cursed the fact that I don't have a power meter (yet!), because it's times like these they would come in awful handy! But I couldn't control ANY of that - just me, myself, and the manic, laughing woman within.

The harder I pushed, the louder the rain pellets pinged off my helmet, off my soaked back and shoulders. It took every bit of energy, every bit of reserve to drive myself forward: but the heart was pure and strong, the mind was powerful, and the body was a willing accomplice.

And I was trashed afterwards.

And drenched!

A quick 20 minute cool-down, and I was back at the car, wiping Sjofin down as quickly as I could, and then throwing on a dry shirt. There was a brief respite in the clouds and rain, and I could feel the electricity crackle in the air.

The earth and all her elements were holding their breath before the explosion of lightning, thunder, wind, and driving rain.

I phoned Nathaniel to let him know I was safe in the car and would be home in 45 minutes. He replied, "And not a minute too soon. I've been watching the radar all morning, and we're getting serious thunder down here. It's not exactly heading in your direction, but you'll probably run into a bit on your drive home."

A few minutes after the call ended, I saw the explosion of lightning, felt the reverberations of the thunder, and thanked my lucky starts that I had finished my ride when I did. Good thing that my legs felt as though they were somewhere 8 miles behind, otherwise I would still be biking, and caught out in the open in a thunderstorm.

Speaking from experience, riding in lightning is NOT fun... I'd much prefer the raining down of cats and dogs.

So, because I love biking. And because I love my wonderful bicycle Sjofin, I am dedicating this post to bikes in general (and bikers, of course!)

Ode to Bicycles, by Pablo Neruda

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent
through summer
a cold
that will return
when it's needed,
when it's light,
that is,
of each day.

"The Poetry of Pablo Neruda" p 432-434.

Happy biking, happy training! Each day is a new one, and with the promise of a new dawn, we are all reborn. Today it was raining cats and dogs, but I still flew on my bike, still had the time of my life, still laughed in the face of the howling storm. Tomorrow, it may be sunny, it may not. But it won't matter: because my bike will still be there for me, waiting in the light - waiting for another adventure.

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