What I learned on my training ride year 3, #1: Headwinds and tailwinds in riding and life

My start and finish looked the same, but I'd changed for the better by finish.
My start and finish looked the same, but I’d changed for the better by finish.


When I need to bang out a quick ride, or when I want to be more flexible in how many miles I ride, I like to head down to the Cape Cod Canal. The bike path along the canal is smooth and well maintained; safe and on weekdays and not so very busy. It is seven miles from the Buzzard’s Bay end to the Scusset Beach end, so I can choose to do 14, 28 or even 42 miles on any given day. It’s pretty there too and I see a lot of interesting things.

And while it’s basically flat, it’s not an easy ride by any means. This is because the wind absolutely howls through that canal. So what I like to do is check the wind direction ahead of time and park at the end of the canal that will start me out smack into the wind. I love pushing for those first seven miles knowing the tailwind reward would be coming my way. It works for me.

So this past Friday, it was finally warm enough (hey – this year in New England, 47 is the new 72, right?) and the wind had calmed down enough to make it pleasant (only a steady wind of about 14. Seems it had not been below almost 30 for weeks). The sun was out and I was happy to think of my ride.

The wind was out of the east, so I parked at the far west Buzzard’s Bay end, clicked into my pedals and headed off.

And almost immediately felt drained. The wind was kicking up way more than the 14 the weather had reported. And I’m not in top riding shape yet. (Yeah—there’s that). Pushing and pedaling along, I began to feel doubt.

I flipping hate doubt. It seeps into my head and like a gooey mess, gets all over everything.

 Maybe I cannot do two centuries. My fundraising is slow. I bet people don’t care anymore. Or they’re sick of me. Ugh, maybe I’ll just turn around and go home.

No, Moira. Don’t turn around. Just push through. If you want, it will be okay to just do 14 instead of 28. Just get to the end of the windy seven and then reassess.

 And so I pushed on. I felt lousy, both physically and emotionally. This is my third year riding – and let’s remember that my first year I said I was only going to do it once. But the power and the pleasure of having found a way to still truly make a difference has kept me at it. Plus, I don’t want research to go backwards. So now I must keep on fundraising as best I can … not just for my Lauren, but for all.

I spotted the Sagamore Bridge in the near distance, and I knew I only had two more miles of the heavy wind until I turned and had tailwind. But I also knew the wind loved to really pick up those last two miles.

Power on, Moira. Power on. And so I did, and then basically cruised the next seven miles back, which gave me the confidence to turn back into that horrid wind again and grind out another tough seven miles. On the windy way, I’d average only about 13 miles per hour, and even dip down to 10 at some points. The tailwind way? I’d crank at 16 to 19 miles per hour with barely breaking a sweat. That second time back, the gooey doubt was still getting all over me.

Look at you. You’re tired and you’ve not even done a long ride. And today? You posted a prize for donors and heard crickets. You’re not good enough.

But then, as happens when I ride, I began to meditate. And for some reason today, my thoughts went to two families I know who are battling way more than some wind in their faces.

Jude is a beautiful baby boy who is five months old. And since his first day of life, he’s been fighting cancer. His aunt is a friend of mine, and she gives us all regular updates. I don’t know Jude’s parents but I’ve never read of a more determined, brave, relentless and loving family. Every single day I think: how do they do it? And as I rode on pushing in that wind, I thought of them, pushing in a way I’ve never even had to imagine. Yes, I’ve raised a child with a chronic, incurable disease, but that pales in comparison to the fight Baby Jude and his parents have put up

And then there is Jesse. Jesse has CF, and spend his 19th birthday right were he’s been for some time and will be for some time – in an ICU, medicated to sleep, waiting for two new lungs so he can go back to living his life.

I grew up with his mom and went to college with both his mom and dad. Their ability to take this on with grace has totally humbled me. The mom takes time every day to update all of us – thinking of our need to know at a time when she has every single right to only think of her son, her family and herself. And Jesse – he’s a fighter. While he’s been asleep via meds for some time, his dad reports that every time the Bruin’s play, Jesse’s eyes flutter. Now that’s a fan. This day they are hoping to bring him out of the sleep a bit to at least partially enjoy a playoff game.

I think as I pedal about what those families are facing each minute. And for now, they’ve not had a tailwind.

And then I get mine. And all of a sudden, the goo dissipates. The sky is blue and I’m sailing along. Then I get an idea: I’m going to go no-hands. Now I have to tell you here that while (like everyone) as a kid I Could ride forever with no hands, since beginning riding again, I just cannot. I’m a chicken. I don’t feel balance like that on my bike. But right now, with the wind at my back, I feel like it’s time.

I let go of one hand and stretch that arm out a bit. I push myself more upright, pedal harder, and then release the other. Sun on my face and wind at my back, I stretch my arms out like Jack Dunbar on that horse (only mine is to live, not to die), like every single little kid imagining crossing a finish line first. I laugh. Loud.

And then I grab back on the bars, still feeling lifted. And what mile am I at? 23. Of course I’m at mile 23 when I get this other-wordly lift.

I pedal along more and send up some wishes. I wish for Jesse to feel the wind rush into his new lungs and out as easily as I’m gliding along now. I wish for his mom and dad to breath easy again about their son. I wish for Jude to be released from the tubes and machines that are keeping him alive. I visualize his dad or mom tossing him up in the air and then catching him, huge baby giggles exploding from him each time they do.

Freedom from pain. Freedom from sickness. I wish that for all.

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can keep helping us push toward a future without Type 1 diabetes.

And then, with just two miles left until I hit my 28 miles goal for that day, the wind changes all the way around.

And smacks me in the face. Hard. But now I’m ready. I slog the last two miles, working harder than I had all day, seemingly inching along when I’d expected to sail. But it’s okay.

I have two legs to pedal with. I have a nice bike to take me places. I have a voice to ask for support, and a network of people who care. As I get to my end point, like the wind, I’ve completely turned around.

I can do this. I hope you’ll help me with a donation.

One thought on “What I learned on my training ride year 3, #1: Headwinds and tailwinds in riding and life

  1. Excellent.

    Wishing the best possible outcomes to Jesse and Jude and their families.

    And remembering what it is like to ride a bicycle in strong wind. So thrilling with a tail wind,so humbling with the wind in your face. A metaphor for Life.

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