62.19 miles to be exact. This is the distance that my brother, Ross, and I rode on our bicycles this morning. It was quite a ride! As we rode, this post slowly came together in my head. Warning: cheesy, but all-to-true analogies to life and to the new 22-23 school year abound throughout the post!
Earlier in the week, Ross called and said that he and his buddy, Sammy, were planning to do a 60 mile ride on Sunday. Was I interested? I spent the week in limbo. Yes, I was interested, and always up for a challenge (especially when my son, Owen, says, “Jenny would do it.”) Oh, that damn sister of mine! Yes, I was interested, but full of trepidation. The longest bike ride that I had embarked on up to that point had been 23 miles. Could I/Should I even consider 60 miles as a novice bike rider? How many times in life do we receive invitations that launch us into limbo? How many times do we question our abilities? How often have I peeked into a new school year as August rolls around and felt trepidation?… 26 years later, it’s still there.
The Night Before
Our plan was to leave Ross’s house at 6:00 a.m., which meant a 30 minute drive for me, which meant a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call. Only my brain and body decided to wake up at 3:00 a.m… and didn’t allow me to fall back asleep. Oh, that damn racing brain of mine! I tried to be as prepared as possible: bike loaded in the back of Bill’s truck, air pump, helmet, new gloves, new clip-in shoes (more on those later), phone arm band, etc. all packed and ready to go. In addition, our planned ride included a stop at my house, so I wanted to have coffee, donuts, etc. ready to go. We would be 30 miles into our ride by the time we stopped at my house for breakfast. How many times in life do we accept invitations only to suffer from sleepless nights wondering if we’ve made the right choice? How many nights before the first day of school have I lost sleep, worried, and questioned my ability?
The Fallen Comrade
Ross and I were joined by his friend, Sammy. I hadn’t met Sammy before, but instantly liked him. He is quiet, funny, and a fairly novice rider, as well. Sammy hung back for most of the ride, as his pace is slower than ours. I realized that we hadn’t discussed our pace ahead of time, nor our plan of attack (were we going to ride together? would we all abandon ship if one of us needed to?) Lack of a plan did not get in the way of our ride: it worked well for the three of us. Ross and I would stop frequently to wait for Sammy to catch up, giving us frequent breaks. During one of those breaks, Sammy mentioned that his toe was bothering him. We didn’t realize how much: by the time we arrived at my house, our half-way mark, Sammy announced that he was done with the ride. He had just gotten new clip-in shoes (as had I) and they weren’t agreeing with his toe. Oh, those damn clip-in shoes. Sammy didn’t seem troubled, and was perfectly fine with Ross and I making the return trip to Burlington. Sammy hitched a ride with my son, Elton, back to Burlington. All was well. How many times in life do we experience or witness upsets? How do we handle those upsets for others? In this case, we supported Sammy by ensuring a ride back to Burlington, thanked him for being a great riding partner, and went on our way.
Rest and Rejuvenation
Before going on our way, the three of us enjoyed some much-needed rest and rejuvenation in the form of breakfast on our outdoor patio, atop the beautiful cement table Ross had made for our family years ago. In addition to the meal prep I had done the night before, we were treated to an unexpected dose of pancakes and bacon, prepared by Owen and his girlfriend. Ross and I were feeling very good at this point (sorry, Sammy!) and were confident we could make the 30 mile return trip to Burlington. The opportunity to be off the bikes for a bit, sit, relax, eat, and drink was much appreciated, and just what we needed to keep going. How many times in life do we skip opportunities to rest and rejuvenate? How many times do we take those opportunities and realize how much better off we are for taking them? How many school breaks do I skip and work right through, thinking, “If I just get this finished, all will be well,” only to realize that there will always be one (or 20!) more things to do?
After securing Sammy’s ride back to Burlington and agreeing we were ready, Ross and I set off for the return trip. Seven miles into the return trip, we were approaching a stop where we had plenty of time to unclip our shoes from the pedals. Ross did so like a pro. I did so like a novice. I unclipped one side, as advised, but went to put my other, still-clipped leg forward, resulting in a tumble. A fall. A fall that I was bound and determined to avoid while biking. Oh, those damn clip-in shoes! In addition to my wounded ego, my palms were wounded as well. I am incredibly thankful that nothing more happened – this could have resulted in a broken bone or two, scratches, scrapes, or a head injury (despite the helmet). After dusting off my ego and both of my palms, protected by new gloves just purchased yesterday, Ross and I were on our way again. How many times in life do we fall, only to get back up again? How many times do we accept the help of those around us to recover from those falls? How many times will I fall/fail during the 22-23 school year, but keep going with the support of my incredible colleagues? My palms are bruised, painful, and will take some time to heal, but they will heal. And those bruises will serve as a reminder of mistakes made and the knowledge & skills gained to assist in doing better next time.
The Last Stretch
Ross and I celebrated milestones along the way, as we inched closer to our destination. In the last 10 miles, our aches and pains were becoming more prevalent, but we were spurred on by the close proximity to reaching our goal. Oh, those damn aches and pains! We joked about reaching our destination (his house) and turning around to ride 30 miles back to my house. We were truly only joking. Though we both agreed we probably could do it, we had no desire to actually go through with it. How many times in life do we hurt the most right before achieving a goal, but work through the struggle knowing that it will all be worth it in the end? How many times will I want to give up on new initiatives during the 22-23 school year when the going gets rough? And it will get rough. It already has gotten rough as positions are being shuffled in the eleventh hour. We will get through; we will support each other; we will come out better on the other side.
We made it! 62.19 miles. Actually, we had to ride around Ross’s neighborhood after making it to his house in order to get the full 60 miles. We were just short, and wanted to fully enjoy the glory of each and every mile. In addition, my bike computer was not fully calibrated with the MapMyRun app on my phone, so while my bike computer said we had made it to 60, my phone was a mile behind. And we wanted both to reflect 60 miles. Oh, those damn gadgets that don’t always calibrate! We didn’t celebrate together for long – a quick sweaty hug and a picture or two – then I was on my way to drive back home. Despite the lack of ceremony, Ross and I are reveling in our success. How many times in life do we remember to celebrate our successes? How many times during the 22-23 school year will I celebrate my own successes, but more importantly ensure that our teachers and students celebrate their successes? There will be MUCH to celebrate, and although I am suffering from an educator’s typical August anxiety, I can’t wait to get this school year started! In another day or two, I might even be able to say that I can’t wait for the next bike ride. For now, my palms… and my butt cheeks… and my aching muscles are content to sit and enjoy today’s success.