Like I said, I went to bed at 11:45 on Wednesday night but as I lay there I could not sleep. My body was way too keyed up-whether it was from the concert or the biking, I don’t know, but my heart was pounding. I could feel my blood thudding through my veins from my head to my toes and even after a few hours of laying there, trying to relax my mind and body, my pulse had not slowed much.
It was hard to not think discouraging thoughts as I felt the night slipping away. I needed sleep! I was going to attempt to bike from sunrise to sunset on Thursday, my longest ride ever and every moment of sleep I could get was vital to my success.
When my alarm went off at 4:45 am, I knew that at best I had only slept for 1.5 hours. Although that was slightly worrying, I got all my stuff together and headed off campus at 5:30.
I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to get some breakfast. (Don’t worry, I didn’t buy coffee.) The best thing about Tim Horton’s? They had a bat tree outside. I found that out when I locked my bike up to a small tree and woke about 50 bats from their early morning nap. Sorry little guys!
In a few miles, I was back on the Erie Canal trail. Biking down the trail on Wednesday had been fun and the trail was pretty, but let’s get real. Erie Canal has many locks, making the water somewhat stagnant and muddy looking. It is not picturesque, like a flowing river, by any means.
But in the early morning?
The sunrise turned the surface brilliantly golden and there was fog rising out of the canal. It was spectacular. There were animals wandering around everywhere-rabbits, raccoons, turkeys, ducks and a fox. The trail was fairly deserted but I passed a few cyclist commuters and early morning exercisers and we exchanged cheerful “good mornings”.
Despite my fears about my physical capabilities to bike on such little sleep, my legs were strong and I kept up a fast pace. As I pedaled along there were many things that made me smile.
A heart drawn in the gravel of the trail-I imagined someone pausing mid-commute each morning to quickly scrawl a heart with her finger, knowing that in a few hours no trace of her action would remain.
A fisherman pulled fish out of the canal right as I was passing by so I called out across to him,
He turned toward me, beaming, and gave me a thumbs up.
My bike trip had been great so far but these next 40ish miles on the Erie Canal trail were the highlight of the trip. It wasn’t the scenery, the tranquility, my legs feeling strong and sure on the pedals or the perfect cool chill in the air. It was the overwhelming presence of God. I began pouring out my heart to Him, there on the trail. My thoughts and hopes and fears and dreams and confusions and worries all started spilling out and we worked through some stuff together in the gray dawn of the early morning.
It gets me every time. God wants a personal relationship with me, little old me. He wants to be with me in all my troubles and joys-and bike adventures.
After a few hours of riding on the trail I was fired up. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. Eventually I bade a sad farewell to the Erie Canal and started heading north.
Two hours later I started to drag. I wasn’t feeling well. My shoulders were feeling strained. My butt was starting to get very sore. My mind began to go in the wrong direction.
“It is still morning and you are already in pain. It is only gonna get worse. There is no way you can keep biking all day. Look at the time and look at your mileage. You have stopped too many times and wasted precious minutes. By nightfall, you won’t be anywhere close to home and someone is going to have to drive for hours to pick you up.”
My speed had slowed to 13 mph. With a discouraged mind and complaining body, it was unclear how much longer I could persevere on my bike.
My mood continued to worsen and finally I realized I needed to do something or I was going to have a miserable day. So I went back to the basics.
Why was I out here on my bike?
To have a fun adventure.
What was my goal?
To bike all day long.
So I made the decision that the only important thing was to bike until dark. Mileage didn’t matter, speed didn’t matter. I stopped worrying about the stats on my bike computer and started focusing on the beautiful countryside around me.
Quietly, I began to sing one of the songs from last night’s concert.
“Every giant will fall, the mountains will move
Every chain of the past, You’ve broken in two
Over fear, over lies, we’re singing the truth
That nothing is impossible with You”
I soon realized that mentally and physically, I was back on my game. I had found my second wind. The rest of the day went by fast and without any major mishaps or flat tires, although I did miss my turns a few times and was forced to stop and ask people for directions. They were all super helpful and got me right back on track.
It was early evening when I made it to the most physically daunting part of my trip. While there had been rolling hills to climb throughout the day, the overall elevation stayed the same. Now I was leaving the lower elevation of the area around Lake Ontario and climbing up into the Adirondack foothills. For the first time for the entire trip the weather was not kind to me and decided to give me a strong headwind to fight against.
For a ten mile stretch I went directly into the headwind up an endless array of climbs.
“All speed is good speed.” I kept saying to myself. I tried to distract myself by talking to cows but it wasn’t really working to soothe the pain I was experiencing in my shoulders, neck, feet and butt.
I was climbing yet another hill, when out of nowhere a cyclist on a recumbent, pulling a trailer came sailing by. He long gray hair was secured underneath a headband and he had a flowing, wispy beard. As he flew down the hill he yelled across the road to me in a jubilant, lilting, tone,
“The wind is on my side today!”
“I know!” I yelled back.
It was so unexpected. Hands down the most humorous moment of the entire trip. I recounted this moment to my brother and sister and they didn’t find it that amusing. Maybe you had to be there. But the way he sailed down the hill and delivered his line was perfection and his gentle, humorous taunt kept me smiling for miles. It was exactly what I needed to get me through the next series of hills.
Dusk was falling. My phone battery was dying and I wasn’t sure how long my headlights would last, so I called my dad and asked him to pick me up between 8:30 and 9. At 9 I saw his headlights and pulled off of the road. It was perfect timing, my last headlight was about to die.
I climbed off my bike, triumphant. I had just made it to the 150 mile mark for the day, 320 miles for the 3 day trip.