Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's Raining It's Pouring...

I registered for the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge on December 12, 2012. My training since then has been mainly geared toward climbing hills to prepare myself for cycling in the mountains. I trained diligently for 5 months, largely indoors in the winter then bundled up for outdoor rides during the cold spring months. As time progressed, my excitement was building. The week prior to our departure was a whirlwind as my thoughts became consumed with the upcoming event.

Cycling is an extremely dangerous sport. In the saddle of the bike you are vulnerable and susceptible to peril by wind, rain, dogs, cars, mistakes by other cyclists, distraction, stupidity of oneself, etc.  The list is endless. Cycling puts me in dangerous situations every time I ride.  I frequently ride solo for long periods to train for triathlons. I also ride in packs with other cyclists at dizzying speeds with our wheels inches from each other in a pace line.  I will climb, then hurtle myself down the other side at speeds of 35-40mph. All are dangerous situations in their own right.

I approach cycling with a healthy dose of fear (a.k.a. knowledge of the reality of what could happen.)  I remain diligent at all times.  I refrain from using my phone, do not listen to music, take pictures or fiddle with my gadgets.


The weekend finally arrived, we packed the cars and headed down to Chattenooga, TN as planned Friday morning. We knew the weather forecast was not favorable, but were remaining firm in our belief the rain would pass and we would ride as planned. We hit the expo, picked up our race packets, took fun pictures and had dinner together. The night was filled with nervous tension, laughs and fun. When we woke the next morning, I had all of my gear for the day carefully laid out, my bike was clean and prepped, tires pumped and was in the mindset to ride when we headed down to meet for breakfast at 6am.  Until I looked out of the window, then checked the weather radar.  It was a deluge. Literally. It rained, it was cold and it was dark. The weather forecast had been dismal, and it played out as anticipated.The conditions were horrible. Climbing mountains on a road bike is dangerous under normal conditions, especially the long, very steep downhills. Today's forecast was for highs in the mid 50's, steady heavy rain and very poor visibility. The storm seemed to be locked directly across the three state area and up into Kentucky.


After much deliberation, a large number of cyclists including myself, opted out of the race.  It was the most difficult decision I've had to make in a long time. As an experienced cyclist, I know the risks and I was not willing to succumb to the dangers of riding in such conditions. It seems many who attempted did not get far onto the course before turning back and very few finished the 100 miles. There were 2 fatalities, sadly. Numerous crashes. Cases of hypothermia. I am happy to report that everyone in my group was unscathed.

I was disappointed.  It was devastating that something I had looked forward to for so long was taken by Mother Nature. Things did not go as planned. I tend to still have my issues with wanting to control, so it was a major let down.

However, through it all I rallied and remained positive. Since we returned to Indiana earlier than anticipated, we had the rest of the weekend free. Some of us decided to do a hundred mile ride in Indianapolis on Sunday, to get in the mileage.  It was rainy and windy, but there were no mountains!  We completed the ride safely, and it was a nice consolation to what might have otherwise been a weekend gone bust.


I am grateful for the experience. I grew from this, and will apply this growth to life. Disappointment will come but it's how I handle it that matters. Instead of muscling through and plunging into a ride I knew was dangerous, I followed my gut and opted for safety.  It was the right thing to do. Think before I leap, then handle the repercussions with grace. Keep on moving forward.

16 comments:

  1. Oh, I know you were SO looking forward to that. I'm so sorry it didn't work out as planned but you handled it like the champion that you are! So sad to hear that there were fatalities. Incredibly unfortunate. You definitely made the right decision and I'm proud of you!

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    1. Thank you Penny! There are other fun events on the horizon, so I'm looking ahead :)

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  2. I am sorry also that you didn't get to ride, but you had such an awesome outlook, so many can benefit from reading this.
    Thoughts and prayers with the families of the injured and loss.
    You have a remarkable dedication that I admire.
    Thank you for sharing you with us!

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  3. That was beautifully described, moving into the moment after long, long days and then the cold, misty deluge. That was a sensible decision but I loved how you extracted something out of that situation. The moral of the story is memorable.

    I love your cycling trips, Michelle!

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    1. Uma, you are so kind! I truly believe that something good can always come out of a negative experience and it's important to keep moving! Thank you!

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  4. I'm glad you went with your gut feeling Michelle because you may have had a different story to tell us today. Sometimes it's just not worth the trouble and you can always live to see another day and do another ride. Nobody wants to return with severe injuries either.

    Sorry to also hear about the fatalities, so sad that things like this can happen whilst having fun.

    I always enjoy reading about your journeys Michelle, and I'll be back for more later. Enjoy your week.

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    1. Yes, the fatalities were tragic. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. It was a learning experience, and I will take it! Thank you for your kind words!

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  5. So sorry since you were looking so forward to it, but you had to do what was right for you and your safety - and from what you said, your instincts were correct.
    There will be other races and other times to do what you love!

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  6. I'm so sorry you weren't able to ride, but still glad to hear that you stayed safe and weren't hurt in any way!

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  7. Yeah Michelle, I can't believe how many risks some cyclists take - especially living in a seaside area so popular with cyclists; ride to the city often myself.

    No lights, phones, earphones & recklessness in bad weather - see it all.

    You obviously made the right choice.
    Cheers, ic

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  8. glad to hear that you were okay... Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a Happy Mother's day dear! :)

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