On this morning’s ride I could feel snot flying from my nose, and as the snowflakes peppered my face with a fierceness that chilled my brain I just bore down and kept going, charging against the brutal wind, one pedal after the other. I knew my group mates were just ahead, and their presence, even as slowly disappearing dots ahead of me, prompted a voice inside my head that almost screamed to just keep going. We were on a three hour ride – the longest I’ve ever been on – and all of us were soaked, caked from head to toe in mud, and slowly losing feeling in our fingertips and toes. There were moments when my glasses were so fogged and splattered with mud that I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. The official start to spring was just a few days ago, but it still feels like the dead of winter. Life in Canada can be so cruel sometimes. In the back of my mind, I hoped for some hill climbs just to warm up, but almost two hours in, as I reached the bottom of the longest, steepest ascent I had ever seen, I cursed at myself.
Mid-way through my muscles were screaming at me to topple over the side of the road and succumb to defeat. I was visualizing myself literally just toppling over like a massive heap and never getting back up again. But as I looked ahead and saw my training partners bobbing along, I told myself to shut up and just kept going.
Once at the top, I wanted to jump up and down and proclaim my victory, but with all the veteran cyclists, who have no doubt climbed this hill, and others, many times before, I reached for my water bottle instead, and quietly reflected on my own personal milestone.
On the journey back, we endured a whipping wind, an assault of missile snowflakes and caking mud spray from the roaring passing vehicles. For my first group ride, it was one I will never forget.
Having training partners during these kinds of workouts are like a gift. If I woke up this morning for a solo ride and saw the snow and the wind, I probably would have curled right back up in bed. But when you conquer a training session with a group, you push yourself to do things you never thought you could do. You look at those around you and realize everyone is cold and muddy and wants nothing more than a hot bath, so instead of grumbling about it, you just keep going and you have fun doing it, even if you can’t feel your toes.
Over the past few days, our group has endured some serious harshness from Mother Nature, which has tested our mental toughness, but we’ve done it together, pushing each other along, and I can’t thank them enough. During this journey, I have come to learn that coaches and training partners are the backbone to our triathlon journey and I feel so fortunate to have a group that, since day one, has pushed me to be stronger and better, even when the only thing on our minds is hot chocolate and a warm blanket.