Tag Archives: black cyclist

A Bike, A Storm, A Reminder About Life

After a storm, the sun always shines bright!

As I write this, the world is at a standstill due to Covid-19. Riding my bike during a recent rain storm reminded me of an important life lesson. What was the lesson? That the sun always shines brightest after a rain storm!

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I love cycling. Not only do I ride bikes, I race them at the amateur level. It’s this racing aspect that requires me to do tons of training, especially during the summer. So today, even though there was the threat of rain, I decided to go for a decent ride (40 miles). It was my hope, that I would at least be able to make it to the halfway point without getting soaked.

I was fortunate enough to make it to mile 20 with zero precipitation. But when I turned North to head back home, I could see the storms clouds off in the distance. What was “worse” was that I could hear tons of thunder. While it sounds super cool, typically where there’s thunder there’s lightning. By the way the storm was tracking, I could tell that I was going to miss the brunt of it. But there was a chance that I would get caught by the edge, if I didn’t high tail it back home.

Head down and pushing hard, I told myself if I could get 5 miles North, I might be okay. But about 3 miles up the road, the clouds opened up and started to pour big drops of rain. Not a problem for me. I like being in the rain, and always have since I was a kid. While others sought shelter during storms, I was the weirdo out splashing in puddles just soaking it up. Thunder, lightning, wind and all. Blame the Aquarian in me; it’s the sign of the water bearer! Heck, I did’t even own an umbrella until I started my professional career.

So I kept pushing on, getting wet and marveling at the thunder and how loud it was. However, there was lightning. At first it wasn’t a big deal and the strikes were intermittent. But then there was one strike that was super bright and a little too close to home for me. The one thing that all cyclist are trained is that if there is lightning, it’s best to seek shelter. I mean, it’s not a great idea to be rolling around on a tiny piece of metal when there is a bunch of electricity in the air! So I saw a archway at a building and decided to wait it out. Maybe it was a church? Maybe it was a school? Maybe it was a Catholic school which is why I thought it was a church? Who knows.

As I stood under the archway I was wet, but out of the rain and hopefully clear of getting stuck by lightning. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain was going to 100% stop in about 20 minutes. I text my wife so she would know that I was waiting it out and was safe. Once the worst part of the storm passed, I got back on the bike and resumed my ride. As I was riding, the sun came out as if the almighty themselves had parted the clouds to say hello. It was in that moment that I was reminded of the life lesson I mentioned above. It was also when I decided to take that picture around Wolf Lake!

When we humans are faced with adversity, challenge, struggle and the like, we often go through several phases. In honor of the letter “R” (like my last name) I have named these phases:

  • Reject
  • Resolve
  • Reset
  • Resume
  • Rejoice

You may not have noticed these phases above, but if you go back you can see them all. I rejected the fact that I was about to get caught in a thunderstorm. I resolved that it would happen and sought shelter. During this time, I reset and prepared to ride home wet and in the rain. Once the worst was past, I resumed my ride. Lastly, when the sun came out, I rejoiced and almost forgot about the dangerous lightning that I had been riding through.

While things seem bad and scary around the world right now, it’s good to keep the cycle above in mind. At some point in time, this too will pass. It will be behind us and a long way down the road, it will feel like a distant memory. Right now we may be in the reset phase. All of the Summer sporting activities I love, the lakefront trail, vacations and gatherings with friends are put on hold. I’ve resolved myself to believe that we won’t be able to “resume” until we get to 2021. Hopefully at that time, I can head to the track and “go fast and turn left” with all of my friends as the 2020 season has pretty much been shelved.

Until then, let’s all try to keep one another safe. Practice good hygiene, make sure you social distance, protect the most vulnerable around you and remember to tell those you care about, that you love them on a frequent basis. But never forget, after a storm, the sun always shines bright!

200+ Miles & 4 States on A Bicycle

Every since I first hopped on a bike, I knew that it would be a long love affair.  There is just something about the feeling you get when you know that the machine you are riding is 100% powered by your efforts.  That feeling of the wind in your face when you go down a hill.  That feeling that is as close as you’re ever going to get to flight without jumping out of a plane.

Many of you know that I race for xXx Racing – AthletiCo when I am not being daddy or handling client finances.  This team was founded back in 1999 when a group of messengers decided that it would be cool to try their hands at some sanctioned racing.  One of the founding fathers was a guy by the name of Eric Sprattling.  Eric was known for being a pretty good distance rider and one of the things he would do as part of his training would be to ride to the three surrounding states in our area.

Well, Eric passed away in 1999 after he suffered a brain aneurysm near the conclusion of a race.  In 2010, our coach began an annual 3 states ride in Eric’s memory.  2011 was the first time I participated and while it was hard (145 miles and 8 hours), it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had on the bike.  A few weeks back I got this hair-brained idea of what it would be like to ride the 4 states in our area.  That’s right – what would it be like to ride Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin all in one day?  Well, read on to find out!

The day was scheduled to be relatively calm from a wind standpoint and the temps were projected to get up to about 87 degrees.  From a rider standpoint, this is about as good as it gets during the summer, especially considering that we’ve been well into the upper 90’s for the past few weeks.  The route out to Michigan has some pretty high speed sections (45+ MPH speed limit) so I decided that it would be the portion I would ride first.  Given that I was starting at 5AM, I hoped that this would help me avoid some of the heavy traffic that would surely start as people began to get started on their days.

4AM comes after about 6 hours of sleep and I begin with a big breakfast and a final load up of all the gear I would have.  I’d have my usual tools to fix anything major that would go wrong on the bike, but I would also carry a few extras along with an extra water bottle.  I’m out the door at 5:15AM and it’s a quick 7 miles before I hit my second state of Indiana.  The sun is just starting to come up as you can see in this picture.

After my quick photo op I get rolling again and press on through the oil facilities of Whiting IN and in about an hours time I hit Gary.  Things are going okay and I am eating and drinking regularly to keep the engine room stoked.  I’m cruising along at an average of 19 MPH which is just what I am hoping for.  Once I leave Gary I hit US 12 which would take me through the Indiana Dunes, some more industrial areas and then through the Dunes Park.  The tree cover was excellent (which helped as the sun continued to ascend) and the only real hiccup came when I was supposed to take a route known as the Calumet trail.  Well, turns out this bike path is made of gravel and is more suited for mountain bikes than my skinny tired steed.  Needless to say, I just rerouted to US 12 and about 3 hours after I started I hit my third state, Michigan.

The route to Michiana MI takes you up a road called Lake Shore Drive.  The road itself is pretty picturesque with hillside villas on one side and beachfront property and the shoreline on the other.  On my cruise up this road at 8AM,  people were out running, biking and just enjoying the outdoors.  All of them had smiles and waves for me as I plodded along the rolling shoreline.  Kind of reminds you of those seaside drives of the coast doesn’t it?

The ride back to Illinois was pretty uneventful with the exception of how I felt at mile 70.  Typically I can do 100 miles without too much “discomfort” but for some reason I was starting to feel a little bothered on the bike.  The plan was for me to stop back at the house (mile 100) for a quick pasta lunch and refuel before I pushed north for the 4th state.  Thus, I just told myself to just make it home and I’d be okay.  The key to completing a ride of this length, at least for me, was to break it into small segments in which I could get a victory.  After a while, your body is going to just hurt no matter what, but it’s your mind that will make you stop and quit.

After a 30 minute rest and some lunch I pushed north up the bike path on the lakefront and headed into the burbs to play in our teams usual training grounds.  Well, this is where the ride “started” to get hard for me.  No matter how much I ate and drank, my power levels slowly started to come down as time progressed.  I would take a break every hour or so, which recharged me to an extent, but it was getting really hard to convince myself that I was going to make it back home.  Well, after 160 miles and 9 hours of riding, I finally got to my 4th state!

Well, this served as one of my milestones and gave me a little encouragement that I might be able to pull off the secondary goal – 200+ miles if I rode all the way home.  I stopped at a Subway close to the WI boarder (really wanted to eat cheese curds at Culvers, but figured it would make me sick) and had me some dinner and a quick 20 minute rest.  With the exception of breakfast and lunch, most of what I ate that day was “junk food” whose purpose was simply to give me the most calories for what I could carry on the bike.  Thus, it felt really good to eat some real food before heading home.

The ride home was slow, painful and involved me really considering hopping the first train back to the city that I could find.  I probably stopped at least 4 times over the 59 mile route, but after the last one (which was just 7 miles from my house) and a text from a teammate who was checking in on me (thanks Diddy), I found the wherewithal to power home and get ‘er done.

So what was the final tally of this insane ride?  Let’s see:

  • 4 states covered
  • 15+ townships/cities visited
  • 214 miles ridden in 12 hours 18 minutes
  • 7,179 calories burned
  • 8 liters of fluid (Gatorade included), 3 honey buns, 1 powerbar, 1 pack of cakesters, 1 lbs of orzo pasta, 1 subway veggie sandwich, and 2 fruit pies all consumed post breakfast
  • One mega suntan
  • Zero flats!

All in all, I was very happy to pull this ride off.  It wasn’t easy by any measure, but then again, that was part of the reason I did it.  A part of me gets a great deal of satisfaction of pushing myself into new realms.  What some may consider insane is what I consider proving that you can do whatever you want in this world, so long as you put your mind to it.  Would I do this ride again?  Yes (I can’t say that I felt this way immediately upon finishing) but it will probably be quite some time from now.

If you’ve ever seen my helmet after a ride, you’ll affirm that the straps are usually covered in salt.  This last pic doesn’t do my jersey justice, but let’s just say that salt was fully embedded into every fabric of it’s being.

And lastly to Eric – Kyle says that you would have thought I was crazy for doing such a ride.  But then again, he said you would have been right there along side me pushing me on.  Well, I hope I made you proud sir and thanks for the inspiration!