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We set out wearing raincoats, the sunshine yellow of my friend and training partner Karin's coat serving a stark contrast to the angry clouds towering in the grey sky. Mine, a pumpkin orange, was appropriate for the late October weather we were facing on this mid-August morning.
And thus began our latest training ride in preparation for the Peninsula Century –now less than one month away.
I started this blustery Tuesday morning expecting a text from Karin stating the rain and bone-deep chill of the day were giving her second thoughts about our ride. Further, we were planning on riding nearly 70 miles. There’s no way she’s up for it, I thought.
She’s a lot tougher than I realized. Good, let’s ride and face this misery together said my stupid ego.
We began pedaling north out of Baileys Harbor, making use of HWY F and Highland Road to find our way to Fish Creek. As has been our custom, Karin settled in behind me to make use of the draft. This strategic maneuver resulted in a chilly mud-water spray directly upon her face. So, we rode side by side from that point forward.
After briefly considering buying gloves from Nor Door Sport and Cyclery, we chugged up the hairpin and headed south to Egg Harbor via Whitecliff Road. The roads were lonely, as most were probably still in bed, smartly snug under the covers. In fact, in our 4-plus hour journey, we did not see another cyclist.
Our snack break at Murphy Park was spent watching the waves turn to geysers of spray against the dock. Our brief discussion resulted in the decision to continue heading south despite our waterlogged shoes and no sign of the sun making an appearance.
Following the course we will ride during the century, we turned left on Monument Point Road and into what some consider the most difficult climb in Door County. It was here that I was exposed to Karin’s penchant for yelling during particular episodes of physical excursion – some enthusiastic, some profane, and some just simply guttural, they all made me laugh and served notice that riding a bike with a friend is about much more than physical training. It creates memories, cements bonds, and provides a sounding board for whatever is on your mind (I am curious to see if Karin repeats her cacophony of yells amidst the crowd of cyclists during the century ride –I sure hope so!).
Around mile 40 we found ourselves in downtown Sturgeon Bay, feeling a bit unhinged from the tough riding. We settled upon a quick snack lunch at Kick Coffee, a chance to stretch our legs and fill our bellies. The menu at Kick is filled with delicious options, and on this autumn-esque day I ordered a bowl of chili – further discouraging any drafting by my riding partner.
From downtown we rode to the Coast Guard station where we had to stop to massage blood back into numb toes. That task took a while, and it was this point at which the ride took on a symbolic meaning – if we could make it through the rain, cold, wind, and lifeless toes of this ride – we will make it through the 100 miles we signed up for.
As we pedaled north along the Lake Michigan shore, I discovered a Door County I didn’t know existed. The twisty and wonderfully rideable roads closely hug a windswept shoreline reminiscent of what one may see along the Atlantic.
Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point came and went on our right as we passed the mileage of a metric century ride. We were more than surviving this trek, in fact we were chewing up the pavement at a solid clip, empowered by our stubborn decision to face the elements.
Then we arrived in Jacksonport.
The quasi-protection from the wind we had enjoyed for so long was gone. We had about five miles to go, but the distance didn’t matter. The wind wanted to break us mentally, and it came close. A bit of delirium set in as we crawled up Logerquist Road. I have never biked into such wind, and I never want to again.
We did finish, a bit beat-up, but after a coffee and a stretch, recovery set-in and the legs felt surprisingly okay.
I know we will finish the century ride on that looming September weekend. I know no matter what the weather gods serve us that morning, we will persist and keep pedaling. We will ride those 100 miles as friends –screaming nonsense up the climbs, talking about post ride meals along flat roads, and smiling about our once questionable decision to sign up for this ride and our confidence in knowing that we will complete it.
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