Stubbornness takes its toll. Last evening I had decided to take the car because my back was a little sore but I forgot about that decision when I rose at five thirty because I just love the rides to work in the morning. The weather forecast predicted a dry morning and rain for the afternoon which didn’t deter me at all. I looked out at six and decided it would be a rosy morning so I rode to work smiling and whistling and enjoying the ride. After twenty minutes it even got so light I could turn off my helmet light and I was a very happy man when I got to Lake Baldeney and the river Ruhr and heard the geese, which had accompanied me for the better part of three months, getting ready to leave for the north and Russia after having spent the winter in the fairly small natural reserves of our industrial area - in previous decades these wild geese would never have spent the winter in our area but rather much further south – experts here see another indicator of climate change.
Well, this story is not about my idyllic trip to work this morning, it is about the return trip! After a hard day’s work with 8 hours of tending to demanding young people including four hours of Badminton classes in which I naturally take an active part as coach and training partner, lots of discussions with colleagues and generally a hectic day I was really looking forward to a relaxing ride home, expecting to clear my troubled mind and at the same time getting the second half of my daily one-hundred-and-forty-minute workout on the bike.
I got out at four thirty and when I looked up at the sky I found a threatening black cloud right over my head in the city center of Essen. It had even rained but was dry at that moment. Nothing to do but cross my fingers and go for it.
Ten minutes into the ride I was blinded by lightning and shocked by thunder right above my head just as I was leaving the city and turning onto the towpath next to the river. It was so close I nearly fell off my bike. A minute later I was pounded by hail three to four millimeters in diameter. I have ridden in snow and rain but this was terrifying. Luckily I was wearing a cap and a helmet! The hail that reached my face really stung and my first thought was to get off and find shelter. No luck there since I had left the city, no bus stops, only bushes in sight. Within seconds the ground was covered in white hailstones and without shelter there was only one thing to do: go on and do it fast. Well, after skidding on the ground I decided to rather take it slower than faster at least until I left the river bank with its slippery gravel and reached the road again.
The hail melted on my legs and the cold water leaked down into my riding boots since I wasn’t wearing my rain pants. So that did it! The rest of my ride I was getting colder and colder with my feet in a puddle of melted ice for the next hour! I had an idea. I told myself that if I set up a new record in riding home I would kill two birds with one stone: Warm up the cold water in my boots with my effort and get into a warm shower earlier. And maybe do something for my training intensity (to be honest I wasn’t really thinking about that in the situation I was in – I was cold only!)
Well, the second half of my ride home is up hill, about 12 kilometers with an inclination of 3 to 9 per cent , the steepest part being almost at the end. I did set a personal record on that long hill and got home so exhausted I could hardly open the garage. And then I found out I had left my key at work – no, just kidding, that was my frozen negative imagination going wild on my typing fingers –
No, I got home just in time to maybe avoid a serious cold or a bout of the flu, take a hot shower and here I am: warm again and trying to think of the positive sides of today’s experience … Hey, it isn’t all bad: no accident, no hypothermia, hopefully no cold, a new personal record on that long hill and now a cold beer. What more can a guy want of life?