Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
The old adage attributed to author and philosopher Albert Camus could be considered great guidance for friendship and for love. It could also be good preparation for couples who ride together. Just when we think we have that whole riding together thing down, one of us skips a few too many strokes on the front or eases up a bit much in the back. We find ourselves wanting to pull alongside, long enough to share a word of encouragement, maybe just a few seconds to share a random thought or a song, though sometimes the game of giving your riding partner earworms is not kind. It’s an easy admission that neither Joe nor I ride the kind of mileage we used to. In fact, I’ve never been much of a group rider. Riding in a group still makes me a bit nervous even though I will hug Joe’s wheel like a kid hugs a teddy bear in a thunderstorm when we ride together. We set out on the Arkansas Heart Hospital Cardiac Classic Ride as we have 99.9% of the other rides we’ve done together, assuming we would be riding as a twosome for most if not all the mileage. Rolling along the hills of Pinnacle Valley Road, I was so focused on the joy of the pedaling that I failed to recognize that I had dropped Joe. On the return trip through Two Rivers Park when I decided I was tired and unwilling to traumatize my legs any further, I let him drop me. And it was okay. We spent 50 miles with each other, enjoying a beautiful day. We had the chance to say hi to a lot of friends, usually as they passed us like the Ladies of Carve Pain Train who dropped us and four other guys in Roland before we even got to the hula/tiki squadron of Mello Velos. We needed to stop, get lei’d, eat pigs in a blanket and fig newtons while giving the LOC plenty of time to drop us hard. Letting them go was essential to our psyche at that point.
Joe and I held on to a couple of guys after the Mello Velo joy, but our foursome was very temporary as they split to head up the big climb for the 62 mile route and we easy going folk stayed on the 50 mile course. Several times throughout the ride we played leap frog with Tiffany, whom we met at Race the Base Trail Run a couple of years back. At the CARVE aid station on the way back in we had the chance to spend a few minutes catching up with lots of friends who were working to keep cyclists hydrated and fed.
Last year I gave a quote during an interview with Cyclofemme that cycling has always been about the heart for me. Cycling has always been at least as much, if not more, about the emotion of the crank than the fitness. This is the sport we share as a couple; this is the way we choose to spend time together; this is the way we choose to spend time with our friends. The Cardiac Classic Ride is all about heart. The Arkansas Heart Hospital sponsors the ride as well as the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk that happens at the same time, promoting heart health with activity, nutrition advice and health screenings. Both events have big support from the cycling community as it promotes the very thing that many of us claim as the reason we started pedaling, better health. It didn’t hurt that Lance Armstrong came to town as the guest of honor at a dinner the night before the ride and led the cyclists out at the start, riding with local cyclists on the 62 mile route.
The Arkansas Heart Foundation aims to “motivate the community to make heart healthy choices for life-long impact.” For more information about the Cardiac Classic Ride, the Heart Walk, cardiovascular health, diabetes management or women and heart health, visit their website or follow Arkansas Heart Hospital on twitter. Keep riding, keep the legs and the heart pumping, and maybe we’ll see you there next year.