During the summer, I do a lot of long training rides on my bike to get ready for the PMC. Considering that I’m usually on desolate country roads for hours on end, I find it fairly surprising that I haven’t encountered much adversity. No flat tires, no pop-up rain storms, no close brushes with death.

Until last weekend, that is.

Giddy after picking up my freshly tuned-up bike from my local bike shop, I set out on a 45-mile ride. Less than two miles into it, I heard a hissing whoosh of air that could only mean one thing: I had a flat.

Frustrated and indignant, I did what any capable, middle-aged woman would do. I called my dad. I figured that my plans were shot and that he could pick me up and take me home.

While I waited, however, it occurred to me that I had a tire-changing kit in my saddle bag. I had never changed a tire, but I flipped my bike onto its seat anyway. I grabbed the new tube and the tools and tentatively set about making the swap.

Having only a vague idea as to what to do, I was thankful to find instructions on the tube box (instructions!). Although somewhat more difficult than the box led me to believe, my inexperienced hands had the new tube in place and the tire almost completely reinstalled by the time my dad pulled up in his truck. Under his watchful eye, I finished the job and put the wheel back on my bike. Giddy with accomplishment, I decided to continue my ride.

Alas, the adversity continued. Though the tires rode well, the black cloud over my head turned out to be more than figurative. Just before the halfway point where I was meeting some friends, the skies opened and drenched me, thundering menacingly all the while. I made it to our meeting place, waited it out, and eventually rode home on wet, steamy roads.

Bummer of a day? Nope.

Even though I certainly didn’t wish for it, I faced down two of my biggest bicycling fears that day. First, I’ve always been petrified of “flatting” when I’m out by myself. What would I do? Well, it finally happened, and I was forced to deal with it. In that exercise, I now know that I CAN. The idea of flatting no longer seems so daunting. I rode, I flatted, I conquered.

Second, the idea of riding in the rain with smooth, skinny road tires has always left me shivering with dread. Besides the gritty, oily goo that sprays my legs from the tire, the pavement just plain gets slippery. In fact, the painted road markings might as well be a biker’s version of a Slip ‘N Slide. With no other options on Saturday, I had to face down that fear, too. I rode in the rain and I survived.

I wouldn’t have chosen to flat my tire or to ride in the rain. Given the choice, I would have avoided both at all costs. Fate had other ideas, though. I couldn’t cut and run; I had to face down my fears, and I DID IT. I felt like the master of my universe.

Flat tire + thunderstorm = one great day. Who knew?

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