This morning I rode my mountain bike with three friends.  I finally have recovered enough to sit down and write.

Mike, Mike and John are three good friends, guys I have been riding with for years.  Between Saturday morning rides, trips to Wisconsin for a weekend ride with the guys, and all the emails in between, we know each other better than we probably imagine we do.  We’re guys, after all.  Guys don’t have deep relationships.  We don’t have to share too much besides a bike ride or a ball game to call someone a friend.

I don’t think that is true with the guys I ride with, especially the core group, the ones who have stuck with it.  Life has thrown enough at each one of us that it’s nearly impossible not to go beyond the posturing that accompanies our riding.

This morning was a change for us.  Most rides are road rides, with a group of 10-20 cyclists, a hammer fest that starts off at a conversational pace but quickly turns to a hang on for dear life marathon.  When I ride with that group, I hang on for the first twenty miles or so, then drop off the back to save my energy for the rest of the day.  But this morning it was just four of us, riding mountain or cross bikes on a scenic path along the I & M Canal just southwest of Chicago, our wheels turning just as the sun came up.  As we rode in twos along a path just wide enough to ride two abreast, fisherman waved and dawn runners pulled to the side.  Our pace was brisk, enough that both knees and a hip barked loudly at me, but I wanted to keep up on this ride.  I pushed through pain, rewarded to feel the strength as my body warmed up.  The pace was fast, but not so fast that the conversations didn’t flow constantly.

28 miles before we stopped for a break.  I listened a lot of those miles as one friend told me how he was feeling after starting the divorce papers rolling yesterday, the stress evident in his voice even over the crackle of our tires on the crushed limestone.  The past few months have been tough for him since, as he left for a Colorado bike tour with the two Mikes and other friends, he discovered that his wife had been cheating on him over the course of the past year with not just one, but several men.  I have sat with him many times this summer, listening to the struggles that have tormented him, trying to help him deal with the thoughts that his 21 year marriage might be over.  One of the Mikes was instrumental that week in Colorado as the pain of that discovery drove our friend down.

And I listened.  And he listened to me this morning.  We talked.  We shared.  And the miles flew by.  Before I knew it, we hit the 28 miles mark.  I grabbed a bag of cashews at a mini mart and turned back.  The rest continued on to make it a 100+ mile day.

The ride back was solitary and cleansing, the thoughts of the morning filling my head, my body aching again from the strong pace of the morning ride.  I needed that time.