So it rains in Tucson, what, three days a year?
Well lucky me (and all the other cyclists in El Tour de Tucson), two of those days were last month during El Tour. And when it rains in the desert, it rains.
Pouring down on the sunbaked earth, the water made the road slick and dangerous, especially if you’re moving 20, 30, 40 mph on tires three-quarters of an inch wide. There was talk about suspending the race for safety concerns, and I saw riders all around me crashing in the wet conditions, but in the end the rest of us decided to grab hold and soldier on.
Crossing the finish line has never been such a relief.
I finished the race, soaked and a little more slowly than I would have liked, but in one piece and with a healthy dose of gratitude.
When conditions are perfect, we don’t pay as much attention to what we’re doing, to what’s going on around us. We take for granted that we’ll get where we’re going like we have so many times before. But throw in a variable as compromising as a Tucson rainstorm and you become acutely aware of every tenth of a mile, deeply grateful for every second you stay off the pavement. I strained through rainy glasses to focus on each puddle and to watch my distance from the riders around me.
When I finally got off my bike and had a minute to think about something larger than my immediate safety, I unpacked what I had learned from the race. I realized I have it very good almost all the time. I have my family, I have my health, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my dreams personally and professionally. I live free from the fears so many have to face every day. I feel safe. I have food to eat. My kids can go to school and go on to pursue their own dreams.
The best people among us have that gratitude constantly in mind. It’s what drives those like Mother Teresa to find and serve the less fortunate. The rest of us, though, need a little reminding, whether that come through the holiday seasons or a brush with danger via a slippery bike race. We need to recalibrate ourselves now and then to put our blessings in a larger context and see how precious they really are.
I’m spending a little more time this holiday season appreciating the little things: a warm meal, a roof over my head, not having road rash, etc.