The Grand Populaire

March. Who does not like March? If anything, at least it means I turned the corner on chugging February – sorry February, but you are a handful! – into the promise of something new. Whether in the North or in the South, March is renewal all around the globe. Thus, a famous bossa nova song, As Aguas de Março (the waters of March), appropriately sings the promise of renewed life, reassuring all better days are at hand this very month.

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And so it is that in Seattle, a peak into such days starts with color. Spring may or may not “feel” in the air, considering the ever-present wet grayish in our beloved NorthWET, but a symphony of color gushes forth everywhere. Yellows slowly poke their heads, followed by whites, punctuated by loud bursts of pink – our very own ode to joy, even under water. Amidst the music, the grand populaire arrives. The first randonneur ride of the season is a celebration of cycling inviting all aboard.

 

This year, organized by two strong women cyclists, JL and AS, the ride started in the beautiful Mercer Island and meandered through a vibrant combination of quiet roads and zestful city parks, including my absolute favorite, Seward. The weather was perfect, sunny and fresh. The group plodded along 100 km of the delicious Seattle metropolitan area, ending at the Roanoke Tavern for the earned celebratory beers (true fact: randonneurs cycle mostly for the beer; all that grind for a pint!)

 

The well designed route took me to exploring roads I am not very familiar with. It was a perfect combination of hard hills, generous descents and much welcome flats at the end. It overlapped somewhat with the Cascade club ride I did two weeks ago, and suddenly there they were, saluting us from across the street, the lively CHEW crowd. Recognizing fellow cyclist on rides is a new phenomenon for me. I love it! My universe simultaneously expanding and contracting in unexpected and delicious ways. Homey.

 

We spread along in typical randon fashion, lively chatting about this and that, yours truly huffing and puffing as terrain dictated, bewildered and slightly panicky I hadn’t gotten lost at all, ride organizers and volunteers cheering the peloton to the finish line. For the first time, I also tried to pay attention to my speed in a consistent fashion. It was hard work. I naturally tend to the absent minded modus operandi, enjoying to luxuriate and abandon myself in the eerie forest of my own thoughts. If I ever hope to add 1km to my average time, those days are over, at least for a while. So due attention I paid to following folks with a faster pace and expert navigation skills; to allowing downhills to carry me a bit more; to minding time spent at rest. It was difficult but helpful, as I cut some time from my previous populaire last year. Maybe there is room for improvement after all…

 

That felt good. But what felt truly great was the realization that I met most of my rando friends in last year’s populaire: a mere one year ago…life sprints! A year ago, I got to know this amazing group who helped me all the way to Paris, in an incredible personal journey. There they were, once more, at the start line, hugs, laughs, kindness, strength, and generosity – all the ingredients that keep me coming back and ignite this strange fire now warming heart and soul. Another year, another ride….Gratitude.

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