I could see the thunderstorm in the distance. The sky touched the ground in dark purple and grey as a crooked flash of lightening sliced through the undefined clouds. The wind was still at my back, making my pedaling easier but bringing me closer to the storm.
I saw the landmark cell tower in the distance, summoning me to turn east. I kept glancing at the 20 mile wide storm cell, willing it to head north. Follow the wind, I thought.
Follow the wind.
And it got closer, and closer. I could feel the electricity in the air on my face. It brought moisture and panic, all at once. My mind started racing as the wind shifted dramatically. A cool stiff gust pushed south, directly in my path.
I kept riding.
What if I ride through the middle of that?
What if I get struck by lightening?
What if? What if? WHAT IF?!?
A flash illuminates the sky. I'm still listening to my iPod and I miss hearing the thunder. I can't count the seconds between the strike and the boom. I feel it though. Its hiss is on my right shoulder, the boom surrounding me in all directions. The sky overhead looks like a deep skin bruise full of yellow, purple, blue and blood.
There's no where to hide. There's nothing for miles. And there's no traffic on this desolate road.
I ride faster than I have ever ridden before. I don't look at my power meter, I ignore my screaming body. I put my head down, tucking into an aero position and ride like my life depends on it. I ride through the wind, outpacing the storm by only a few miles per hour. If I can just make it to town, everything will be okay.
I have enough sense to capture this moment. If I just make it to town, I'll have another tool to draw upon when I'm training and racing - one that taps into the most basic survival instinct.
I keep pushing and pushing and then the rain starts, slowly at first. Could that be my own sweat? I look down at my top tube and see that it's wet. I increase my pace, and keep my eyes on town. It's getting closer as the drops grow bigger.
If I can just make it to town....