April Suffering Brings May Flowers

20 Apr

At least that’s my hope!  I had fewer training hours scheduled for this week, so I have relaxed, and done some spring cleaning and the like.  While I haven’t rigidly followed the training plan day-to-day, it’s nice to have scheduled days off, and not feel guilty about not riding.  While I have not spent as much time riding, I do need some high-intensity efforts in there, so not a complete leisure cruise.

Lead group cresting the hill by the finish at the Meridian crit last week. I had my riding in for the day and was trying to get some action shots.

I thought about cycling, hard training, and the general use of cycling as a metaphor for life.  First off, a lot of people’s’ hobbies/sports could fit into the “metaphor for life”, so I won’t pretend that cycling is extra-special or unique in that way.  I am familiar with it and spend a lot of time riding, reading about bikes and races, looking at bikes I would love to have etc., so that’s my particular angle.

If I would have known even a few years ago how willingly I would  put in hard efforts on the bike – efforts where you can’t breathe, every muscle burns, and all you want to do is lay down on the ground – I would have a hard time believing any of it.  I wasn’t the most athletically inclined kid growing up, and didn’t really try to touch a bike until I was about ten, and pretty much kept it at arm’s length for another decade.  I basically hated participating in endurance sports, and found them humiliating, awkward, and of course, physically uncomfortable.  I did play various sports, not terribly well (and not to imply that I cycle “well” now or anything), but I imagine had I grown up in a city, or if my friends didn’t play either, I would have just as likely taken up chess or stayed in band.

One of my traits is my incremental persistence, which I’m just starting to better understand now. Growing up, if I had a bad experience trying something the first time, chances were good I would never try again.  I also have a tendency to want immediate perfection, so anything less than that (which happens 100%  of the time) made me quit trying very, very quickly.  I had high expectations for most things, all of it built upon some imagined ideal (I do think I have a great imagination!) that would be impossible to meet based on my experience, or lack thereof.  When I tried a new thing, and didn’t have impossibly high expectations or preconceived ideas of how the attempt should pan out, I would try it again.  As long as the next outing wasn’t a complete disaster, I would keep at it.

And the traffic-light pole wins! This was a location fail on my part.

So I’m a little surprised to find myself here in Colorado continuing to test the amateur racing scene.  Or maybe I’m not surprised at all.  I have eased into this all so slowly that I haven’t gone running in the opposite direction.  And perhaps that is what I needed – to try something I knew little about, both learning about it and gaining experience and confidence in it simultaneously.  Cycling happened to be that thing for me.  Cycling also helps me because I have to continually focus while riding, making pedaling both calming and engaging (my non-professional opinion of having OCD and ADD tendencies, both of which cycling can help).

Now it’s time for cycling, the metaphor!  Actually, now that I think about it, racing might be the metaphor, while cycling is one of many possible modes of self-realization.  I don’t want to dwell on philosophy, specifically because I have a limited educational knowledge of it.  However, I do know cycling has helped me process what is going on in my life, and to understand a lot more about myself.  As for racing, normal life actually seems comparatively easier, or at least involves less wheezing.  There are times struggling up hills when I think I would rather be grocery shopping or doing laundry instead.  But then there’s the finish!  The rush coming from finishing something tough, however unsightly the affair appeared (true of any endurance sport, in my experience).

"What am I doing here, and why am I still doing it?", I gasp out from somewhere inside my blue jersey. From the Front Range Cycling Classic, Fort Collins Crit, August 2011.

To tie it all together with physical suffering via the bicycle, I keep testing my limits in the present to improve my future efforts.  I want to keep racing bad enough to keep trying harder, even if I progress at the speed that I ride up Lookout Mountain (read, very slowly).  There it is folks, everything you need to know about life!  Really though, it sounds simple and obvious, yet I had to trudge through a lot to get to it.  And just like some, nay many, people ride faster than I do, some will also more quickly figure these things out.  To wear out the metaphors, this has been my route thus far, and I hope you enjoyed the ride.

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