There are some things that are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. In my case it was a series of cult movie classics that I was unfortunate enough to be exposed to when I was still a wee lad back in the seventies. Trilogy of Terror and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, were 2 made for TV horror flicks featuring mini demon-like creatures. It was an impression that left me scarred for a long, long, loooong time. I struggled to sleep in the dark, insisted on leaving my bedroom door partially open, and slept with the sheets pulled way over my head leaving only a 3 inch gap separating me from the cool breath of life and the diminutive demons of the dark who were scurrying around my bed echoing those chilling little whispers from hell. Not to mention the all out sprint/ long jump combo stride every time I ran up the basement stairs. Running full speed while taking 3 steps at a time, was all I could do to escape the scissor wielding Zulu doll from the underworld that was fast on my heels taking swipes and bites at my barely escaping achilles tendons.
I’ve just spent 2 weeks recharging my battery. Sure, I’ve spent time on the bike, after all what kind of vacation does not include cycling? But it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve really pushed myself through any prolonged efforts or taken a visit to the pain cave. Since then, I’ve stopped mid-rides for Italian ice, conversed with friends during rides without gasping mid story, and even been able to even hum a few bars of my favorite Taylor Swift ditty while rolling on the fattie. Basicly, I’ve been riding on rainbows, in the company of unicorns and fuzzy bunnies for the last 2 weeks.
I almost died last week.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a great story about how I cheated death while daring a high-speed 2-wheel descent down a mountain pass or a base-jumping accident. Or even better, saving an elderly woman, children, or a litter of puppies from a burning building. Nope, mine happened while doing yard work. Exposure to something caused an anaphylactic reaction while mowing the lawn. This earned me an ambulance trip to the ER. But in every cloud… there is silver, yet I say, platinum lining! I now am free of all yard duties until I can assess the culprit. Yes, in a manner of speaking you might say I am allergic to yard work! Which in itself made this the best week of my life!
This weekend I raced my first non-practice criterium since my spine surgery almost a year ago. It was a bit of a milestone for me and I really embraced the accomplishment. I had been feeling pretty good in the saddle lately and even managed to drop another 8 lbs. So when I finished a somewhat hilly little crit course and managed to finish with the lead group I actually felt pretty good. I was even convinced that my lycra encased sausage bod was looking a bit better than it had in the past. I felt a bit stronger and maybe even a bit slimmer. Until, one of my teammates posted a pic of me in my pre-race starting line stance. Other than the fact that my stature resembled that of a mountain gorilla that had gorged itself on mangos and doughnuts, all was OK.
It’s only 4 days into this year’s Tour and we’ve already experienced some memorable lessons in courage, drive and determination. From the comfort of my couch, morning cup of coffee in hand, I sit and watch. I am enthralled by the character that defines those who are tested for 21 days while being pushed to their physical and mental limits. It’s why I watch the Tour. It’s why I love the Tour.
Only 2 miles from home, the sky growled and the angry bolt strikes surrounded us. They test us and motivate us to go harder. The conditions were unsettling but there was little choice. Then the downpour. Generally, I like a refreshingly random rain ride but there was a feisty anger in this morning’s drenching that marked an ominous cap to an oddly eventful 6 a.m. ride. When I got home and sat down my chamois pad squished beneath me and released what seemed like a quart of gritty water onto the floor below me. I looked over at my shoes and a quarter-inch of water had pooled in the bottom of each one. I could swear there were a couple of minnows swimming and calling my Specialized road shoes their new home. I just hoped my iPhone managed to stay dry enough to keep from shorting out. Sometimes, you just take what is given to you.
There is a reason for everything. It may not always make sense to us at the moment. But with time it often reveals itself. We need to keep our mind and eyes open. This is a story about Taylor Phinney’s discovery through recovery. A year ago I watched him win an amazing stage in the Tour of California, then a few weeks later he suffered a serious career deterring injury. Ironically, this opened his mind to an amazing ability that flourished from within. But what is more illuminating as he gains so much more from it all, is that he is able to spend this time with his father and develop a perspective that enlightens his life and awakens his perceptions. Truly inspiring.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. Mark Twain was not a cyclist. But he was correct when he spoke these words. It is ignorance or in fact it’s emptiness that allows room for confidence to grow. Don’t over think it, just get on with it. An attribute that allows us to achieve many things. Unfortunately, it is an attribute I do not possess in the amounts that are critical for success on the bike. But this Wednesday night was a turning point. Through a good night on the bike and a poignant observation, the baby rhino finally took a charge in the right direction.
I am a flatlander. I have few climbs around me and the ones I do are minimal and pale in comparison to the true climbs and challenges that test most Strava athletes. This weekend I decided to record my first ride in over 3 months. It’s not just any ride, but one of the regular rides I used to do with my brother when over 20 years ago back in “the D”. The ride is a loop that encircles a man-made lake and quite beautiful little local park area. What I love about this ride is what the Strava score really illustrates. At a glance the mapped out route echos the shape of the Ebola virus. And the topography map is amazingly similar to an EKG heart rate recording. Looking at this recording can tell you more about the ride than what you will ever see by looking at any scores and times.
There is a difference between feeling pain and getting hurt. Pain is draining. Pain is demoralizing and pain is emotionally degrading. Anyone who has felt true pain in a lasting state can attest to it’s burdening effects on mind and spirit. Getting hurt on the other hand is what can make you appreciate what it’s about to be alive.