Time and distance are typical measures for most endurance endeavors. Time and distance. There’s a whole lot packed in those two words.
Yeah. I’m about to go all metaphorical on ya.
What I loved most about long distance running, what I love most about cycling today, is the time allowed to think and feel. Time to simply think and feel.
I should explain from the outset that I’m an emotional, not an analytical, creature. When I say “think” know that I’m thinking about whatever it is that I’m feeling, physically and emotionally. No better way to come to some understanding of the Self than to spend lots of time with same.
Of all the elements that comprise endurance training, I love the long runs/rides the most. There’s something profound in becoming absorbed in one’s own breathing, to be a self-aware physical creation marveling at how it all feels. Yeah. I love that. I’m addicted to it, actually.
Then there’s the emotional side of the agenda. I go long to discover my truest emotions, to confront fears, grieve, find strength and to come to some understanding of the true importance of the truly important.
I find it therapeutic.
This was a summer filled with long rides in anticipation of completing a Century. It was all good. Training went well. The performance gains actually astonished me. I didn’t think a sixty year old body could respond to training as quickly as it did. Damn, but the body is amazing!
And I had lots of time to think about a great many things across a great swath of emotions. Say what you will about aging but, for me, one of the best aspects is the richness of the reflections and contemplations.
A week or so ago, I passed on apple cider. I had trained all summer in anticipation of a 100-mile cycling endeavor. The weather gods ruled that the Apple Cider Century in Three Oaks, Michigan was not to be. The weather gods continued raining on me for another full week. I never saddled up.
But I had me a hunger.
And, no, I wasn’t hungering to bicycle over rolling terrain for eight-plus hours. That part intimidated me.
I was hungering for something else. Solace? Yes. Remembrance? Yes. Mourning? Yes. Honoring? Yes.
Saddle sores? Not really.
My heart craved pleasure and pain. Pain and Pleasure. Both have their purpose.
And this is the perfect season for all that. Now was the time, the perfect time, to saddle up and ride for as long and as far as my body would allow. So I did.
‘Cuz I wanted nothing more than to ride while the slanting, saturated light bathed my surroundings in shadowed relief, rendering everything glorious. I wanted to ride on a day teetering on the cusp of life and death, when Nature busies herself preparing for winter. This is the season of change that in its poignant beauty reminds us that the cycle of life will continue unbroken...and that Life is incredibly beautiful and unimaginably cruel.
So I saddled up and rode. Rode for hours upon hours. Reveling in beauty. Shedding a tear or three. After some four-plus hours, it became a matter of relentless forward motion. Call me crazy, but I kinda like that state of mind. Yeah. ‘Cuz it often comes down to just that: One foot in front of the other. Just one more pedal stroke. One more breath. Relentless forward motion. Past tears. Past hopes, dreams, heartaches. Past all the wouldda/couldda/shoulda-beens. Past every outrage, wound and scar. Past beyond the Past. Suffering endured to leave suffering behind.
Sometimes relentless forward motion is all we got.
Yes, it’s all about the pleasure and the pain. It’s all about giving homage to all that must be revered...and leaving all that must not receding far in the distance. It’s pleasure and pain. Time and distance. Taking all that Life dishes out in such huge helpings...joys, sorrows, comedy and drama...because we must.
I pedaled my way to 77 miles in just under six hours. I think I couldda done a hunnert if it was just a matter of legs. My legs had it in them. My left arm/hand did not. Something went haywire. My arm and hand went numb. Not just numb, enervated. I couldn’t squeeze the water bottle in my left hand. Found it challenging to shift. The nerve damage kinda freaked me out.
I thought it best to stop. I thought it best to heal a bit before I rode again.
‘Cuz all I want to do is ride again, for as long and as far as my body can take me. I sorely need a few more rides in that slanting, gorgeous sun, as the Earth braces for winter and prepares for renewal.
I need me that solace now more than ever.
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Amazing Woman has breathed her last.
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