Somewhere along the line the last 6 months or so, I seem to have changed. I became someone I struggled to recognize. Nothing horrible or life threatening happened; I just shifted somewhere. I trudged along but I stopped doing all the things I love to do, except fishing.
Everyday I walk by my bike about 8-10 times. It is parked in my hallway, patiently waiting, like a horse who just wants to run. I always think, yeah, I have to get back on the bike. But then the excuses pile up and the bike goes to the bottom of the to do list.
But the last 3 weeks, I have heard switches flipping in my brain. I have started seeing things differently. Maybe it had to do with hooking up with some old high school friends on Facebook. Maybe it has to do with hearing some old James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Carole King music that has tapped me on the shoulder and has said, hey, come back. Remember who you were? You were an athlete. You ran, you biked, you water skied, you played tennis, you swam. But most of all, you were a bike racer. You may not have been the best, but by self definition, you were a cyclist. You are a cyclist.
On Thursday morning I walked by the bike on my way out the door as usual. I stopped in my tracks and stared at this beautiful machine that is begging me to get out there with it. While looking at it, I knew that something was going to change. Another switch flipped.
I was on the phone with my best friend Barbara last night and told her I was definitely riding today. I tried to explain to her how I knew I had to get on the bike today. I tried to explain that this machine is an extension of me. I tried to make her understand how, when you’re a cyclist, how the bike seems to have its own voice and persona. It’s like an appendage that you stop using when you stop riding. I don’t know if I made much sense to her, but I know for sure any one of you who follow my blog know exactly what I am saying.
My friend knows I have been in some kind of inner struggle lately and encouraged me, as she always does, to go for it and take that first step. Every so often she asks if I’m going to get on the bike on the weekend; never pushing, just gently asking. Somehow she knows that "being on the bike" is just different for me. She just knows. That’s what friends figure out.
But yesterday, I finally knew it was time. I don’t know why, but I knew. So when I went to sleep last night, there was no doubt that I was riding early today to try to beat the heat, since I am so out of shape and the heat seems to just kill me.
This morning I dusted the dog hair off the wheels, pumped up the tires, and pushed out the door. Usually when I start up again, I do short 5 mile rides. But since I have a 3 day weekend, I decided to ride 7-8 miles out and then come back, making it a 15 mile ride. There was no doubt I would finish it; I just wasn’t sure what condition I would be in when I got home.
The heat was hard for me. The course has 2 hills that made it tougher. I was out of breath the whole ride. I averaged 10 MPH, which was pathetic. My arms were fine, my legs were fine. It was my aerobic capacity that killed me. I am so out of shape that a ride that usually takes me 15 minutes to recover from took me 45 minutes.
But I started. I set a goal and completed it. I plan to ride another 15 miler tomorrow. I will leave the house earlier as it is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. But I will finish again tomorrow. And again on Monday.
While I was running some errands a couple of hours ago, Barbara called me to see how the heat was affecting me today to make sure I was ok. I told her I did 15 miles. The excitement in her voice was incredible. She sounded like the people who cheer you on during a race or a long organized ride. While on the phone, she was trying to visualize how far 15 miles was and she said it’s 10 miles from her house to the George Washington Bridge, and I rode farther than that. When I think about that in her terms, from a non-cyclist’s point of view, it does seem really far. But you and I know it isn’t; it’s just a short ride.
It’s just a beginning. She asked me how I felt after finally getting back in the saddle and I tried to put it into words. How can you explain what that frame, those wheels and those bars and the wind do to you? We finally agreed that I accomplished something.
My goal, after this weekend, is to get up during the week at 5AM so I can get on the road by 6 AM or so. I’ll ride for an hour or so just about everyday and eventually, I’ll get it back.
I could be wrong but I thought I caught my Dolce smiling today.