Sometimes it’s hard to get back on the bike. You spend a week riding every day and the weekend derails you due to social obligations or you just need a rest day. Sometimes a blizzard hits and you spend a few days digging out and you just can’t look at the bike on the trainer. Sometimes you just can’t stand to look at the bike. You butt hurts or you just run out of motivation. A few days pass. Sometimes more than a few days pass and you finally look at the bike. You get dressed up in your kit and you put your shoes on and you look at the bike some more. You know the first ride back is going to hurt a little bit. You know that it’s going to feel a little strange as the muscles warm and you pedal the first few miles. You know that you will be beating yourself up for taking a longer break because you will feel it more than a shorter break. You know all of this as you stand there looking at the bike. These thoughts might have even been why you took that extra day off of the bike. You know the first time back is going to make you pay for those days away.
If you are anything like me, you will sigh to yourself and get on the bike. You will push slowly away and start your ride full of trepidation and a little enjoyment. I do love to ride, even if I take a few days away. Even when I have to ride on the trainer, I feel the same way. I know that my time away is going to come at a painful price, but I will get over it. The first mile goes slow and painful, but then my pace picks up and my legs remember what to do. The burning starts to fade away and the saddle starts to feel a little more comfortable. The act of riding becomes second nature again and you can start to enjoy the ride. The next thing you know you are pulling back into your driveway and the ride is over. You start to think that you could have gone a little longer or tried to ride a little faster after all.
I am hoping that writing about riding is also like that. It has been quite a while since I have been able to write about riding. The 52 week challenge only has one entry that is about cycling, and that was about Lance Armstrong’s interview so it doesn’t really count as being about cycling. I have written about a teacher, a television show, a dietary challenge and a eulogy for my friend, but not much about cycling. This feels like a rest day that has turned into a week off the bike. I wanted to write each of those pieces and some were time sensitive. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t focusing solely on cycling as that would become boring and repetitive to read and write. I did want to make it a focus of this blog, so I will start to return to it with a few planned posts that I need to get in before the real start of the season. Just like the first ride back after a break, I wanted to refocus my efforts with a slower start this week. I wanted to concentrate on one aspect of riding that we might take for granted until we need it.
A lot has happened recently in my life recently that has made it more difficult to focus my thoughts than normal. My good friend died suddenly. I am still searching for a job and unemployment is dwindling quickly. My father in law is going in for minor surgery. The amount of home repair projects is mounting around the house but we are too worried about spending money to really do much about the list. Thankfully the repairs are all minor, but they will still need to be done sooner or later. Some of these topics needed a blog entry to help me work through them, like Ed’s death. Others are just little nagging issues that I hope are going to be dealt with soon. I feel like things are starting to turn around. I have a phone interview and a second interview both happening this week. Finally getting off unemployment will be a huge win for me and will help most of what is bothering me seem much more manageable.
Riding helps me deal with these issues as well. The physical exertion helps to strip away the extra thought. When you are worrying about breathing and your legs are shouting at you, you don’t worry about what may happen in an interview. Once your body is warmed up you can slip into an alpha state where you aren’t consciously thinking about the act of riding the bike. Your mind starts to wander and your subconscious starts to work on your problems while your body pounds away at your workout. I didn’t know I wanted to write about Ed to help me deal with losing him until I rode 20 miles and wrote most of the post in my head. I didn’t even think about it for most of the ride, it just bubbled up as an idea fully formed. My subconscious did most of the work of deciding what was important.
Cyclists always talk about the benefits of riding. They often cite the health benefits or the positive effect on the environment. Some will also throw in the social aspect of group riding. I think the best benefit is the peace I find in the ride. It is much like meditation in that you are falling into the “no mind” state and able to let your subconscious wander. The riding doesn’t solve the problems, but it does free your mind to work on them while your focus is on the ride.