Progress, Diversion, Perspective. In doses.
I have always complained about the way cycling is all-consuming. I complained about it in the beginning when I was a Cycling Widow and I will complain about it now that I am a Cycling Harlot.
It takes over everything. Everything.
The clothing – it must be constantly washed and cared for. The gear must be tuned, cleaned, tweaked, and babied. The hours of the day must be manipulated to accommodate miles and miles. The food must be dialed. The water bottles at the ready. The computer cables adjusted. The insurance card and ID are always in the zip-loc baggie and not in my wallet where they should be.
The clif bars, they overrun my kitchen.
It demands my constant attention.
I accept full responsibility. I accept it with the same sense of duty that I accept full responsibility for bringing two cats into my life. I brought you here, you little devil, and now you say I must feed you even when you wake me at 4 in the morning?? I brought you here, this two-wheeled torture device, and now you say I must clean you and buy you shiny new pieces (at a premium!) even though you bring me to my knees with gut-wrenching agony?
It’s funny, the things we choose.
Anyway, last week I snapped.
I call my coach:
"I need next Sunday off. Totally off."
"Ummmm… ok. What’s up?"
"I’m going to drive up to Seattle for a huge party on Saturday and I plan on drinking far more than is good for me."
I love my coach. His unflinching agreement with these terms reminded me that one of the reasons that I like him is because he is completely committed to helping his clients reach their goals and still continue to enjoy what they are doing.
So, over the course of the week I put in 180 hard miles. Intervals, hills, long, fast. Sal and I climbed the three volcanoes together (Scott, Rocky Butte, Tabor) one day and slam-dunk a 55 miler on another. We are ripping out fast miles like they are going out of style. I am energized and driven by the prospect of getting a big psychological break.
And a break is exactly what I got. Friends fly in from San Francisco and LA on Thursday and Friday nights respectively. We rock the Whiskey Soda lounge sideways on Friday and then hit the freeway on Saturday to find a party to end parties.
Cue revelry from 8pm until 3am and then witness the two little cyclists driving three hours again on Sunday morning to return home.
Worth it? Hell yes.
I look at my training schedule on Sunday and it says, "Recover from hangover."
On Monday I am renewed and ready to roll. We take our LA houseguest out on the ‘cross bikes and destroy him up Leif and Saltzman in the pouring rain. My face is spattered with mud and the skinny knobbies are finding puddles. We hit highway 30 and the rain is coming in sheets. My gloves and booties are soaked through so I start laughing like a madman. We make it home with our houseguest just barely alive.
Houseguests. You’ve been warned.
This morning I wake up and the schedule says. "3 hours, race pace effort." Oh no, you di-int.
I go it alone. I shoot up River Road, hit Oregon City and pound my way to Lake Oswego. Johnson Road gives me an uphill grind into a wicked headwind with driving rain. This is what they call "character building" I tell myself. Lake Oswego is a series of rollers and I hit Peet’s coffee to refill water bottles and kill a mediocre espresso.
Climbing, climbing. Fast descent. Home again, home again. The sky unleashes an unimaginable amount of rain.
It’s a soft rain, but relentless.
My will to live dwindles at miles 45 and 46, which must be the sign of a ride well done. My new Santini knicker-bibs are soaked through, like everything else on my body. I send a text to Sal, who is seeing our friend off at the airport: "48 miles hard. Soaked to the bone." Now he knows I’m home safe.
The hot shower is a haven unlike any other. I have to scrub to get the embrocation and road grime off my shins and calves. The water is a godsend even though it takes my left foot more than an hour before the numbness goes away.
My quads throb underneath skin that is marked with the seams of cycling knickers. There is nothing traditionally beautiful about my cyclists body. The skin is white where it has been covered with gear, red where it has been exposed to rain and wind.
I raise my face into the steam of the shower and curse this blessing that consumes me.
This obsession that tips me over the edge. This calling that sends me out into the world. Miles upon miles in the driving rain. Discipline punctuated by parties and perspective.
Who knows how I got here. It doesn’t matter – I can’t remember how to get back.