Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Filling

Date: May 7
Mileage: 26.1
May mileage: 236.3
Temperature: 47

I’m hoping to crank out seven-hour bike ride tomorrow, so today was supposed to be a “rest” day. Rest day doesn’t mean I spend a partly sunny, mostly dry morning sitting around the house, which I don’t find all that enjoyable. Rest day also doesn’t mean catching up on my chores, which I find even less enjoyable. Rest days are for something frivolous and fun, like riding on the beach.

But if you’ve ever pedaled any distance through boulders and sand, you know it’s not all that restful. It’s quad-burning work, probably moreso than any hill climbs I do, and so intensely focused that an hour can pass in what seems like an instant. Sweat through 13 miles of that, then tack on the commute to work and a trip to the bank, and I have quite the full day behind me. It doesn’t feel that way.

Sometimes I try to envision what my routine was like before I became such a frantic cyclist, but it’s hard. I just can’t remember how I used to fill my days back then. There were probably a few less dishes in the sink, a few more minutes of quality time with my friends and my cat. But mostly, I just draw blanks. Today, the beach ride chewed up more than two hours and the commuting consumed a little more than one. That’s three and a half hours of cycling on a “rest” day. There were times in my recent past when three and a half hours of even relaxed cycling would have knocked me out. Now it’s just my life, my routine, like eating and sleeping. Without it, I would be hungry and tired. With it, I’m content. I’m full.

Today I talked for a while with Geoff about cycling as he zeroes in on the sport, once and for all, ahead of the Great Divide Race. I think he holds this fleeting idea that I am going to show up unannounced at the Canadian border on June 20, straddling my Karate Monkey and ready to go. That’s not going to happen. I play with the logistics in my daydreams, but I am committed to things back home; anyway, my current fitness is hardly ready for even my comparatively light summer ahead.

But most people closest to me can’t understand what I’m doing right now. They know Geoff is away pursuing some great endurance racing odyssey. They know I spent two years almost single-mindedly pursuing the Ultrasport, giving nearly every day to my training, giving nearly all of my disposable cash to bikes and gear. And then I did it, and then it was finished, and then I kept training ... for?

There are friends who think it’s time for me to go big. Cross-country tour was big. Susitna was big. Ultrasport was big. Now, they say, go BIG. Climb that ladder.

Then there are friends who think Ultrasport should be the culmination of all this madness. Time to settle in, devote my life to more realistic - or at least more productive - pursuits. I’ll be 30 next year. I’ve had my fun. Time to grow up.

And here I am, somewhere in the middle. I’ve spent much of my life near the extremes. Level ground is not the place for me, and my good friends know it. So they’re watching, and wondering what I’m up to. They don’t believe me when I tell them that I don’t even know what I’m up to. I’m just living my life, the life I’ve built for myself, the life I’m comfortable with. As for the future, I’m preparing.

It reminds me of a book I read earlier this year, by a man who attempted to illegally climb Mount Everest with his friends in 1962, basically on a lark. Woodrow Wilson Sayre made it most the way, nearly died (a couple times) trying, and came home to similar questions from his friends. He wrote: “One can't take a breath large enough to last a lifetime; one can't eat a meal big enough so that one never needs to eat again. Similarly, there are such values as warm friendship tested and strengthened through shared danger, the excitement of obstacles overcome by one’s own efforts, or the beauty of the high, quiet places of the world. But these values can’t be stored like canned goods. They may need to be experienced, lived — many times.”

And so I dream.