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.

19 comments:

  1. I just turned 30 4 months ago and I say to hell with more realistic and productive pursuits!

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  2. Jill,
    Just had the big 50 on the 14th of April. I teach 10-11 year olds so there is a strong likelihood that I will not grow up. I've often been told by other colleagues that I don't act my age. Now, what the hell does that mean?
    I guess I could be like the rest of my neighbors here in the burbs and spend my weekends from Friday-Sunday evening just puttering around the yard making it look all pretty and nice, because after all that's what living in the burbs is all about.
    Oh don't get me wrong, I do my share of yard work, but if given the choice...I'll be somewhat immature and hop on my bike and go for a ride.
    You are very fortunate. Enjoy life and all the fun that goes with it. It really is too short not to.
    Don't grow up, it's overrated.

    Nigity - "Always keep a smile in your heart."

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  3. Tell your friends that you will grow up but in your own way and on your own timetable. Life is too short to force the issue. There will come times where the experiences and thrills will be lived vicariously through your kids or through others. I say, grow up only when required and even then only the amount that is needed. I turned 30...uh...a while back, and did my first triathlon, cut my first flip on a wakeboard, and partied pretty hard on that day. Don't let the number hold you up any. I know that it won't of course...

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  4. When I made all the wrong choices at 23 my "friends" told me I was an idiot. Now, the couople that are left, tell me they were the idiots. The saddest people you will meet as you grow older are the ones who didn't have the nerve to follow their dreams, but you probably already know this. The question is: do you want to be alone and smiling at 50, or have lots of friends equally unfulfilled moaning with you? It really is a lonely road to follow, chasing what you and only you want. Obviously I have no regrets but I spent years wondering...

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  5. beautifully written story! what's the name of that book?

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  6. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Jill,

    Don't grow up the way others tell you. I just turned 59 - finished a 2 month 2700 mile tour last summer, in planing for another tour this summer, and hope to ride in another 24 hour mt bike event this year. My Dad used to tell me as a boy to grow up. Now he's finally, at age 85, figured that I was right.

    Rich

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  7. Thanks for sharing your journy with us!

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  8. Anonymous9:00 AM

    The twenties were a rocky road with lots of wild extremes. Now I'm in mid 30's and they are awesome with more focused intense extremes with greater accomplishments. I juggle a wonderful baby daughter, my beautiful wife, fufilling job and also do the 1,000 mile adventures and races. There's no reason not to have it all. Your just getting there...

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  9. Anonymous10:39 AM

    You may chose to grow up, just refuse to get old.

    Me thinks the GDR is calling to you through the little voice in your head.

    Midwest Lowrydr, 55 years young

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  10. Jill, I'm 28 and have been hearing a lot more lately from my family about how I need to start an IRA for retirement and get a car that costs more than my bike and find a girl I want to settle down with and blah blah blah. It's not that I don't want all of those things eventually (IRA= travel money when I'm too tired to work), but as brokemba said, you only need to do it at your own pace. You’re obviously doing well balancing “grown-up” responsibility and the adventurous part of your life, so as you get older, just change what you need to keep that same balance. One way I reaffirm that I’m living my life the way I should is on Monday mornings when people at work talk about their weekends. Hearing about the stores and bars they went to and how they slept half the weekend away makes me thankful for each of my weekend adventures. When my editor asks what I did last weekend and I say, “Uhm, I rode 200 miles on my bike, fell down this canyon, spent an hour picking rocks out of my leg, slept in a flooded tent Saturday night and then met up with friends for coffee Sunday evening,” she always says, “Oh, okay.” Makes me smile.

    It’s all about balance.

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  11. Anonymous12:20 PM

    you have journeyed may miles...but there are miles to go.

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village, though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there's some mistake.
    The only other sound's the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

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  12. See here is the problem. Every new adventure opens up possibilities for another one. And they don't need to keep getting bigger and BIGGER. Just different. Sometimes the only difference is your own mindset in approaching it.

    It's never time to stop pursuing those things. To be 30 and "grown up" would be tragic. I hit 30 last year, and I feel like I am just getting started. And not just with bikes. But with everything I do.

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  13. great post! life is a collection of experiences some good, some bad! some of our past memories are of sadness other happiness.

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  14. Anonymous3:41 PM

    The important thing is you're thinking and aware, and you are. It's amazing to me how many people said similar things to me when I was your age. (Now I am 52.) I felt a lot of pressure but forged ahead in my own way, mistakes and all. It's been a great adventure. I did save for retirement, and kept a steady job and even built my own home over the years. Now I have time for greater adventures. I can truly pursue some things put off...pick up the things I treasure most. Life is a flow. You'll find the balance -- you already have! No one here mentions it, so I shall --consider as well putting some energy and time into service to others. It's also what we are called to do. It can be satisfying in a way that nothing else will be.

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  15. Anonymous5:51 PM

    I think it's high time Geoff found some trustafarian chick with money to shack up with.

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  16. Debamundo8:50 PM

    I'm 40. I rode 2 1/2 hours today, after work. I'm training for . . . Life! I just love to ride, and I love to feel fit and strong and healthy. I don't race or do big multi-day events, but by summer I will be doing 250-300 (road) miles a week. It's just what I do. It's my life. I have nothing to apologize for or explain, and neither do you. I love your blog, though. Keep it up.

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  17. Jill,

    Things are getting pretty hectic around here as I wind up for my epic Great Divide ride. Two weeks from tomorrow morning I finally meet my riding companions and we will start our journey. So, I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed your blog and will miss the opportunity to read it for a couple of months. Good luck with everything.

    Incidently, you are probably trained well enough to do the GDR, but I would recommend the Tour Divide instead. The rules for the Tour Divide are more sane; if sanity has any place in this kind of race?

    Nevertheless, whatever you decide to do, continue to enjoy it to the fullest. Over time everything will work out, and you will have the added benefit of lots of great memories.

    One last thing: try not to let the anonymous/annoyomous "trustafarian chick" comment bother you. I would take for what it is worth - a cheap shot.

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  18. Cheasty, the book is called "Four Against Everest." It's a compelling story. I recommend it. (Especially for the part at the end where they detail all the gear they used and food they ate. It's crazy what people got by on in 1962!)

    Epic Adam ... that's exactly what I was thinking. Life is fuller when you approach it from all angles, and relish in its ups and downs, instead of believing you must always follow a single path up.

    Bikerbob ... exciting how close your trip is getting. I hope you update your blog along the way because I look forward to reading about how it goes. Good luck!

    To everyone else, thanks for the good comments. Age is just a number, like mileage. It can tell you how far along you are in life, but has no gauge for the quality of life therein.

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  19. Jill,
    I'm 34 as of a few weeks ago, and, as of a few weeks ago, I stopped thinking about growing up. On my birthday it came to me - growing up doesn't sound all that attractive, what I'm really doing is growing into myself. That's the phrase that fits best. I'm finding out who I am, what I like to do, and just what I value enough to give time to every day - like riding my bike, growing food, running my dog, and telling my boyfriend over and over again how much I love him. Those things are attractive to me - the image of being a grown up: being settled, responsible and somehow free from the impulsiveness of living exactly what you want to do when you want to do it, isn't at all attractive.
    So I say keep embracing the things that are most important to you right now, grow into yourself. As you keep doing the work of fulfilling your values and desires a sort of grown-up version of life will take shape. It may not match the generic image of growing up, be it sure will be fun.

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