Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming up for air

When I started feeling hints of a sore throat a week ago Monday, I joked with my coworkers that I was getting "The Swine." By Wednesday, I was on the floor. I barely got out of bed on Thursday; I just lulled around my room in a feverish delirium. Friday was only a little better. I finally dragged myself to the gym on Sunday but seriously sore muscles and lightheadedness chased me off the treadmill after only a half hour. By Monday, I had just about had it with "The Swine." I know it's not the end of the world. It's just that I'm one of those people who never gets sick. About once a year, I pick up a mild cold for a day or two, but that's usually it. It's been five years since I even had something strong enough to keep me off my bike or from going to work. So coming down with the flu, whether or not it was actually the swine flu, hit me hard.

Today I woke up to a lot of new snow and a car mostly buried in the driveway, so I decided to ride Pugsley to work. It had been a week since I had been on a bike, or even outside for more than a few seconds at a time. My muscles still ached and my sinuses were still clogged, but the simple commute into the office felt amazing. I pedaled hard, surpassing the muscle aches, sweating out the rest of my fever, smiling at all the fresh-fallen snow and gulping down the moist 25-degree air that felt both refreshing and - after last week's cold snap - downright balmy. Nothing sets up a singularly amazing bike ride like a week of "The Swine." In a couple more hours here, I'll set out to ride 11 miles home amid a snow-blanketed night. Just thinking about it makes me feel giddy.

Besides making my rather boring commute suddenly feel like a dream ride, another benefit of having the flu for a week is that my Divide writing project has taken off. I might as well just start calling it a book, because whether or not it's ever published, it's certainly long. One wouldn't think that a person could write 100,000 words about the lead-up and execution of a single bike ride. I wouldn't have thought so either, but I've surpassed 80,000 words and I'm not even out of Colorado. (I started this thing back in September, but I've generated the bulk of it in the past three weeks.) There were a couple nights in the past week where I felt too sick to sleep, so I took my mind off my crappy condition by laying in my bed with my chin still resting on a pillow, whisking myself away to better days by typing on my tiny laptop computer. Not sure how many of those words are actually coherent. I may end up needing to rework most of it. But the big benefit of the flu writing experiment was how deeply involved I became. I feel like I stepped wholly outside myself and disappeared into the recent past, overcome with a wash of experiences and memories and sometimes brutal honesty that I just had to let out. Like I said, I don't know how viable the project is outside my flu delirium. But, in its own way, this past week inside has been an incredible experience.

I almost hate to let the momentum slide, but it's really about time I start riding my bike again. The White Mountains 100 is a frighteningly close two months away.