Tuesday night’s club ride was rough. Despite wanting to quit at some point in miles 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 I hung in there until all of my friends went first. More than once I had to remind myself that I’d feel better in a minute, I just had to keep going, especially during the few miles we hitting 50 km/h – folks, that isn’t downhill. Not surprising to me, I did feel better. It would come and go and I had to hide a few times to keep up but I also took my turns at the front, as short as they sometimes were. Once my friends and I chose to drop off the back, then the real work started. I am one of the younger fellas in our group and I enjoy being one of the horses of our little rabble so I don’t mess around. I work as hard as I can for my guys so we can all ride just a little faster… Lots of work, lots of speed…
Then there was last night. It was supposed to be an easy ride. I rode by myself, with my wife still on vacation in Georgia with the kids…. My mind started to shut off the instant my first cleat snapped into my pedal. My exquisitely maintained, immaculately clean Venge made only two slight sounds as I cruised down the road: The barely audible hum of the chain as each link roller met with a tooth from the 52 tooth chain ring could be heard under the whooshing of the tires on the asphalt. Into the wind, I topped out at 19 mph, where I thought I should be but my cadence was just a little too easy so I upshifted a gear and kept it at 20-1/2. Five stop signs (that absolutely must be fully stopped at under risk of death) and five U-turns later and I pulled into the driveway with a 19 mph average over 20 miles.
Under normal conditions I’d have been riding with my wife and we’d have pulled a 17-18 mph average but on my own, I was at that perfect butter-zone. Between 20 and 22 mph (sometimes up to 24 downhill or with a tailwind), where I’m putting forth a fair effort but I’m not really working hard enough to tax myself, that’s where I am at my happiest. That’s where my brain just shuts down the hamster wheel. It’s not that I can’t get there at slower speeds, I do, but for some reason when I hit that zone between 20 and 22 mph, all exterior thoughts outside of where I am at that very moment cease. No thoughts about work or the normal trappings of everyday life can bust through. This is where I am closest to my higher power (that I choose to call God but that’s me, and I only clarify for those ignoramuses who would leap to the conclusion that my Higher Power is me). This is my meditation. This is where everything is simply okay, where I’m just in the moment.
It could be fairly argued that one shouldn’t count cycling as meditation because as a cyclist you have to be too aware of your surroundings just to remain safe. That if I were sitting on the ground with my legs crossed, smelling of patchouli and barefoot, chanting ooooouuuuummmmm, I’d be able to truly experience letting go… Or if I were bent like a pretzel on a yoga mat… Look, I’m not one to argue. I’m also not much on yoga and barefoot and patchouli ain’t happening. I simply don’t have the personality for it so don’t bother. I know, done it, tried it, it’s just not happening. It’s perfectly fine if that works for others, it’s just not my cup of joe. The truth is, I simply can’t sit still that long without falling asleep, for one. For another, good God is that stuff boring! I have nothing but admiration for those who can sit still like that, I’m just not exactly wasting away opining that I am not one of them anymore either.
My point is this, I’ve wasted precious time in my past trying to be another type of person. I’ve tried to sit still and meditate, to do the oooouuuuuummmmm thing, and then wondered what was wrong with me that I didn’t have the patience when all along, cycling was what I needed to fulfill that space that could be classified as the need to unwind.
Long ago I was a follower. When someone said, “Try meditation, it’s wonderful for the soul”, I would try it, only to become frustrated that their version of how to achieve that didn’t work for me. I wondered what was wrong with me that I’d fall asleep when I tried to use quiet time to quiet my mind. Only later in life did I realize that I don’t have to like everything that another thinks is wonderful. It’s not that there’s something wrong, it’s that I’m not that guy. There’s nothing wrong with me for not liking it just like there’s nothing wrong with someone who does. I want to be open-minded and teachable but I don’t have to glom on to every fad that comes down the road either. I am okay with who I am and that’s good enough for government work. I even know what’s in the Bill before I pass it.