In my office, on my desk, sits a photo of my wife and I holding my eldest daughter, just months old. I also have a photo of my wife, taken when we were newly dating while she was on vacation visiting her best friend in Washington.
This, however, is my lobby:
Please forgive the odd angle, it was the only way to keep the reflection of the lights from obscuring the top photos.
One will notice, as my wife did yesterday, that my wife isn’t in any of those photos. She has a very good point and I’ve got plenty of photos to choose from that will rectify that injustice in short order, and she’ll get her own multi-photo frame. That notwithstanding, ten years from now (assuming I’m still cycling and on the right side of the grass), I’ll walk into my office and smile when I see those photos on the wall. Maybe it’ll be a tough morning and the memories behind those photos will pick me up, maybe it’ll just be remembering the friendships behind those photos.
While I do feature prominently in a few of those photos (there’s no way me climbing the wall with that grimace on my face wasn’t making it into the final cut), the majority are of my friends. In the second set, three of the photos that matter most are the bottom three on the right hand side: Last year my friends, Matt, Phill and Mike trying to get me back to the main group and the finish where all of the DALMAC veterans let Ron, Eli and me (the three rookies) lead the group in. Without the first two, the last photo (taken by my wife) wouldn’t have been possible.
In that first set, from this year’s DALMAC, an error in judgement led to me quitting halfway up the wall last year – I actually walked my bike up a hill, before remounting for the last seven miles into town. That mistake played in my head all year long. This year, I thought about quitting again, for a fraction of a second, about halfway up again. Then I thought about how tough that last year was in my melon, so I clenched my teeth and knocked that sucker out. When I got to the top, I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to quit in the first place… Either way, it worked out in the end. Last year my daughters saw their dad quit on a hill, after 297 miles in three days. A year later they saw me grind up that hill under the same conditions.
The moments in those photos mean a lot in terms of who I am. The photos on my wall show a happy, healthy, prosperous life lived well. Almost 24 years ago, my prospects were bleak. I didn’t have much hope and I was stuck in a battle with King alcohol. I couldn’t quit, no matter what I tried, but I was a physical and mental wreck at the same time. I’d lost hope.
A fellow who writes a blog I follow quoted Karen Lamb: “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
I commented on that post, “Truer words have never been written”. He responded, “So… what, are you starting doing today?” My response was funny but a little off the mark. The truth is, I started 24 years ago – and I’m definitely glad I started then.
We wake at 5 am, shower, eat breakfast, don our kit, helmet, socks, shoes… and slap a smile on our face. One hundred miles, give or take, are on the docket for today.
The breeze we create with our forward progress blows through our hair as we form up into our pace line….
The sun combines with the cool air to produce the strangest sensation, somewhere between a full blown sweat and goosebumps. Over the next five hours, give or take, we go through fleeting moments that range from struggling to hold the line to pure bliss. Holding on to the old adage, “never quit when you’re feeling bad”, we press on. At certain points along the ride we stop to fill up our water bottles or grab a bite to eat. The 5-10 minute break does us good and the jovial nature comes back again.
There are ups and downs but we look out for each other. We help each other out when one of us is struggling, whether with words of encouragement or providing a draft, because the simple fact is, we like riding together more than picking up the pace to put the final nail in the coffin.
Cycling, at least the way we do it, is more than just getting a workout in or burning some calories. Cycling is the activity we use to not only work our muscles but to work our friendships as well.
Not only is this a time for friends, we involve the entire family as well. My daughters attend the last two days of DALMAC and cheer all of my friends as they come up the wall. My wife rides down to meet us and ride back with us… We have snacks together and spend time laughing about the weekend’s events. We plan other camping trips as well, that often involve the family. Social “ice cream” rides or just trips around a long block.
Cycling is a lifestyle, more than a mere fitness activity, where we celebrate our love of the outdoors, cool bikes, and friends and family and usually around some really good food.
Sure beats slogging to the gym to move a few weights around after spending the day counting calories.