Friday, May 23, 2008

The Well


Motivation. It’s that most fleeting qualities. With it, you have the power to dig deep in training. Every day is another opportunity to work toward a better you. It is the savings account from which you draw the fortitude to bury the needle for another few seconds, to refuse the slice of cake, to head out for the ride in the dark.

It is as mysterious in its presence as it is in its absence. Its switches are nonsensical, ironic. One bad ride can light a fire that melts the asphalt beneath your wheels two days later. Or it can lead to a sense of futility causing you to skip rides, fall off the PROgram, pig out, even.

When the well is empty life is duller for it. There’s no spring to your step, 20 miles can seem long and cleaning the bike is just a chore that can be put off for another week. Forget about intervals. Why go hard? What’s the point?

And there’s the mystery: We know why. We know that the feeling that comes from riding well can kill office stress, melt daily disappointments and enable us to ride with the lead group at Flanders. Okay, maybe not that last, but you must admit, when the well is full you feel totally PRO. You ride with wattage to spare.

But the empty well can be depression itself. It is the cycle of disappointment that feeds on disappointment, the snake that eats its tail, but instead of winking out of existence, it grows. How we reverse that vicious cycle is anyone’s guess. A blue sky that moves one rider back to the saddle can fill another with shame for the days missed.

For those who’ve had the well run dry, you know the revulsion you feel for the big ring, a stomach-turning horror that makes overtraining seem like simple recovery between intervals. The dry well is the existential crisis that causes you to ask the unthinkable: “Why do I ride a bike?”

And yet, the reprieve is always around the corner. Whether it’s the ’89 Tour, a rerun of Breaking Away or a warm day too beautiful not to ride, we all have our triggers. Thank heaven. And for all the heartache of the empty well, we can suddenly find ourselves seeing once again the natural order of the world. The bicycle is a thing of beauty, a potent antidote to the world’s ills, an eternal E-ticket ride.

As if we were hawks riding thermals, one good ride begets another and another. We’re easier to live with, if utterly verbose about our exploits. We conduct our days more efficiently as we divide the day between riding and the activities that support it, and all the rest.

So powerful is the full well that we find cues to even more motivation in elements as simple as the open road. That shouldn’t strike us as a surprise, though. It was always thus: Half our love of cycling is a love of the open road itself and that ribbon of asphalt is life unfolding in an ever unexpected way.

25 comments:

Bluenoser said...

Thanks Padraig. I needed that.

-B

Dee said...

*sigh* yep.

Parker Holt said...

Beautiful.

sma said...

awesome. my well was empty before reading your post.

thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much.

Richmond Roadie said...

Yowza! That was terrific! I'm gonna print that & carry it around with me:)

DRU said...

Indeed... and BKW is the hose that fills the well. Power and reason to continue putting in the miles and banging shoulders in the sprint...

Anonymous said...

if my well is ever empty i am returning to this beautiful poem

Frenchy aka Bike Boy said...

Thank you. I am always astounded at how good BKW is...Long live BKW!!
As always, thank you for taking the time to share.

Bluenoser said...

Padraig,

An old friend once told me that you don't know the value of water until the well runs dry.

-B

Anonymous said...

printed and on my fridge immediately. thanks for reminding me that emptiness will pass.

Padraig said...

Thanks all for your comments. My well was and is full and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share.

Anonymous said...

Great piece. So true that the reprieve is always around the corner. Never give up.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, a shimmer of light in my clouded room! brilliant!

patrick said...

Your best post yet Padraig. Well done.

bikesgonewild said...

...padraig...your reputation w/ these posts is so good, that before riding today, i literally read only the title "the well"...it was all climbing & descending, for miles & i did have dip into 'the well' but it was there for me...

...enjoyed reading the rest of the post w/ my dinner tonight...perfect...

Zoo said...

WOW, definitely hit home. Good post.

e-RICHIE said...

perfect atmo -

i needed this, especially today. i'm in for three starts tomorrow at hartford and may not ride today owing to obligations. i'll need to tap the bank for some extra motivation. if i run into debt i'm going to summon up this post to get me through.

thanksmo.

Todd said...

Right on, as always.

Anonymous said...

I had hard a day yesterday. Depressed, despondent, dissappointed, bewildered. Got dropped. Got flogged. Had to finish on my own. It felt like all the spectators were sneering as I freewheeled across the finish. We all know the feeling. My well was dry. Whats the point. I am getting too old... I am now back out there next week. I love you man!
Aussie Joe

Anonymous said...

Great timing with this post. I've been in a funk the last week all because I've had two bad Thursday Nighters.....our local training race, and have found myself spiraling downwards in a lack of motivation. Self doubt sucks. Thanks for the encouragement.

Laverda said...

Thanks for helping keep my well from going dry

blue squirrel said...

you took the words right out of my subconscious. i have been feeling the well dry up of late and it is nice to know that we all go through this, your posts are always good, but with what i have been going through with tim hitting the wall, my motivation waning, my racing missing the mark, cars seeming closer, this one hit the mark, your best yet.

thanks from the bottom of my well

Mark said...

Well, that was just the breath of fresh air and smack in the face that I've been needing.

I've barely ridden these last few months and my spirits are the worse for it.

I received my new Fat Cyclist jersey in the mail this past week and that'll be the thing that gets me back in the saddle. It'll take several rides to get back in the groove, but I know it's there waiting for me. It always is.

Thanks.

-Mark

ds said...

wow, brings tears to my eyes. this deserves a wider audience... send it to one of the bike rags