Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Blue Sky Taunt

Each year the list of things to keep you off your bike grows longer. When you're 21, you don't need much more than clean cycling clothing and food. The chores increase, the job takes more and more, the girlfriend becomes the wife, you start the pint-sized team, and pretty soon you're no longer fitting in the responsibilities around your riding, but the riding around the responsibilities.

The structure we'd give our training gets usurped by the larger architecture of everything that's not cycling. No matter how much we'd like, we can't periodize the job or the bills. The miles take a backseat. And even when we think we'll get the miles in there's the dreaded OBE—overtaken by events—that can turn two hours of intervals into two hours of interminables.

Worse yet are those days when the time is there but the legs or heart aren't willing.

Inevitably, there comes the point in the day where we step outside and there it is: the blue sky. The key turns in the cylinder; I should be out there … riding.

Whether we get the miles or not, we're going to suffer. The sky's silent siren call holds the promise of mile after amazing mile. The longing we have for a simple turn of the crank is worse than being dropped. At least when we're dropped we're still riding. Not being out there—the lost miles—hurts worse than throwing money away. It hangs above us, the pull easing only with the darkening sky.

When I was in grade school the nuns always told us to take our sufferings and offer them up to the Lord. What God would do with my seemingly incessant childish sufferings, let alone why God might have any desire for them, I could not figure. Needless to say, I never got comfortable with the idea of offering my mental backwash to my maker, but the concept left an impression on me.

I save the suffering. There are lessons in the suffering. Those toughest moments in the rides give us our strength and the ache we feel for each missed ride is a chip we cash each time we need to dig just a little deeper.

15 comments:

Hoosier CROSSroads said...

Excellent! As a husband, father, and a teacher you hit the nail right on the head again!

Cheers

Touriste-Routier said...

The words ring true, as does the photo, which I believe to be the bike path along the Ballona Creek separating Playa del Rey & Marina del Rey (Los Angeles); home to my former life. The blue sky looks incredibly inviting compared with the overcast sky and temperature in the 30s that I face today. Time to cash in a chip.

treefox said...

Clean clothes needed for a 21 year old? I think you overestimate 21 year olds! :)

OBE = Order of the British Empire? ;)

All very true though. I miss having the schedule flexibility of a research student - the hard-and-fast 9 to 5 is my biggest foil.

tx/nc cyclist said...

Wow you nailed it. Sitting at home working on writing research articles so that I can get a good job after grad school is tough with the clear sky and low wind today.

Then again I will remember days like today when I am about to get dropped next time and dig a little harder. Thanks for the inspiration

Carp said...

Amen. It's all about priorities. I must add the nuns were right, God will listen to you too.

Heidi Swift said...

Brilliant.

Rob said...

Unreal!
http://cgi.ebay.com/Mavic-CLASSICS-PRO-Tubular-Shimano-9-Sp-Wheelset-NEW_W0QQitemZ160301661323QQcmdZViewItemQQptZCycling_Parts_Accessories?hash=item160301661323&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A10%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318

Padraig said...

All: Thanks for the compliments. Glad you are enjoying the reading.

Touriste-Routier: That bike path offers one of my favorite stretches of blue sky in the world.

TX/NC Cyclist: Grad school is the most fun you'll never want to repeat.

Da Robot said...

I'm in an odd place with my cycling, where I am actively seeking the suffering. I don't quite understand it. I mean, I enjoy an easy roll by the river (the Charles in Boston), but climbing in rain and wind feels so much more thrilling lately.

Then again, I'm just glad to be on the bike, what with the job, wife, dog and kids...

Nathan said...

Thank you, a wonderfully inspiring piece. Finals next week have left me in a library ruin, I am itching badly for the cold Montana air and my bike.

Z said...

Amen, Brother... Amen.

I have some suffering on tap for this afternoon that I'll be thinking about in May.

fixedgeardad said...

nice, i feel this every blue sky,non raining day. thank god for every time i can ride.

Jason said...

Thanks! I needed this right now. This is a "sticky" classic for all of us 9 to 5-er cyclists.

Not mention the line "offering my mental backwash to my maker" is one of the best.

brian said...

I completely agree. For me, it's chasing the peak of ski season while all my friends are racking up the miles in February.

By the time the Ronde comes around, I've got a decent base and have been longing to be on my bike for a couple of months. It's a sweet, sweet thing.

Daddo said...

Watch less TV, get up earlier.
Ta-da!, you can ride again.