Friday, May 3, 2013

What am I afraid of?

Taken in Smith, Nevada last year when I rode to Bridgeport (about 44 miles) one morning at dawn.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there's a certain sense of malaise about my life: there are far more "didn't do's" or "didn't make-its" than I thought I'd ever have. I didn't turn out to be the sort of person who runs a marathon every weekend; I didn't turn out to be the person who has a family or a house or even a car I truly own; I didn't turn out to be an Olympic Trials Qualifier; I didn't turn out to be a swimmer (or, at least one that can do the backstroke); I didn't even turn out to be a writer. And today I feel the weight of all these failures more than usual. Maybe it's the weather; or maybe it's time I try something new.

I wish I could say it was something I came up with on my own; but when you're depressed, the world looks a little darker, like you're in a hole in the ground and you can't always see very far that way. I guess there's a reason why they call it "tunnel vision." It took an email chain started by a guy I ride with who just completed the Devil Mountain Double-- a very challenging 206-mile ride to get me to wonder that old-question-- the one I used to use a lot more in my twenties: "what if?"

I should preface the rest of this with a disclaimer: I ride (and swim and run) with some pretty amazing people. Fascinating, strong and kind people; the sort who devote hours of their lives to a sport that may never pay them back. People like me-- but better.  Anyway, when it came to talking about future double-centuries, the question was posed to me: would I consider doing one? 

Maybe it's a small thing: but I guess the question meant they believed I could. They asked not if I could but if I wanted to. Even though I don't consider myself much of an athlete anymore. I go to swim practice; I ride up Mt. Diablo on Tuesday mornings as fast as I can and do 100-mile rides with the group on Saturdays (most Saturdays.) I've even started running again, slowly, building up my tendons and ligaments to handle a more challenging load, later. But I wouldn't call myself an athlete. I am lucky enough to surround myself with several; but me, I'm just a person who didn't do a bunch of things and who feels, increasingly, like life has lost its glow.

But the what-if question trickled down to my fingers and I did a search and I found out that there's a Double-Century on June 1 in the Eastern Sierra, not too far from where my family resides and where I-- long, long ago-- might have called home. And you know, I really, really feel compelled to do this. Even though it's supported by Planet Ultra which, well (sorry Planet Ultra) sucks. (Yeah, sucks. And I hate to say that because their events raise money for a good cause. But I'll continue because I might be a jerk but I'm not the only person I've heard with similar-- or near-similar comments. I'll never forget the 2009 Solvang Century, the way I ended up riding more miles because I got lost because the route wasn't marked AT ALL and the way there was hardly enough food at the support stops and the best part of the ride was the people I chanced to meet that were riding along with me. Oh, and the end, when I got to stop after 6 hours and thirty minutes, two hours too much for me, then since it was the first time I'd been on a bike that year-- but decided I still had it in me to ride 100 miles. OK-- maybe that last one wasn't your fault.)

But I don't know: why is it I think that getting up before the dawn and riding into the darkness of morning and riding long after the sun has gone down will make me feel better about my life? A part of it, I think, is because I'm afraid of it. Afraid of getting lost out there, in the dark, alone. But in a strange way, I think that's about where I am right now. And why riding might be the perfect metaphor: if I just keep going, the sun's got to come up and light my way.

And you know, maybe I'll find it. The thing I'll "do." Finally.

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