Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Of Molehills and Mountains

The last few weeks, I have found myself in a very reflective state which also seems to coincide with the inability to look at things with any sort of detachment or objectivity. Sometimes, this happens because I'm attempting to protect my reflective period and what comes from it, and other times it just seems to just be what it is - whether good or bad.

There is an ebb and flow to these feelings and while I am always aware of my emotions there are times when I find it impossible to write anything here that is in any way technical. These are the days when I find myself thinking on where I have been, where things are going, and how I intend to get to a given point.
What I have noticed during this time is that there is a correlation between my processing and how I face rides. When I'm focused and able to take on the particulars of a subject, I concentrate my energy while riding and feel confident in climbing and even pushing myself in regard to speed. I believe myself able to tackle anything that is put in my path and while I am aware that I'm not much faster than any other day, somehow I feel and think myself more capable.

The opposite is also true. When I'm not feeling mentally up-to-par, I find myself defeated before I've even started. In fact, sometimes I don't even bother to start because I'm convinced that I will just end up a quivering pile on the side of the road. Logically, I know this isn't true, but it's easy to convince myself otherwise when I've dug myself into a mental hole.

This has been a rough season in regard to cycling. Not only have I faced physical challenges that I didn't want to deal with, but I've had a lot of bike/mechanical/fit issues to contend with and it's created a mild amount of depression. Pulling out of those darker thoughts some days is challenging, but if I have learned anything from riding a bicycle it is that choosing to do nothing will in no way help matters.

As we near the end of August, I can feel my insides craving some sort of challenge. I can sense that doing nothing significant this year is eating at me, tearing at my self-worth.  I haven't climbed any ridiculous mountains, I haven't chased any sort of personally unattainable distance, and in fact, I haven't even scheduled or registered for any event at all this year.

Several days ago, I told Sam that I wanted to go and ride Rebecca's Private Idaho. It's an absolutely ludicrous thought because I haven't ridden more than 40 miles in a stretch at all this year, and those "longer" rides have felt like torture, having need to stop every 3-5 miles to work out pains and problem spots. More recently, a long ride is somewhere in the vicinity of about 20 miles. As stated, this definitely hasn't been an all-star year, and it is obvious that I am in no physical shape to take on a major challenge.

Still, I have this urge to attempt a ride that seems insurmountable. I haven't quite decided if the reasoning is simply because I believe I've missed out on too much and want to make up for it, or because I have some sort of sick desire to prove myself incapable of completing a big venture in my current state.

I've pretty well decided that Rebecca's Private Idaho isn't happening. It's too close in time to the Leadville extravaganza and there is much that needs attention here at home which doesn't really allow for several more days away so close to our last departure. Not to mention that there is a ridiculous amount of climbing involved for someone who hasn't pedaled uphill much at all this year.

With all of the pondering though, I realize my great capacity to turn little things into big, and vice versa, depending on my frame of mind.

On one hand, I try to allow myself some leeway, some kindness in dealing with persistent injuries. It's the part of me that understands that healing takes time and pushing things physically isn't always the right option.

On the other side, I question why I don't push harder and simply deal with the pain. After all, there are those in far worse situations than me. I cannot help but feel somewhat like a failure for not being able to drive myself to do the things that are more challenging at present.

In spite of the mental battles that often take place, I am so thankful to still be riding. I may not be taking on the challenges I'd hoped to face this year, but there is time enough for all of these things. My body is slowly healing and I'm finding ways to stretch distance on the bike when things aren't quite so painful. Who knows? I may still get to one of those ambitious goals yet this year.


  1. Dos centavos: try to keep bicycling as something you love for pleasure. Try making some fun and simple "goals": mmmm, I'd like to ride over to that new cafe in Boulder... Or: let's try a sub-24 overnight up to Horsetooth reservoir...

    Point being, it is still possible to expand your horizons and enter new territory cycling-wise, without killing yourself (and killing your love of cycling) in the process. And remember: bicycling doesn't have to feel bad to feel good!

    1. Agreed. Riding a bike should be something enjoyable; and just to clarify, it hasn't been that I don't enjoy my time on a bike, but rather the "torture" comes more from the pain of injuries and dealing with the reality that I want to do more and simply cannot. I think I get upset having to stop constantly, but I am slowly coming to accept that, at least for the time being, riding means stopping every few miles. This has its own benefits though (I really get to appreciate our surroundings) and I can see that things are improving slowly (perhaps not at a pace I'd prefer, but improving nonetheless).

      I think an overnight might definitely be a good thing to try though. There would be no rush to get anywhere and I'd feel as though I did something other than riding to the store or a short spin around the area. Thanks for the suggestion! :O)

  2. I still think the RPI is possible : ). Long weekend, a 50 mile option, and I can crew for you, seriously.. It would be epic! Man, I love using terms from a couple of years ago..

    1. It's possible, but probably not practical. I can ride 50 miles here if I feel some strange need to try... no need to pay for likely failure - especially right now. :O)

  3. This is probably going to sound bizarre, but here goes: When it comes to everything related to bikes, I give myself permission to fail. I'm incredibly goal oriented in my professional life. It really matters to me that I be good, really good, at what I do in terms of teaching and research. But I can't let that drive infect everything else in my life. It would ruin beautiful things like biking.

    So, I wanted to learn about bike mechanics. I took an overhaul class and monkey around on donated bikes that we are overhauling at the co-op. I'm not particularly good at it and probably never will be. Doesn't matter. I love it. I want to ride a century and probably will. But I give myself permission to fail, knowing that it doesn't really matter too much if I do. If end up topping out at 78 miles instead of 100, it'll be fine.

    I think you have to make up your mind if biking is something you are allowed to fail at. Are you going to be happy if you try to do a thing and fall short? That's going to be a very personal question. For me, permission to fail has liberated me to try things -- like wrenching and a century ride -- that I otherwise would have taken a pass on. But that might be different for you. Good luck whichever way you go.

    1. I don't think that sounds bizarre at all. I think in many areas of life we have to be a little forgiving with ourselves. I think most of us want to be great at what we do and strive to be our best, but it doesn't mean we need to beat ourselves up when things don't go as we plan.

      I think for me, it's not so much that I feel I can't fail at something bike related (goodness knows I've failed at plenty bike-related happenings), but rather frustration at the moment with my body's limitations. Patience is not one of my stronger virtues, especially when it comes to myself, but I am doing my best to get through all of this. I am really grateful that I can ride though because if I couldn't at all, I think I'd be going far more crazy than I am.

      On a note regarding mechanic skills, we were just talking about the next bike build and that whatever it may be, I'm going to build the entire bike myself (with supervision, of course). I think it would be a good thing for me to do because while I "know" what to do in theory, I don't typically do much for myself. I think it would be a great way for me to actually know that I am perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done. I'm kind of excited about it! Now we just have to figure out who's getting the next bike. :O)

    2. Building up a bike from the frame sounds awesome! Can't wait to read about that adventure.


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