I am constantly reminded that I am not in control of the weather. Earlier in the week the temperature was well into the mid 60’s. This morning it snowed. It seems that as soon as I get into a routine with riding and training for RAGBRAI, the weather has an identity crisis. I looked out the window this crisp, spring morning, and tried to think of a way to make an analogy out of this atmospheric change, and I came up with this. Weather is like a battle and we are the deer. Allow me to clarify. Think of the warm and cold weather like two opposing factions of a mighty battle, the warm holds it’s ground in the south while the cold finds refuge in the north, and Iowa is the no-man’s land. Each storm is a battle between these mighty foes, at times the warm holds the “front” line, while at other times the cold gains the high ground. The battles that result from these engagements can become quite fierce, with the blinding flash of the cannon that can be seen for miles and the resulting window-rattling boom that rolls over the prairie like a tsunami. Their bullets flood our rivers and sometimes dent our cars, and the smoke from their guns fills our skies to the point that the sun ceases to shine. We are at the mercy of the these two mighty forces and there is nothing we can do when the battle ensues but take cover. But when the battle is over, we dare to venture forth from our shelter to graze and find sustenance while we can, and we become oblivious when the battle does not rage. But when we hear the boom and see the flash, to cover we go, like little deer hiding in the woods. So all we can do is hope that the major engagements don’t come our way, but in the meantime; the battle continues.
I’m the next Tour de France Champion, in my head anyway. March 11, 2011
It seems like spring has finally arrived, and for good this time. So without hesitation I jumped on my bike as soon as I could, and headed out into the wind-swept farmland. I’ve tried to explain, in-depth and to my best ability, in previous posts the feeling of riding my bike after too much time away from the saddle. I will spare you the lengthy explanation of the flood of emotions that are coursing through my system after a ride, and try to write from a more philosophical point-of-view. Today it was rather windy out on the road, and I had set myself a goal to cover a route that took me straight into the wind and up a sizable hill (for Iowa anyway). Even though there were plenty of opportunities for me to turn around before the hill, and enjoy the nice tail-wind that awaited, I pushed on toward the top. In my mind I weighed the options of enjoying the tail-wind and turning around right away, which would be easier, but result in less satisfaction; or pushing on up the hill to achieve my goal and be rewarded with an even nicer tail-wind + down-hill. I did reach the top of the hill and was glad that I stuck it out to receive a larger reward. I think this scenario may be easily applied to life in general. Sometimes, in life, we think that if we just give up now then everything will be better, and it might be, for the short-term. If you hate your job you might want to quit and file unemployment, you’ll probably get paid more from the government (or tax payers), but what if you can’t find another job. If you quit while you’re down, it’s even harder to get back up than if you hadn’t quit in the first place. Sticking with it is usually harder at first, but has the biggest payoff. If you keep working hard at the job you hate, someday you might end up running the company, and making enough money to send your kids through college or take that trip to Europe you always wanted. Charging up the hill is never easy, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from cycling, it’s that mental tenacity is 99 percent of getting across the finish line. If you think you can get there, then you will. When I was standing on the pedals, pushing up that hill, my body was telling me no, but in my mind, I was the next Tour de France Champion.
BTW: The tail-wind was absolutely fantastic!
Riding with the Horses March 1, 2011
Tonight I went for my third ride of the year, despite the mercury leveling out around 40. At this time of year it seems as though winter’s grasp is finally being loosened, as the warming rays of that wonderful ball in the sky cut through the frost and snow to reveal a terrain long forgotten. Thus was the feeling as I made my way out 9 miles on one of Iowa’s long, lonely roads. I was grateful for the brisk tail-wind that I was rewarded with on my return voyage, and as I glided down the last hill into town, something really cool happened. I was coasting along when I noticed a number of horses just ahead off to my right, it seemed as though they were returning to the barn after a good evening stroll though the corn field. I whistled as I approached them, as I often do when passing interesting wildlife or animals, and a couple of them turned their heads to ponder at this strange sight, a metal cowboy as Joe Kurmaskie would say. Then one of the horses toward the back of the herd broke out into a full gallop, running along the fence row, as if to escort me home. It’s night black mane flapping in the wind like the standard of a cavalry charge, it’s hooves throwing mud high into the air, it was running with me, not because it was spurred on by a skillful rider, but because it wanted to. Some of you might think I’m getting all emotional over nothing, but the feeling of connection that was exchanged in that moment was, for lack of a better word, cool.
Did I say something wrong? February 19, 2011
With my previous post as evidence, I have become weary of these winter months. But alas, some hope. Yesterday, to my bewilderment and jubilation, the mercury rose to an unbelievable level of 65 degrees. Through-out the week before I had watched with trepidation as this day of deliverance crept ever closer to reality across the ten-day forecast. I was getting ready to bust out the sun screen. My inner cyclist kept jumping with joy that spring was here, but my more logical side told me it was not here to stay. But I didn’t really have to listen to either of them, because I knew one thing for a fact; I was going to ride. I could barely contain myself as I drove home from college, packed the Lotus in the back of my car, and drove down to my regular staging area. It felt so good just to be getting ready to ride, the anticipation was killing me. I suited up and rolled the bike out into the alley, which was now thick with mud, behind main street. I clipped my right foot into my new clip-less pedals, pushed off, and nearly fell flat on my face. It was at this time that I remembered that video I had watched about getting used to these new pedals before going out on the road, but as Iron Man would say, “sometimes you have run, before you can walk”. I was on the road! After a five month hiatus from the saddle, I was back. The open road lay before me, ready to receive all my fury and excitement. The cool, snow-conditioned air in my lungs and the warm, constant power of the sun on my face. The first ride of the season is something that can not be put into words. As far as I’m concerned, there is no combination of keystrokes that could possibly convey the feelings of that first taste of the open road. It is the purest and most real form of freedom I have ever known. After an hour and a half and 24 m. under my belt, I felt like I could go on forever. But unfortunately the temperature followed the evening sun and the Iowa winter returned. The spring weather fled as fast as it appeared. Hopefully I’ll be able to hold on to this motivation throughout the rest of this season. I thought my prayers had been answered with a taste of spring, but now this return of winter has me wondering, did I say something wrong?
Spring, where art thou? February 10, 2011
I love Iowa, it is a great state to grow-up, live, and bicycle in. But for all this state has to offer to the avid cyclist, there is one thing that is a black stain to this bicycle haven. It can be summed up in one word; Winter. No matter how hard you train during the summer months, winter always comes around and puts everything on pause, and eventually rewind. It takes a truly brave, dedicated cyclist to don the winter gear; balaclava, insulated gloves, jacket, tights, studded tires, etc. It takes a special breed to charge forth into the frozen tundra and continue his fight against the elements (Christmas dinner). Only a true cyclist would strive onward through these months of bitter cold and freezing winds. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I’ve tried my best to stay faithful to my trainer, but these last few weeks I’ve found staring at the same chunk of drywall for an hour every day less exhilaration and more boredom turned to torture. With at least another month before things start to thaw out, my only hope is that I can keep from going crazy with desire to ride my bike with both wheels on an actual road. The trustworthy weatherman told me it’s supposed to get into the lower 30’s this weekend, maybe I’ll satisfy my craving for open tarmac and take the old Lotus for the 2011 maiden voyage. Then again the roads might be too icy, or the cold might make my tires brittle, or my brake cables could freeze and send me flying into the ditch. hmm, maybe I’ll just stick to dreaming about it. Spring, where art thou?