I feel like I’m running into it headlong. This past weekend did two things. It put my fitness in perspective. Then that perspective reared its ugly head on me this week. I rode well enough, strong even and was proud of where I got myself, considering my age and inability.
I spend a lot of time riding alone. For an avid cyclist, one who to an outsider could be mistaken for a die-hard, a thoroughbred of two-wheeled sport, a consummate practitioner of cataloguing kilometers, I don’t necessarily feel I show it very well when surfing the dense core of the sport. I can talk mechanics and trends and places “you have to ride next chance you get”, but in a pack I’m hanging on somewhere just behind the middle. And barely.
Some people might blame the bike or just having an off day, but reality for me is calling and it’s saying hey man, it’s ok but you just can’t match these guys, nothing personal, but they’re doing something you aren’t: Riding with others.
My big brick wall. It’s tall and smooth and some dick painted a big ol’ smily face on it with the motivational caption beneath it, “Life’s a poop sandwich and every day you take a bite. Adjust, the ‘tude, dude!” It always seems to pop up this time of year, just as the heat of summer feels like it’s dragged on a week too long, or two weeks because you just can’t tell anymore you’re so dogged.
Because every idiot entrenched in any kind of athleticism that requires discipline will babble over a protein smoothie and a bowl of granola that “it’s 20% fitness and 90% mental.” Terrible mathematicians and even more cringy motivationalists, inspirited by social media. But maybe that’s my wall speaking. It gets tough to tell. [Smoothies/granola have been my jam lately. Highly recommend.]
Honestly speaking though, the hardest aspect for me when approaching my riding with discipline is the loneliness of it all. Chengdu feels like it has been a sinkhole of cycling engagement with me and a real struggle to find other likeminded riders. Not to be mistaken, they’re there but they come and go and the only thing I’ve found dependable about riding with others here is the unaccountable nature of it. Choosing to ride is electing the expectation of riding by yourself with the random fortune someone else might just tag along or the even greater fortune of the ubiquitous other randomly reaching out and arranging to ride with you!
Which is fine and works well enough until you hit the wall. A lackluster placement and another race around the corner and your whole projected plan to ride so much or so far or so fast is riddled with little holes, they’re leaking air and you left your patch kit at home because when the hell do you ever get a puncture? God, wouldn’t a break be nice! Choosing to step off for a week or two or three or maybe just wait until the weather cools and it’s nicer? I don’t know, why don’t we just ease up a bit and see.
Lo, there’s the wall again! It’s the wall telling you these things. It can’t be the bike but it can be others, or maybe you need a break. Or maybe you should just carry it forward, bearing your burden like a hand-carved-lugged cross (frame). Nobody likes this time of year and riding through it is tough and sometimes just leans into a tougher to climb, taller wall, but that’s the discourse of discipline.