Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Digging In The Dirt
What is it that leads us to believe big events will change us or our lives? The movies convince us that everything leads to closure in the third act. The lovers are united. The hero's journey ends with the defeat of his foe and his fathers death avenged. The under dog has one moment in the sun and gets carried out on the shoulders of his friends who understand the epic struggle, the pain of his trials and the glory of his payoff. My experiences have been very different. The moments of clarity have all happened in the silence of the night, at a stop light or (dare I say it) in the feeble space of this blog. Still, some part of me sees the worm on the hook and thinks the meal is free. There is a sap that lives inside me that has been walking around for years with a tattered speech in his breast pocket that no one will ever hear.
Last year I sat out The Tour De San Felasco (fifty mile mountain bike ride) for reasons beyond my control. In the geologic terms of my life a mere hiccup, like a volcano in the history of the earth. Grand scheme just a random event, for the villagers down lava stream, it's a little different. I thought I might feel better and normal if I completed this fifty mile vision quest. I went with the usual suspects and my son Lil W.B. (doing his first Tour De Felasco) down to Alachua, threw my hat over the fence and went after it. It all started fine with the usual exuberant beginning; laughter, loud heckling and seeing friends on the trail. Then (despite an endless line of hodads in our way) the rhythm was established. After the first sag stop the herd thinned and L.W.B. and I became a pair. The trail was spectacular and I was delirious with joy. The trails between stop one and two were my favorite of the day, traffic was negotiable and I was riding with my son as I hoped we would. I was all teeth riding in the woods of happiness.
After stop two I made a navi error (set back#1) and all the work we put in to catch up with Jauncho and his robots was gone. L.W.B. flipped his Irish switch and rode away from me with little or no effort, in retaliation for my mistake. At lunch L.W.B. and I, reunited with the crew, ate, and got a slight head start. We rode great for a while but as the crew caught us on some really soft double track I bobbled and went off the back. (Set back#2). I fought my way back on and then Big Worm caught us and he L.W.B. and I settled into a good pace. Somewhere on another soft section, with a tough climb, B.W. went off the back. Treeman had found us by this time and on the long power line climb the dust and a piece of Cliff Shot set off a coughing fit which led to a small asthma event (set back #3). I rode through the coughing, despite Treeman wanting to interview me during the worst of it. On the crest of the hill Worm caught me and dropped the hammer on the fastest downhill of the day, taking my son with him. I caught them on the toughest single track climb of the day (in what can only be described as super soft Nestle' Quik). Once over the top and back onto the soft double track, I watched as Worm and L.W.B. disappeared with no reply from my aching legs.
At some point in this ride I am always alone and the anger fairy comes. I was mad at Cory for dropping me. I was mad at Worm for coming by without a word and riding away. Derwood, had some cramps and rode with me for a few miles, brightening up the darkest part of my ride. On the grass hill to the last sag stop, I began to find some solo mojo, knowing I had six miles to go. This is the reason we all come back to this ride. At some point you are unable to race, your brain shuts off and you get to a place where you are nothing more than a slave to your bike. You live for little landmarks that let you know how close you are to finishing. All the fear and anxiety of being weak in front of the crew and your son, the demons you live with from last years volcano, all go away. You know you are going to make it and the brutal, exhausted nirvana sets in. You son is a real honest to goodness cyclist. The crew is an assemblage of dicks that is never going to cut you a break. That's why you hang out with them, because you are a dick too, and no one else will have you. You don't really feel that bad and the pain is no longer magnified by fear. You ride into the last clearing and see the gate. You don't need an award or a pat on the back from anyone. It was only a big deal in your head. It is really just another mountain bike ride to which you have attached a bunch of symbolism. In the strata of your timeline, it will be another grain of sand, over the miles and miles of dirt.