Rush hour traffic.
Why was it I thought I wasn't going to get my intervals in today? ;)
Today's riding was the kind of solo riding I love -- intense, focused, fast. I also like long solo cruises, but they need relaxed roads (and a relaxed mood). Today, I was downtown at the shop (drooling over Hg's new bottom bracket), and needed to be in the Highlands stat. Broadway was the quickest route, so Broadway it was.
I had kind of forgotten how amazing it feels to pilot a bike in those conditions. Fast, intense riding in traffic rockets me into that beautiful zone where you really feel like one with the bike, and you forget that failing to trust the bike and your body is even a possibility. You're alert but focused; the monkey mind turns off, and it's cycle-induced serenity all the way. There is no room for anything else. This, too, is why I ride.
It seems simultaneously like yesterday and like a really long time ago that the climb up Broadway into the Highlands used to kill me. At some point, I started taking a different route -- Stoneware Alley to Mercy Way -- because even though the climb up Mercy Way is way, way punchier than the one on Broadway, traffic was rare, and I could take as long as I wanted spinning up it and not feel intimidated (it so happens that when I'm heading for destinations east on Bardstown road, that route is generally more efficient anyway).
I was thinking about this while I was cranking up Mercy Way today. It was rush hour still, the sole time of day one is particularly likely to encounter traffic on that route at all, and I wanted to get out of the way -- so I got my butt up off the saddle and hammered, and it actually felt really good. The funny thing is that a year ago, I probably couldn't have done that -- and almost certainly not on QS, whose smallest gear isn't really all that small.
On Sunday, Tim and I talked about riding rollers; I realized I like rollers in part because I can simply pound up them. Right now, I'm less effective on long climbs than I'd like to be, but I like the way shorter climbs feel. Likewise, I've realized that the term 'shorter climbs' is relative -- there are climbs that I now consider 'short' which felt really, really long a year ago. I wonder what the climbs that feel long now will feel like a year from now?
I am grateful for today's ride -- grateful that I lingered in the shop far longer than I meant to, so I would have to really punch it getting up to the Highlands.
I'm grateful because it reminded me that it's good to appreciate the now.
Lately, I've been spending too much time thinking ahead -- thinking about 'cross season, or next spring, and whether I'm actually going to manage to take off some poundage or which water-stop's closed-circuit television security display was more accurate -- the one that makes me look like a lycra sausage, or the one where I just look kinda chunky, but not totally ridiculous?
It was nice to be reminded that I've come a long way since I started riding again, and that I'm actually riding pretty darned well right now (I 'climb well for my weight,' I guess ^-^). Especially for a (still) overweight asthmatic in the Asthma Capital of the Universe, in the dead of summer. Lately, I've really lost sight of that fact.
More importantly, it was really good to be reminded of the singular role that riding the bike plays in my life as a vehicle for meditation.
My mind has never been quiet during a session of sitting meditation. I suspect I could sit for a solid week and my mind would still be busy chattering away like a deranged squirrel in an espresso factory (also, my face would be horribly, horribly itchy). But somehow, on the bike, in those moments of fierce, fast grace, it happens as if by magic: I clip into my pedals, drop into high gear -- and my mind is silent. It's just the bike, the wind, the world around me, and I am wholly in the moment.
The best moments of Sunday's ride were like that, too. There was one point at the bottom of the last gravel descent where I let go of brake levers and trusted the C'dale to do its thing -- and, amazingly, we did not end up rubber-side up, nor did I crash out the entire group ... and for a beautiful, blissful moment, my mind was totally quiet.
In those moments, I can see why so many people seek Nirvana with such dedication. That particular kind of being is bliss.
Anyway, Hg should have his new bottom bracket installed tomorrow (huzzah!). I can't wait to try it out. We sprung for the fancy ceramic one, since it should last a long time and I plan to ride the bejeezus out of that bike. From what I've heard, it probably won't feel terribly different than the original, but it'll be nice to ride without fear of imminent crankarm ejection.