Oh, the feel of spring, as my legs come back to life. Finally, the grip of winter has gone and my legs wake from latency. The tightness in my tendons eases as that the cold north wind turns to a warm southerly flow, and old man winter is but a fading memory. And the anticipation of spring’s warmth is enough to elevate one’s will, and I welcome the change in season.
Everything in my universe rotates around cycling and the lengthening days of spring now offer more opportunities for riding, more regularity daily and none of the hesitation of dealing with the perils of winter. Spring is Utopia for the cyclist, you may say. There is however one caveat in spring: The acrimony that comes from realizing spring doesn’t come free of charge.
Each spring riders must swallow a bitter pill of atonement. Even PROs have to regard this helpless estate. Less daily mileage during winter, Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie and a daily morning Cappuccino all translate into at least some weight gain during winter. Not to mention the legs suffer without having the long daily rides, or the regular grind we take for granted in summer and fall. Lucky for me (or not), it affects many of my fellow riders similarly, and it is during spring that the rider must pay back for all those extras that have been lavishly enjoyed.
Just as the priest goes before the tabernacle and offers sacrificial atonement for the sins of many, so too must the rider pay penitence now in spring for winter’s excesses.
For some, they may never acknowledge winter’s decline, nor ever ride in their best form come spring and summer. For those riders who are honest though, there is a payback required in spring. Padraig wrote of a similar concept, of being ‘at terms’ during a race, when a few individuals come to the reality that they control a destiny, an outcome, and they are at terms with themselves and with the race. It’s a harsh thing, honesty with oneself, yet a fruitful outcome is possible if one recognizes it. There can be no excuses, no denials, and no transference of accountability at this time.
Atonement for the rider in spring is useful. When the rider comes to this awareness of form or lack thereof, in an honest self-assessment; spring’s work will be obvious. In such an assessment, we move toward being at one with ourselves. It is an utterly essential process, that the rider be ‘at onement’ in order to move up and move on. That is literally what atonement means, to be at one. I have also heard it explained that ‘the end depends upon its beginning’ and in fact spring marks the beginning for each rider each year. It’s a very orderly concept. The rider can focus on those weaknesses that can be mastered, and realize what lies ahead. The sting of self-affliction, the torment of correction, the lactate thrashing, and the effectual gasping for air are all required at the hand of spring.
And now we can accept this because we, in fact, realize we are indebted only to ourselves. Acceptance of this allows the rider to taper the body down, to chisel and to prepare for the season ahead. The dividends of such work will also be paid as we anticipate pulling the group with respect, hanging with riders better than ourselves and dropping our buddies in friendly local ‘world championship’ rides on summer evenings.
The catharsis of atonement in spring enables the rider to master all physical and mental aspects of riding. In the end, atonement liberates us from winter, seeking pardon and purification of those lavish excesses we enjoy. Atonement can allow us to prepare for and anticipate moving us into summertime form with success.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International