I’m not sure I really ever experienced ambivalence until I became a cyclist. Prior to cycling, my world was one of startling clarity. As a musician, I either liked a piece of music, or not. I either liked a performer or band, or not. Same for foods and movies.
But as a cyclist, I came to experience the thrill of seeing an utterly dominant ride by a guy I didn’t like, such as Andrei Tchmil. Everyone I know in the industry uses the D-word to describe him. But dude, seeing him in action at a race like Paris-Roubaix was a thing of beauty.
More recently, I’ve had to contend with performances such as Alberto Contador’s in stage 16 of the Tour de France. I plain didn’t like the move. However, seeing that acceleration and watching him keep the pressure on left me breathless. At the end of the day, what we want of our champions is a performance so impressive their dominance is apparent.
My real education in ambivalence came with regard to my own body. During my periods of sharpest fitness my hardest workouts leave me shattered. I’ll be able to walk when I get home; I can get through the shower, dress and eat without any real difficulty. But an hour or two after the ride ends the desire for a nap—a consciousness-blotting entombment of body—comes at me like the villain of a horror movie. Escape is as uncertain and tenuous as survival is in said movie.
While I marvel at the destruction I can impose on myself in just two hours, the fact that my legs feel like the Ninth Ward for the rest of the day really isn’t any fun. In fact, the only reason I can tolerate it is because I know what it does for my organic savings account. It’s embarrassing to walk around like a physical therapy project and the leaky concentration while I attempt to work is as frustrating as trying to win the lottery.
Like I said, there’s one reason I tolerate this feeling: At some point in the not-too-distant future I’m going to be fast—at least, faster than I’ve been—and that’s fun enough to pay for in blood. My own, in fact.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International