The next kilometer is a son of a bitch. It is always in my head when it ought not be. It’s that embarrassing thing that happened when I was a teen. It’s that thing my friend said before he died. It’s the persistent worry that I will run out of money before I run out of time. It runs over and over and over, a pedal stroke, a free wheel, an absurdity.
The next kilometer is at least two kilometers long. It’s twice as steep as it was last time I was there, and I will surely blow up as soon as I get to it. There are monsters around every bend. There are potholes. The next kilometer is impossible, theoretical physics, antimatter, a unicorn.
This kilometer is hard enough. It deserves more of my attention. Honestly. I’m pedaling squares here. I’m slumped over like a drunk at closing time. How am I supposed to breathe like this? I’m going to crush these goddamned handlebars too. Loosen up, jackass. You’re burning watts with that death grip. Yes. Yes. This kilometer deserves much more attention.
The next kilometer is the cart, and I am the horse. It is the chicken, and I am the egg.
This kilometer is harder than it ought to be. Why am I so off today? Did I not eat enough? Did I not sleep well? Am I just off form? What the hell does that really mean? What is my form? Am I getting tendonitis in my knee? If this kilometer doesn’t give it to me, the next one probably will. Bernard Hinault had tendonitis in his knee. I am not Bernard Hinault.
The next kilometer. Is there a more pure expression of the future? In this present, everything is going worse in the future. It is going like it is going now, but more so. I don’t even dare think about the kilometer after the next kilometer. That would be pure hubris. That would be murder. Cain and Abel. Or worse, plucking that ancient apple and taking a bite. The stupid snake. Never trust a lizard with no arms.
The great mercy of cycling is that, at some point, the next kilometer becomes this kilometer enough that you run out of things to worry about, and you can slink off to the shower, pull on a fresh, clean shirt and some dry underpants, and begin the necessary process of revising the past, all those killer kilometers, into one nice smooth ride. Done. Dusted. And easy.