As I head out on my ride, I decide to take a route that’s not been traversed for a good year. It’s not an epic route or a long route. It has some bike path, one teeny climb, a few rollers. Little traffic. Little spectacular scenery. But pleasant all around, and just the right mileage for the day’s needs: AT intervals and clearing out the cobwebs in my head.
I start pedaling.
As I hit the bike path that leaves town for my warm up, I’m reminded of what spun through my mind the last time I saw this particular view. The problems of then seem insignificant when compared to the problems of now. Why was I so worried? Yesterday feels like a pebble, today feels like a boulder.
The path ends. I turn left onto the road, and begin my first effort.
In the middle of my effort, the one amazing view the route has to offer greets me. A vista of rolling hills, which are now golden in the California October. I recall what they look like when dressed in February’s emerald green. By default, I also recall what was going on in my life the first time I saw them in such a state and realized that the West coast is the polar opposite of the East Coast in winter. Another perspective offered up from another ride.
I continue on, and recover by spinning up a little hill.
It feels alarmingly easy. There was once a time when I couldn’t climb this hill without struggling in my smallest gear. Now, I don’t even drop down to the smallest chainring. A conversation I had with my friend Greg two years ago replays in my head. I remember telling him how lucky he was to have the choice of suffering versus not suffering while ascending it. Now here I am, not suffering myself.
I descend the other side and turn left, heading back towards the start and beginning my second effort.
By now the problem-dust in my head has been swept a little. Old memories begin to clear it out as I see familiar sights. The last time I passed by this house I was piecing my way through an argument with my sister. The last time I crossed the bridge I was thrilled at the prospect of buying a home. The last time I avoided that pothole I was deciding whether or not to break up with my boyfriend.
As I ride, I suddenly feel like the needle on a wax spindle, recording in the road the grooves of my life as it stands today. I know the next time I play this particular route, the music will come flooding back, along with all the previous songs I made, creating a harmonious collage of memories.
We do this every time we get on a bike, etching into the pavement our own personal stories of time and place. We can’t help it. We ride. We think as we ride. We look at things as we think. We leave conflicts we can’t deal with in the current moment behind us, replacing them with conflicts we previously left from another ride. We see the old problems with clearer eyes. We gain both perspective and distance.
As I pull back into the parking lot, the ride over and my head significantly lighter, I know I’ve grown a little bit as a cyclist with my intervals. But I’ve also grown as a person. And to me, that is the greater win.