When I think about how I entered 2019—depressed, anxious, confused—I can scarcely believe how I ended the year. If someone had asked me where I thought I’d be at the end of the year, the scenario I’d have conjured would have been at best all the same fenceposts, but maybe better mood. The things that troubled me at the beginning of the year were such that I was only willing to allow myself to hope that they’d bother me less, not be resolved.
I didn’t anticipate that I’d find the opportunity to do counseling aided by Ketamine, that my living situation would find resolution, that I’d close the year with a new job. I’m beginning the new year happier, more centered and more confident than at any other point in my life. My relationship with both of my sons is running so high we are near flood stage.
And then there was the riding. I’ve recorded more miles, more hours on the bike, but 2019 was a year where I enjoyed a number of special days on the bike. From the Grasshoppers to Dirty Kanza, I tackled some of the toughest events I’ve ever started, and I finished them all. But the best part of my riding year weren’t those big events. Truly, the best part of my year was the time I spent doing the rides that make up our lives. There were the hard training rides, the easy recovery rides. There were pretty hard self-thrash fests that may not have done much for my fitness, but saw me return home with a fresh grin. There were surprising occasions, like riding eMTBs with all-around badass Mark Weir and the day I rolled 161 miles, largely alone, in preparation for Dirty Kanza. And then there was my first-ever ride down the California coast with the Arthritis Society, where I met a cast of characters I’ll not forget in this lifetime.
I recently read an essay in which the author delineated the difference between Zen Buddhism and the major religions of the world. He wrote that Zen isn’t a religion because it doesn’t come with a bunch of prescriptive rules; it’s not a destination. Rather, Zen Buddhism is spiritual practice, a pursuit, a thing that informs one’s sense of self, of the world.
That may be the best description for what cycling does for me I’ve encountered. Is it meditation? Sure. Is it exercise? Yeah. Is it recreation? Absolutely. But more than that, it is a way for me to check in with myself, a place to plumb my own depths and to ultimately discover the epiphanies that help me process my experiences.
Could another sport give me all this? I suspect so. But for me, this has been the right fit, the aggregation of my love of motion, my love of machines and technology, my love for introspection. Even when things were bleak, the bike managed to remind me that the world would always contain moments of sublime beauty.
To say that I owe my happiness to cycling is no stretch. It was thanks to cycling that I learned about flow states. It was through flow states that I learned a great deal about the neuroscience that underpins our greatest experiences. It was through neuroscience that I began to see pharmaceuticals like Ketamine, MDMA and LSD—not to mention psilocybin mushrooms—in a new light and that new light allowed me to embrace “How to Change Your Mind” which led me to find the clinic where I’ve done my Ketamine treatment. Without the bike, I’d never have found the treatment that has profoundly changed my life.
I once wrote that quitting robs you of more than the thing itself. Sticking with cycling has also given me more than the thing itself.