When I’m getting dressed, I’m sure I’m forgetting something. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve dressed to ride thousands of times before. I’ll catch myself putting on the wrong socks, forgetting a baselayer, walking away without gloves. I know that I forget things, and that knowledge somehow compounds the sense of disorder I feel, as I’m trying not to forget things.
Then I’m pulling my shoes on, and suddenly my mind jumps to the ride, the route, the distance, the companions. There is an analytical matrix that springs up in my head. Will this be hard? Do I know the way? Is Bruce as fit as I think he is? Sadly, I only put this particular line of neurosis to bed once I identify one person on the ride who is likely weaker than I am. What does that say? Don’t answer.
We roll out, and I go through the shakeout mile. Here I’m catapulted back to the things-I-forgot portion of the process. I have probably remembered to bring each of the items I meant to, but I somehow chose the wrong ones. This isn’t the right jacket. I’m going to be too hot/cold, but whatever. I can deal with it. I have a long history of dealing with it.
At some point I shift gears (no pun) to trying to “get on” with the ride, which is probably me pushing the pace a little to try to get into the work. I’m warming up, in a sense, by overheating, like I need a little spike of effort to allow me to back off, settle down, and find my rhythm. This plays out not overly well with my usual riding companions, but they’re all doing some version of what I’m doing. The patterns are established at this point. We’ve accepted each other, for better and worse.
Then there is the magical middle part where you’re in the flow of things. You’re working away, moving through time and space. You’re comfortable with the discomfort you’ve cultivated. There is, in some alternate dimension, a countdown clock running. It marks the moment you will no longer be comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s the next shift in thinking.
OK, I overcooked it, or underestimated my friends, who have obviously been training in secret. I’m now in the real struggle, trying to hold wheels. I’m not looking around anymore. I’m not taking in the sights. I’m focused on survival. There are some occasions where my body clears some hurdle and I return to relative calm to finish out the ride, or my friends slow down because they too have overcooked it. We’ve somehow stacked our egos against each other and all come up wanting. That’s ok. It’s nice to roll down the street to the house shattered.
The reckoning comes in the kitchen, where I strip down and empty the refrigerator into my face. At this point, I’m wondering what the rest of the day looks like. Have I gone so deep that I’m useless until the next morning, or can I cobble myself back together with cold pizza and seltzer and a hot shower?
This week’s Group Ride asks, what are you thinking on ride days? What does the arc look like for you? Do you have it so dialed in that nary a flicker of neorosis appears on your mental horizon? Or do you follow the same worn path I do?