Saturday, August 24, 2013

The thin line that runs through everything and holds it all together

Bicycle-created art by Christian Grillitsch (Velodraw)

I was back at Tour of the Valley, waiting at the line for the start of the road race.

(Don't worry: this is not a race report. You don't come here for race reports; race reports are boring. Race stories, on the other hand, can be quite entertaining, even more so over time when memory fails and details begin to fall apart. Let's just wait.)

Everything about this race was familiar. Same start line, same sun shining down on our field of about 15 women. An electric current of nerves and hope and determination and excitement. Just like last time, and the time before that.

And, of course, it was totally different. This year I was with new teammates, wearing a different kit, racing under a new strategy. Same route, different race altogether.

In the short time I had to get philosophical, I thought how I could almost trace a line from last year to right now, following the course of where I was - who I was - back then, all the way around the year to right here, back at the start.

So much of my life is defined by this one thing, this one sport that I have chosen to pursue as if my very life depended on it. Cycling has woven itself into the fabric of my soul, and by choosing to let this passion lead me, I see how it not only determines the road I follow, but also how it connects everything together. Pull it out, and I will unravel.

It was surprising to consider how most of the choices I make are very much informed by my cyclophilia. Has it become that much of an obsession? I can look back on my past as if it were a tapestry woven through with the colors and patterns and designs of all those things, of the people and places I've formed connections with because of the bike: strangers who have become friends, friends who will become memories, those whose own lines are inextricably interwoven with mine forever. On two wheels, I spin myself into a future of familiar uncertainty.

I point my bike in the direction of my choice. I may not know what I'll find when I get there, or what will happen along the way. The only thing that is certain is how I got there.

I've lost count of how many races I've done, how many times I've waited at the line for that starting gun. I won't even jinx myself by wondering how many more times I'll be here again. I'll just keep following, or maybe I'll get pulled along by, that thin line that leads me to where I need to be.

P.S. Next weekend I'll be in Minnesota, riding (once again) with my friend Tim Marks who is training (once again) for the Furnace Creek 508. I'll be joining him on his usual 125-mile Saturday training ride, in Prescott, WI. That route is a bitch. It was last year, and I expect that it will be the same this year. Some events feel less like a 'spiral' of time, and more like a really painful re-run.