Monday, July 14, 2014

The Up Side of Down Time

Saturday social ride to view sunset over the Cuyahoga River, with Dom, Dave, Jackie, and Kristen
I figured that my newly diagnosed torn calf muscle would be a great way to get myself re-centered, as far as cycling.

Most of my riding is either training for something or racing. It is prescribed, and deliberate. Every ride has a purpose. My rides are all goal-driven, 'A'-type exercises. Even on the easy days.

So I saw this necessary down time as an opportunity. I thought it would be nice to be able to take a break from that kind of training rigidity while I allowed myself to heal.  One time I dragged the 'cross bike out of the garage and hit the towpath. The next day I meandered into downtown Cleveland for an evening with friends at nano brew. On Sunday I signed up for an invitational ride with no expectations but to get in some miles, and to ride in a group that had no interest in sprinting for signs or challenging for QOM.

Everything started out just fine. Riding like this would be like old times, I thought, before I was into racing. Back then I would pick a destination for its own merits, maybe pack a sandwich in my back pocket. I thought I could easily slip back into that mode, now that I was forced to do so.

And what if I really enjoyed the slow ride? Maybe I would become like those riders you see in Adventure Cycling's magazine, the ones who seem to not know - or care - that using bikes for the purpose of racing is an option, because they're so focused on how to get across Mongolia or something. I could be like those tweed riders in their lace-up boots and steampunk skirts, carrying whiskey bottles in their handcrafted handlebar baskets. I would start comparing the merits of various panniers, and learn the lingo of the latest hydraulic braking technologies.

This kind of thinking lasted about 10 minutes. Those were all good intentions. Naturally, they didn't have a chance.

Less than a week into my paradigm shift, I've found out something really important about my relationship with my bike. I found out that I don't like to 'just ride';  I like to ride hard, and fast.* I want to finish every ride exhausted. I want to feel the effort days later, while walking to Starbucks or climbing steps. Better yet, I want that feeling I get after a balls-to-the-wall group ride, unable to sleep because my leg muscles are twitching, reminding me what I did to them, or what they can do for me. I crave that.

*I especially don't like to watch friends and teammates racing when I'm not able to do so myself. It makes me feel like a caged animal. 

I know I mentioned before that this year is kind of a wash for me, even before the injury. Competing interests coupled with a loss of mojo have made every ride harder than it should be. My theory that maybe I just needed a break may prove to be spot on (and I sense that the Universe made this decision for me because it knew that I could not), if only to show myself how necessary, how integral this all is: the structure, the effort, the drive to the next goal. It may take me a while, but I know where I need to be, and I need to get back there.