My previous blog’s meditative and joyous state gave way to pain over the last two days. Pain is cyclical, like almost everything else–so over the last few days I have experienced a whole range of emotions, revolving around pain. The last two days have had many unexpected hills, heat, and bonus miles!
It all began with yesterday. It started in a YMCA in Warren. Our cue sheets (a cyclist’s list of turns to get from point a to b easily) were for a 60 mile day–easy-peazy at this point. We were excited to ride to Franklin, so we started on our way. We had a glorious 15 mile ride on flat roads before the detours began. The first detour was going to take us about ten miles out of our way. The day got hotter, and the detours kept coming. Road after road took us around construction or though the hot, sticky, newly laid pavement of construction sites. We were going out of our way and into the most hilly, dangerously hot, and worst roads in Pennsylvania.
There are no words for the ride. Moods were low after lunch, as the miles kept ticking away and the temperature kept rising. After each hill, I thought there was no way we could be going over another one, but they kept coming, and we kept going. WIthout a concrete number of miles ahead, we couldn’t focus on the countdown, we just kept wondering if the next turn would bring us to Franklin.
After stopping to swim in a deliciously stagnant body of water, we looked at mapquest. We decided we probably had about 30 miles left. 30 miles too many! A few crushing miles later, and the ridiculous hill pictured above behind us, one of our leaders flagged us over. It was 5:15 pm, nine hours into our ride, and we were told there were 15 more miles to go. As riders considered whether or not to van those last few miles, a fellow rider, Arthur, and I headed off. I couldn’t keep up, and we went our separate ways.
All the doubt, fear, and physical aches screamed at me. Could I actually make it up that hill? Was I strong enough? And as the questions kept flowing, my friend’s advice for this trip came to me: let it go. I shook my upper body out, relaxed my cramping feet, softened my face. I chanted Let It Go, Let It Go… and I slowly closed the distance between Arthur and myself.
Pain is something that is primarily mental for me. When I am hot, hungry, cranky, and have to climb hill after never-ending hill, pain is so real and so close. But when I relax and accept, the pain releases its choke-hold on me. And I can achieve my goals. I have never been so proud of a ride as I was of yesterday’s. And yet, even after realizing that pain is not permanent, today’s ride’s pain grabbed me again. But, I got to ride a tractor!