Cycling is a solitary sport. You get on your bike, set a goal, and pedal off towards it. In the last ten cycling days, I have had a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts. Even when cycling in a group, I find myself lost in the scenery or focusing on moving forward instead of chatting with my fellow cyclists.
The last ten days have stripped me of most of my unnecessary needs. Things feel more primal now. I am concerned about only my bodily functions: what hurts, how to get over the next hill, what and when I’ll get to eat, where I can pass out, and going to the bathroom. Nothing else really matters. With all my needs taken care of, and my only job to cycle and build, I have the luxury of getting in touch with what my body needs.
When I hurt, I listen to my body and adjust my bike. It is amazing how the smallest of things can make a huge difference when compounded by repetitive motion over many miles. This morning a small push of my seat back to center stopped my left foot from going numb. Last week, an adjustment of my foot stopped my knees from aching.
With my body taken care of, it just becomes me, the road, and my thoughts. I’ve already written about the demons that plague me, telling me I was foolish even to begin this trek. In the last two days, those negative voices gave way to something rare for me: silence, joy, and serenity.
Yesterday, about ten miles into our day, we decided to take a detour and see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The road to get to the western rim of the canyon was three or four miles of a goregous, traffic-less, wooded, winding road. As I pedaled up the sweetly steady grade, the voices of my fellow cyclists faded into the distance and I was surrounded by the sounds of the dense woods. Birds chit-chatted back and forth, the leaves of the vibrant green trees rustled, reminding me of a brook, and the ever steady creak of my pedals let me know my pace was even. My breath matched my feet, and I fell into a rythmic trance. The road felt never-ending at my slow pace, and I was glad at its length. It twisted and turned, first right, then left, disorienting me. Only the grade let me know I was heading to the top.
I was reminded of the many labyrinths I have traversed. You place one foot in front of the other, taking account of your breath, your surroundings, the feelings that come up. Labyrinths wind you first close to their centers, and then far away from them, allowing you to meditate on the unintelligible nature of life. Just when you feel close, you are farther away from your center than ever.
I loved the climb, and the view from the top was too beautiful for me to describe. The peace and wonder at the twists and turns of the road, and the thought of never knowing what my future may hold stuck with me through my ride today. Instead of checking my speed and milage (my bike computer needed a new battery, so that helped), I listed out things I was grateful for during climbs. I listened to the joys I have in my life, and more and more things came to me.
Today I loved cycling, every hill, and every decent. I hope this peace and joy stays with me during my ride tomorrow as well.