Evolution

August 31, 2012

A few days ago I set out on what ended up being about a 28-mile ride.  Originally planned for 42, but I’ll get to that.

This ride was noteworthy for me for a few reasons.

First, I would consider it a “top 10 ride”, meaning among my top 10 favorite bike rides I’ve taken.  This, despite the unplanned conclusion.  The route was great, I was feeling good, good music in the headphones, some hills, some flats, varying terrain…little bit of wind, little sprinkling rain, rolling at sunrise…it was a beautiful bike ride.

Second, something jelled in my mind during this ride in terms of when I should “push” myself to ride on a given day if I’m not really feeling up to it.  There’s a common saying in sports about “playing hurt vs. playing injured”, and knowing the difference.  The conclusion I reached on this day was somewhat analagous to this – “not wanting to ride” versus “not feeling like riding”.  Just like hurt vs. injured, they sound pretty similar, but what crystallized for me on this ride was that they are different for me.

I am, of course, overweight, as I explain right up front in this site’s foundational post.  Riding the bike began primarily as a means to lose weight (although I’ve found that I enjoy it in its own right).  One aspect of struggling with weight, as I always have and continue to even with my gradual success, is that there remains a tendency, reinforced over years of poor eating+exercise habits, to want to revert back to that lazier time.  The danger is that this has ramifications for both eating and exercise – meaning, the well-calcified habits include eating poorly and staying inactive.  Two sides of the same toxic coin.

When I am feeling a conscious, or subconscious, pull to surrender to this easier routine for a day (or longer!), this is what I now identify as “not wanting to ride”.  This is contrasted with “not feeling like riding”, which typically occurs on the day after a long (for me) ride, or when my body is just especially achey or tired.  When I “don’t feel like riding”, it’s my body telling me I should take a day to rest, while my spirit does very much want to get on the bike.  This is a normal, natural aspect of the work I’m doing to get into shape, and should be honored.  “Not wanting to ride”, however, is almost the polar opposite.  In this mindset, the body is willing but the spirit is not.  It’s a “decision” (which again can be either conscious or subconscious) to take the easy road for today.  The issue, of course, is that reverting to such habits that have become entrenched over years runs a risk of extending “today” for 2, 3 days – or more.  Well, I think to myself, I didn’t ride yesterday, and I let my eating go a little bit, and I’m still alive – so why not today also?  Flashing danger sign here!

For whatever reason – the mind works on all kinds of things while riding the bike at distance – this distinction became perfectly clear to me on this wonderful ride.  The appropriate response follows naturally – when I “don’t feel like riding”, I will typically heed it and let my body rest. This is the angel on my shoulder, wanting what is best for me. But when I “don’t want to ride”, this is the four-headed devil with fangs, wanting me to surrender to being less than I deserve to allow myself to be.  The antidote is to willfully push through every single time that I “don’t want to ride”.  Tell the devil no.

Another evolution in my “growth” (sounds so touchy-feely that I feel obliged to quotation it) was brought to the fore by the untimely end of the ride.  Up till now, I’ve never ridden with a spare tube or air pump.  Sacrilege, I know.  In fact, I’ll be candid – prior to this ride I didn’t really know HOW to change a bike tire.  I’ve always known I was rolling the dice riding dozens of miles away without means to fix a flat, but I’ve leaned on the steps I took to make my tires as flat-proof as I reasonably could at purchase.  Still, it’s only a matter of time, and that time arrived this ride.  With about 14 miles to go, I ran over a small piece of metal which flatted my front tire.  Having no means to change it, too far from home to walk it back, I had to call my buddy with my tail between my legs, to come out and pick me up.  Mrs. O, God bless her (and her husband, both of whom I inconvenienced), once again drove out to return me home safe & dry.  Needless to say, only a fool would continue to ride after that without supplies, so – after having my LBS fix the flat, showing me how to do it, and replacing both tires which had accumulated a ton of wear – I now ride with a spare tube and air pump.  Continuing on the path to becoming a real cyclist  🙂

In all, the ride that I was already planning to blog about as being a “top ten ride” before the flat turned out, viewed objectively, to be every bit that good even despite the premature conclusion, and a welcome evolution in my cycling journey.

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