So, a new era is starting for me. My plan for this writeup was to do a summary review of my blog-to-date and characterize a group of posts as comprising a certain “era” and thus to fit this new start into that context. Then I realized that this effort is at once somewhat daunting and a little depressing.

Therefore, I’m simply starting again. My mom passed away 9 months ago today and I’m only now, I believe, able to battle my way out of the depression and apathy, the searching for motivation and purpose, that followed.

Yesterday I got out and rode the bike. An 11.5 mile ride; it was my first in a week or so and only my 5th ride in 8 weeks. I’ve lost an incredible amount of fitness and bike ability, and correspondingly, gained a pretty amazing amount of weight. I’ve put myself through 9 months of hell, and really put off a good friend in the process.

This is a good segue to the new era, though. Succinctly, I’m not (currently) able to do on a bike what I could last summer/autumn. It’s hard work for me to ride a fraction of the distance I did. Coming to grips with my own past potential is what’s been keeping me off the bike for months, a vicious cycle that reinforces itself. More time passes, I lose still more fitness, and become still more discouraged about the growing gap between “what I could do” and “what I can do” – so I stay off the bike.

But I finally realized I need to simply break that cycle. *I am here*, right now; it doesn’t matter what I could do before. The title of this blog post is a reflection of my determination to basically start over from scratch, rediscovering the joys (experienced in 2011, 2012, 2013) of being able to extend my abilities, ride a little further, a little faster, expanding my options, and falling in love once more with this pursuit.

To that end, during yesterday’s ride I identified with two key concepts which I believe I’ll find useful as I progress. Viewing physical prowess in financial terms, I will start being aware of my “spending limit” and of “leverage”.

With RE to a given bike ride – my “spending limit” is the total work output I can reasonably put forth before I’m burning the candle too aggressively. This output is shaped by distance but also by terrain (hills, flats), wind, etc. It’s a general idea of “how difficult” of a ride I’m capable of doing, more or less on demand, and without undue repercussion, such that I could repeat the same exertion the following day, and the day after. At various times in the past (which now I’m deliberately forgetting exists at all), my “spending limit” was pretty high, for a mortal. That is, compared to some of my bicycling friends, I was a pauper; but relative to the man on the street, I could do a lot. I could reasonably jump on a bike in most conditions and go ride X miles, day after day. Well, my current spending limit is pretty low. But that’s ok. I will start where I am and, through my efforts – through consistent riding, healthy eating and drinking, diligent weight training at gym, etc, I will gradually extend my spending limit.

Lest the reader think I am being OVERLY analytical/precise, I make no effort here to actually quantify this “spending limit”, either now or in future. I am merely aware of a fuzzy probability space that it occupies. My spending limit now is not what it was in September, but it’s also not what it will be 3 weeks from now, or 2 months from now, or 4 months from now. The goal is to gradually but consistently, and unceasingly, expand the “spending limit”.

The concept of “leverage” is closely related, in fact maybe indistinguishable. It refers to the “micro level” of effort within a given ride. In other words, as a general statement, to the speed I can maintain over X distance, over Y terrain, etc. It refers to the range of freedom I have to kick it up a notch or two, and still be able to complete that ride reasonably comfortably. My “leverage” capacity is also not what it was last year. Within a given ride now, I have to be much more wary of exertion, of wind and hills, etc. My options aren’t as wide as in the past. But, as with the above concept, the idea is to expand this over time, back to where it previously was, and then much beyond.

All of this within the context of simply accepting that “this is where I am now” and attempting to rediscover the simple joys of being able gradually to do more and more on the bike. If I catch myself comparing “now” with “back then” – and I inevitably do sometimes – it can be discouraging. The key will be to forget that and simply focus on inexorable improvement NOW.

I still have some major bike-related goals – a lot but not all of them centered around randonneuring – which I am going to work hard to bring back into my grasp. When all is said and done, I will have lost over a year’s worth of time in terms of bike fitness and options. But taking the long view, that’s not as huge and smarting a penalty as it certainly seems right now. I expect to be able to ride, at distance, for decades more – and if so, I have lost only a small amount, perhaps 3%, of that time, to this period of depression and searching for motivation.

We ride forward now into the future, gradually expanding what is possible.