August 30, 2009

Finding myself in the darkness

I rather like this fall preview, but I don't know my Farmers Almanac well enough to know if this is the harbinger of a really cold winter, or just an odd cycle.
Precursor or not, this mild snap in August has really been going on since July. I suppose it's weird bringing a jacket along to an August Dark Side Ride, but I almost needed it on the last leg home. I'm definitely not used to anything below 70°F, but I can't really remember the last time I felt 'hot' this summer when riding home from work. Still, I felt downright cold at times as I pedaled south from town, and upon reaching the turn-around in Belton I almost caught myself in a shiver. The caffeine I ingested there was more to fire up the furnace than it was to keep me awake. Same for the hot-ish pace during the first leg of the ride from Spring Hill High: sure, the excitement of the group and the hills got me pumped up, but it was almost neccessary to keep the pace up to stay warm. I was not proving to be the best 'ride leader' in that regard, but I think everyone was in good spirits, and I got a lot of help from the group.

I have to reiterate here: there is something magical about a night ride. Its turning into my favorite thing to do. The stars come out, the moon plays in the clouds, and the traffic dies. The sounds of trains, dogs, and the hum of chains and conversation and tires against the silence of nightfall. Love it. The mystical fog and the cold valleys made this ride especially neat.

On the return, Crowbar and I took caboose-duty, helping out someone that was along for the ride and chopping up his longest ride EVER to date. The man is "DB", until another nickname sticks, and his passion as a newbie is inspiring. The subject matter flowed from tires to passing cars to fatigue to commuting method, and all the while we pedaled along and watched the sights pass by. It was pretty cool, and it reminded me of things long-since taken for granted. While it was hard to let the fast-pack go on ahead, it was also the first time in a while where I didn't have a single care about the clock. For a few miles I'd pedal along in solitude, then I'd drop back and join the conversation for a while, then find myself falling back into my own pace again.... Slow up, u-turn, rejoin. For a few brief moments here and there, I felt like I was at the end of a long brevet.

Reminds me that I haven't ridden a proper rando-ride in a while, and how the MS Ride is just around the corner: a perfect springboard to a 200k permanent. A friend's comments recently put in perspective my accomplishments. Brevets aren't for everyone. Neither are rules. It was nice on Friday to not have to worry about signatures and time stamps... but I've grown to revel in the rules and the goals that come with randonneuring, more specifically what those rules and requirements have done for me. Surely I'd still enjoy cycling just as much if none of it ever 'counted', if there were no medals or time windows... but a big part of me does hope it all counts for something. Maybe I need it to? In the last twelve years I have reshaped myself and gained a strength I never would have imagined possible back in the day. For who I've become, I think I need those rules... that chase... that occasional 24-hour race. I don't think its for anyone else... not trying to best anyon
e or prove anything ... I think part of me just needs to have some sort of official validation. Perhaps part of me always will.

What's interesting is that in the past six months I have really allowed myself to enjoy stuff that doesn't fit on the official rando chart. I've had a blast, and part of it is found partially in being comfortable in my own skin finally. Maybe I still don't know who I am, precisely, but being a randonneur definitely helped get me closer to an answer. Of that, I am proud - and its made the rest of my life easier to live, easier to enjoy.

I've tried to limit my references to cycling lately, in certain circles, because I don't want to become a predictable, crashing bore, but I supposed it is the niche I fit into. Its better to wait for someone to ask, like during the ride. As I listened to the questions of DB while I rode along, I felt like I'd passed on something to a new rider who is just beginning his journey... A journey that I started only a decade or so prior. I dunno, maybe I think too much: but it did get me thinking about what things were like when I'd just got started. Cycling has become such a big part of my life, I really - seriously - have no clue what I used to do to pass the time ten years ago.

I must have been really bored. It really gets into you, this whole 'car-free' thing. Life does not become easier, but I think I almost prefer this. Even at the late hour, even with the offers of rides, the chill in the air. I really just preferred to be on the bike. Not to prove anything or best anyone. I just feel right. Its slowly becoming "who I am".

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