Monday, January 17, 2011

Life Back in the Maintstream

A number of months have now elapsed since the end of the ride, and with that passage of time comes clarity of lessons learned and changes in attitude and perspective--some detectable and others not.  The last night of our ride, one of the tour leaders discussed with the group the effect that such a journey might have on us.  For her, she re-examined what was important in her life, and made a major career change as a result.  At that time, revelations of this magnitude had not become apparent to any of us, and as the days since the ride have passed, many I have talked with still have not had huge 'a-ha' moments.  However, many have had smaller, more numerous discoveries.

For me, the transition back appeared to be seamless on the surface.  I was glad to be home, and if I didn't ride again, that would be 'ok'-- my hiney had had enough.  Well, that lasted about a week; the pull of the bike became too great and I was out riding again. Upon rejoining my local bike group, I found I was slower than I was at the same time last year, and my nerve riding in the fast-moving, tire-to-tire pace line was missing.  I struggled to keep up with riders I rode with easily last season, and was very timid riding in the  paceline, keeping several feet distance between my bike and the person in front of me. That was a tremendous surprise and bothered me greatly; I had expected to come back faster and stronger!  As the season progressed, tire-to-tire riding, again, became comfortable, and I worked my way back up into the pace group with which I was used to riding. Along the way, however, I made a discovery.

Though I love the thrill of the speed and a 30 person paceline moving as one, the focus and attention it takes to do so safely does not allow room for enjoying anything beyond that paceline.  My focus is entirely on the riders in front of me, beside me and the road beneath my wheels. I am not mindful of the scenery, nor even of where I am. It is thrilling, but I have ridden some of the courses for several years now, and could not give directions back to our start point; that is how unmindful I am of anything but my immediate surrounding. So for me, one of the things I have discovered is that backing off the speed and taking in the scenery is just as enjoyable as the rush I get from going fast and furious.

This realization has overflowed into my life off the bike.  I have always been very results oriented.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but in chasing the result, I often forget to look up and appreciate what is around me, whether it is people, events or scenery.  This journey has shown me that I can have a balance; I can still 'speed' and obtain my results, but I can do so at a pace that affords me the time to immerse myself in my surroundings.

I did miss the freedom of being able to ride countless miles with little attention to time and money.  The biking bubble that surround us during the Southern Tier ride had definitely burst.  Now, the real world intruded on my rides, and I was mindful of the clock; riding three, four, five hours a day is no longer possible.  Now, two hours pushing the peddles is a good ride.

The other big transition was that I was back in a metropolitan area, and if I need to go to the bathroom, ducking into an field or behind a bush was not going to work anymore.  Another freedom gone....

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