Empty but Full.

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And every day it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And every day it sucks. And every time I am the worst. And every day it’s too hot and I’m too thirsty and my legs are too tired and I want to turn around. And every Monday morning at training I want to quit. I want to throw up. I want to cry. I want to keel over. I want to leave this to cyclists who know what they are doing. I want to stop. Stop. Stop. Now.   I did this too early. I did this too soon. I only started cycling last year. And I am defeated in this training.

But, every time, with the sun and the grass and the wind and it’s so effing beautiful out there on a road on this exquisite bike and you are not intellect or a brain or thought, you are machine and you are moving and you are going faster than you thought you could and you are in a pace line and you are a cog and you are movement and you are moving, moving, moving.   You are. Going. Fast. Now.

This is being the least experienced, the least fit, the least knowledgeable, the least confident. This is being that red lantern that gets dropped five times on a ride. This is being in the middle of farm fields by yourself and telling your legs to keep going, telling yourself to keep going even though you want to stop because you are so embarrassed that you could be this terrible. This is your coach slowing down behind everyone else and letting you hop on his wheel and telling you strategy and telling you how it is and his words are pure and simple and they cool your nerves. This is you getting to the stop sign where your teammates are and them not making fun of you, but rather congratulating you. This is your teammate bringing you espresso goo because she is kind and good and smart. This is for the camaraderie that is only found on a team. This is for that admiration, adoration, acceleration that comes with being on Nickel City Cycles.

So, for all this rot I talk about myself you’d think I’d be this weak meak mite of a person, but you’re wrong. I’m strong. I’m so strong because of this weakness. I am so strong because I am doing something so hard for me. I find strength in learning to defeat my weakness. It’s the survivors that know the depths of their strength. It’s those who keep going and push themselves and their minds are empty of confusion. They are muscle and movement and moments colliding together to create now. Just now.

This is what it means to compete. I am in competition with the self that tells me I can’t. I am competing with the self that tells me I am weak. I am competing with the self that tells me to give this up. I am in this competition. And. I will win.

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Buffalove

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This is a call out to you.

This is a neatly written thank you note: letters swirl in 1950s’ cursive.

This is echolocation.

This is a kiss at the door and you taste like tea.

This is sinewy strings of connection from you to me and back again.

This is a note under the desk in lopsided letters.

This is a flashlight signal from my room to yours, “I’m here. You’re there.”

This is to whoever put that note on my bicycle.

This is a thank you.

Thank you for reminding me that I live in a city where a stranger would tie some yarn onto a note that says, “I kind of love your bike” and put it on my old red bike, so that walking out of the Lexington Co-op, I would discover it and exclaim out loud to myself, “Oh cool.”

I have been a stranger in a strange land of bikes.  Last summer at Campus’s Tuesday Night Rides, I could barely bike ten miles.  I could barely run two miles. I was twelve pounds heavier. I sat in an office all day. I knew no one in the group. My bike cost forty dollars and was made in roughly 1983. I rode with the C group and I got ice cream and I was scared on the curvy pedestrian bridge but I realized that something clicked. I liked going up a small hill. I liked the way the wind felt in my hair. I liked the energy of this group of people.

Now, last night I ran 4.75 miles. I biked twenty-nine miles on Friday. I am learning to race on a team. I am trying to ride fast. My bike is much better. I have a lot of cool gear. I have made some lovely friends who ride bikes in all sorts of ways.

But, your note took me back. Your note took me to the beginning of the journey. The journey that began with a red bike. They journey that continues with a red bike.

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I’m off. And, then I’m on.

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IMG_1417I am trying. I am riding. I am waking up and putting on my shorts and my jersey and my hat and I am driving and I am meeting up with my team and I am on the road and I am feeling good and I am in farmland and it smells like cows and there’s sunlight on hay and the roads are beautiful and I am loving this fifty degree weather and I am. I am. I am.

And, then I am not.

I am at the front of the pace line and I am pushing too much and it’s too much for my legs and I flick my right elbow and I drift back, but I drift back too much and I am gone. I am a foot, then feet, then four bikes, then ten bikes, then I see my team ahead and my mind is on fire and I want to quit and go home and do what I am actually good at which is studying.

F. this.

And then, my team notices and they pull back and I’m on a wheel and it’s hard and it’s still hard and then I fall off again.

Double F. this. Give me an espresso. Give me a book. I’ll kick it at writing a poem, at reading in front of people, in writing by myself, in anything to do with computers. Not this. My body hurts. I need a bloody beer.

And then my team stops and they wait by the side of a barn and it’s red and kind of cheerful and I see my captain and she says, “We’ve all been there.” And, my teammate tells me what I did wrong and how to correct it and we’re a team and I’m with it and I’m failing and I’m writing about failing and maybe I am never going to be good at this and maybe I’m the worst one out of everyone in this entire racing community and maybe I should just stop because who the hell cares about bicycling.

And, then I’m back on. We’re off and I follow my teammate who is strong and consistent and smart and she’s a coach and she’s coaching me and it’s not condescending, it’s awesome and I feel good and she says, “Do you trust me?” and I say, “Yes” and I’m so close to her wheel, closer than I’ve ever been to another person’s bike while riding sixteen miles per hour and she’s talking to me and she’s telling me how to breathe and I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. I’ve never thought about sports like this.” I’m communicating with her and I’m yelling, “I’m off” and she slows and then I yell, “I’m on” and we’re back and this is incredible.

This is training this morning.

Yesterday was a race. Yesterday was a time trial. Yesterday was pure enjoyment after being so nervous I threw up. I was scared before and I was slow during. I wanted to quit, but I was racing. And, I was beat by every single person out there. Every single person. Yes. Me. It’s true. And you know what? I feel great because it’s about progress. It’s about what I am now and what I’ll become. It’s about learning. It’s about growth. It’s about getting better. It’s not fixed mindset. It’s growth mindset. It’s now compared to last year. It’s now compared to what I’ll be in ten years. Every single person at that time trial beat my time and I left that race as happy as a clam.

I got in my car and turned on Del the Funky Homosapien and the music flooded my ears and I drank some good, cold water and I could still feel the way the wind felt through my hair on that course and the way the racers looked on the side of the road, racing, racing, racing, against each other, against themselves and I realized I had done it. I had actually done it.

And, I am whole.

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