The Unbearable Lightness of Biking

Winter Training

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And I’m pushing my feet and I’m going nowhere.  I am literally going nowhere: hundreds of miles into nowhere.  And this nowhere is some kind of home to me. This is what it means to train in a room with one other woman and we’re both sweating and we’re both hurting and we’re checking the numbers on the screen and we’re checking our legs and it feels like connection.  From myself to my self.

Yesterday, I went to hear some classical music at Kleinhans.  It’s this quartet and they are playing this music, but they aren’t just playing the music.  They are becoming the music.  Their bodies are moving; their faces are pain and anguish and delight and joy.  To see a concert violinist play her instrument is to see something profound.  It’s such a true experience.  So, this quartet is pulling the music out from themselves and offering it into our ears and it’s just so beautiful I could cry.  And that’s how I feel on my bike, when I’m really in love with my bike; I’m just on this thing that I’m propelling.  I’m making this experience worthwhile because of something deep within me.

Today on my bike, I’m seeing my numbers and I’m maintaining and I’m churning.  Churning. Churning.  When I train with my team, they say “Race face, Lex” because I have this habit of dropping my head down from how much it hurts, but today I keep my head up and I’m thinking about how light I feel at this moment and I’m also questioning some things.

Why do I ride my bike inside in the winter?  Why do I ride on this machine that takes me nowhere?  Why do I come here three or four times a week when I could be doing something else?  Why do I put myself in this state of being?

And the answer comes like tulips in spring.

It’s the beauty of the moment.  That feeling of power, of force.  It’s because I am going somewhere.  I am going somewhere inside myself.  I am finding a way into my truest self.  I am biking because I believe that I can do this.  I am training because I want to get better.  I am on here through the snow and the slush and the cold and the ice because I know that when I race, it will be these moments that I go to.  When I race this summer, it will be these moments behind me.

I don’t really like racing.  That’s the weird part.  I don’t like doing something I’m not amazing at.  This has been the hardest challenge.  I like winning.  I like being the best.   I like compliments.  I like people admiring me.  This is what I like.

I don’t like being last.

So, I get on this bike now and I say in my mind, “I refuse.”

I refuse to accept my current state.  I refuse to feel bad.  I refuse to be the worst.  I refuse this.

This isn’t to say I’m not to come in last.  It is very likely that I will come in last, but if I keep telling myself this then one day, one race, one moment, I will feel victorious.  This is the drive.  This is the condition.  This is the state of being.

The unbearable lightness of biking is that it feels like nothingness sometimes.  It feels existential.  It feels like it makes no sense; there are no definite reasons for doing this.  It feels pointless and without hope.  There have been races when I have been so alone out there.  There have been races when I am racing around in circles.

This is why some people say they don’t race crits.  This is the argument I was using before.  I didn’t race crits at first because I thought it’s pointless to race around in circles being last, bad, the worst.

However, this argument is flawed and invalid.  Life is circles.  Is it pointless to drive to work, do the work, drive home, get up the next day and drive to work, do the work, drive home?  No.  It is not pointless.  It is not pointless when it is meaning and it is meaningful because these experiences aren’t linear lines: they are moments, bloated, messy, pushing together, moments.  Endings are a man made concept.  It is all a blur.  We never turn distinctly from child to adult, from adult to elderly.  We are all the same.  It is all the same.  It is moments.  We are always all these things.  I am always still a child and an adult.  I am the moments before me and the moments I will have to come.

Training  is appreciating these moments.  Training is taking these moments by your hand and saying, “I want to experience these moments in this way.  I want to sweat during these moments.  I want to push my body in these moments.  I want to feel pain and suffering and then I want to feel reward in these moments.”

I find training to be an intensely meaningful experience because it tells me who I am.  It shows me how much I can do.  It makes me work and focus and feel joy.  It questions me each and every time, “Can you hold up?”
And I answer, I can.