On Sunday I rode with Les, from Tryon bikes. He turned out to be a terrific riding partner, one of the best in fact. A former mountain biker turned roadie… just a few months out of surgery, building his mileage.
When people ask me what pace I am riding, I never know. I stick to my HR zones as they need to be that day. Sunday it was a simple zone 1 long ride. It was beautiful out. Sun, some wind, and good company. We looped back to Mendon to join up with the final Tour de Cure ride and I got to ride with those folks for a few miles too.
It’s been awesome to watch these folks build up their mileage since December. I love watching people achieve new distances, things they didn’t think were possible. The excitement on their faces…. that’s what I am here for in the first place. As we rode I felt at peace. I wasn’t chasing any particular speed, just my own HR zone. Fueling like I know how, loving every minute of those five hours.
It’s taken me the better part of the last 6 months to build my health back. It’s been a long road. I haven’t talked about what happened…. I might never. It was a deliberately small group of people who helped me through it, who carried me to be honest. Who let me have moments of frustration and anger. Who walked me through the small stepping-stones of coming back.
I didn’t plan for all of it to happen this way. It just kind of did. I have never been through anything like that before, and it caused me to get really…. really comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was beyond getting comfortable at a hard effort or with the fatigue of training. That… is actually now the easy part. When I am sore I relish in the feeling of being able. I never have the feeling of “UGH, I don’t want to do this session.” because I have been in the position where I wished for that kind of pain.
What it took to get from there to here was a tremendous amount of trust. I was in uncharted territory as far as training went. There was a lot of “Should we even be doing this.” and then a lot of “I am not sure, but let’s move forward anyway.” Training became the way for me to heal and get through more than it was about physiologically becoming stronger.
The stronger part has been happening in the process.
It’s funny because I don’t really look at paces or power. I keep a loose eye on all of that. I am present only in the process to be honest. I know the rest will come with time. I was in a position where I could not dictate the timeline of when my body would respond. I knew it would be slower than usual. So I let go and I leaned into it. I leaned on the few people who were in the know. And we just kept moving forward.
Something really magical has happened in this process. I had never lost the joy of training through all of this…. I have always looked at my athleticism as a gift. But now there is more than joy in training. There is absolute happiness. Yet I had never lost the love.
It’s like I have been born again so to speak. The gift of being an athlete feels more like a gift. It’s absolutely beautiful to me.
When everything came down last year I went through a period of “why me.” And as I stand over on this side of it I think “Thank God it was me.” Because I can handle hard things. I can handle a rocking boat. I can not be shaken by a diagnosis and I can keep moving forward.
There was a substantial wind coming from all directions this past weekend. Actually that’s been the theme of late. I love the wind to be absolutely honest with you. It teaches you not to fight, but to relax. It teaches you that if you tense up and white knuckle the handlebars that you are one step away from getting knocked down.
The wind teaches you trust. Lean in….. relax…. trust that it will hold you up. Trust that you don’t know where the end of the wind lies but know that it will. And then another gust will come and you have to relax even more.
Wind is metaphorical. At least for my life. When that big gust comes you just have to take it. Smile. Keep moving forward through it. Trust that it won’t hurt you and if it does hurt you there will be people around you to help you get back up. Never fight that wind, because it will fight you back and it will win. Wind is bigger. Wind is stronger. You have to learn to roll with it and how to accept it while continuing to move forward.
As I rolled into the driveway I again had that feeling of 100% gratitude. It was a hard journey. Not one that I could have learned anywhere else, from anyone else. If there is one thing I am good at it’s paving my own way…. with a lot of help from a few people I can trust with my life. It’s been a long and strange road….. but it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me a lot about trust. Trust in the process, trust in myself and trust in the universe.
And it’s something I will never be able to teach.