1 AM EST
I open my eyes, my room is dark and cozy, my two cats are nestled into my side, dreaming about whatever it is housecats dream about. I haven’t slept much, I didn’t think I would. I’ve got work to do. I hop out of bed, much to the dismay of the felines who verbalize their disappointment… Honestly you’d think I never fed them they way they whine. I staged everything last night, so all I need to do is dress up, rack the bike to my car and leave. My housemate is still out so the house is quiet. I promptly changed that by blasting some Danheim – Viking-ey music a friend recommended. It did the trick, and the aperture of my focus shifted from spotlights to laser beams. I was going to leave the state of Virginia with a bang – by completing my first double century ride, alone.
3 AM EST
I’ve made it to the trailhead – the Capital Trail that runs from Williamsburg, VA to Richmond, VA. The world is still very much asleep, and I alone am making waves of lights and sounds that float off into the night. I prefer it this way. I’ve packed a dozen protein bars, twenty GU packets, a portable battery, and 8 200 MG NSAIDs into my ultra vest, which is now strapped tightly across my back. Satisfied that I have everything I need, I lock my car, and head towards the trailhead, pedaling slowly and methodically, and running through a brief mental checklist for my ride. I’ve planned this ride all week, and tapered off my rides in preparation. I feel strong, my glycogen stores filled to the brim, and I have a massive scale mental exercise on the horizon. See, I don’t just do this kind of distance for “Shits and Giggles”. That bike owes me something, and every time I undertake a workout like this, I attack it relentlessly, body, and soul.Today’s ride would take me to Richmond, through the city and up to Ashland, VA. There I would continue north towards Fredericksburg, VA, and turn around once my odometer told me I had hit 100 miles. Rain was on the forecast, and I accepted this ahead of time. I would be tired. I would be wet. I would be in pain. The road would be less than ideal, and I’d be on the bike for twelve hours or more. This is the place that I would split my mind open, dive into the depths of my own existence, and touch the very center of my soul.As I began to pedal on the trail, I set my speed to sixteen miles per hour, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, I tell myself. The ground was wet from the recent rain, and the smell of wet vegetation was pleasantly floral, and woodsy. At this time of day, the world belonged to the original inhabitants of the land. My bike light illuminated many sets of eyes, peering at me from the blackness beyond. I was a guest in these lands, and they made sure I knew that. I came across everything, from deer and racoons, to possums and mice. About three miles into the trail, I came across a fallen tree. It wasn’t huge, and in my still sleepy state, I figured I could slowly ride around it. Wrong. I got jousted off of my bike, and less than gracefully, fell over. Embarrassing. I got up, brushed myself off, and made sure I hadn’t dropped anything. Satisfied, I remounted my bike, and continued onward.Once upon a time I suffered from some gnarly depression, the kind that sits heavy on your mind and soul, choking and corroding your existence like some kind of growth. I sought treatment, with the help of one really true friend, and over time, I got better. But as anyone who has dealt with this beast before knows, it never truly goes away, you just learn how to manage it, not unlike learning to live with an unruly roommate. During my treatment process, I found I had a weapon that obliterated my sadness with a merciless abandon – my bike. I could throw everything I had into those pedals, and while the creature was distracted, I would surgically trim and prune the center of my being in the direction I wanted, not the other way around. A couple years of doing this, and you could say I’m depression free, or close to it. That same damage control was what I was doing now, I would be leaving for a long trip soon, and wanted to be mentally ready. I started at the very beginning, my earliest memories, the happy ones yes, but I paid particularly close attention to the ones that hurt to think about. Pain is everywhere, and everyone has a story riddled with it. But I learned something a long time ago, those moments, both painful, and happy, defined and shaped who I am as a person now. To ignore them would be to ignore a part of myself, and no matter how ugly that part was, it was still mine. So I went. As I cut through the black night with a piercing light, the same was happening inside. Both body in mind, working in symmetry towards a common goal. Neither of them knew they were working together, and that I was the one driving them.As the distance I rode grew, I delved deeper and deeper into my roots, only pausing the process to munch on a snack here and there. I realized at one point, something I hadn’t uncovered before. I was blaming myself for things that had happened years ago. The realization sent shivers down my spine, and made the back of my head prickle. Tears welled in my eyes, blurring the trail in front of me, and as I blinked them away, I let it go. “You were just a kid, Mike” I told myself. It wasn’t my fault, and as an adult I could clearly see that. The realization brought me further in tune with myself, and I smiled. “That’s why I’m here” I thought. There were many moments like this – sifting through your life story in gross detail takes time – and I had plenty of it.
I made it into Richmond around 7 Am, and grinned at the giant train tracks that cut the sky in half overhead. I was making good time, I was making good use of my time, and I was going to go further than I ever have before. If you’ve read this far, thanks! I’ll be posting more soon, as I type my bike is broken down, and packed away in the cargo hold of the plane that’s taking me to someplace far away.
Til next time!
“Earn Your Tailwind”