“Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go…”
– Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
10:30 AM, KST , Seoul International Airport. The rhythmic bass of Bastille`s “Pompeii” Audien Remix reached a bold and intense crescendo in my ears, as the massive jet engines of the Airbus A-350 aircraft I was seated in suddenly blasted off like a rocket grasping for orbit. Typically I was used to seeing these motors spool up somewhat gently as the plane begins to move, but not today. Today this plane had places to be, and I was going with it. Kestrel was stowed safely in her case in the cargo hold below, thankfully. Security had been a nightmare. The combination of the music, my emotions and the rumbling of the jet engines beneath me lulled me into another place, and as I settled in to weather the thirteen hour flight around the world, I began to think…
It had been four months since I touched down on the Korean Peninsula, in that time felt that I had grown exponentially as a person. Having my bike there was a beautiful thing, as it kept me grounded when I began to feel like I was losing myself in the hustle and bustle of work and the like, far away from home. The nasty workouts on my Wahoo Kickr in a sweltering 90 degree warehouse will be memories I take with me forever, but they definitely dont stop there.
There were so many amazing individual rides and workouts that I was able to make happen that it would take ages to write about them all, but I can say that although my V02 max and my FTP aren`t ludicrously higher, I feel that I retouched base with why I love to ride.
There was one particular ride that took me south to the historic city of Gyeongju. Here you can find incredible sites such as temples, monasteries, and long revered grottoes with MASSIVE religious significance. Oh. Theres a theme park too! But in this place where my water ran out, my headphones died, and I was left alone with my thoughts in a long dark tunnel that burned its way through a massive ridge line, I began to feel. Feel the cold tunnel air rushing over my skin, I smelled the earthy, stale scent of long forgotten places, and I heard the roar of the mountain screaming into my ears : “Faster, go Faster!” it seemed to say to me. It may have been seconds, or minutes, but suddenly I was flying out into the daylight. What I saw, felt, and rode will stay with me for a lifetime.
First I realized I was already on the decline, which explained why I was moving so quickly. The climb before the tunnel had been absolutely brutal, and the shade and silent noise of the tunnel had been a welcome repose. I was coasting on a country highway that sat upon pillars, high above the ground. Massive forested mountain peaks rose up on either side of me, their tops obscured in mist. A few hundred feet above me, that same mist hid the sky from view, and occasionally swept down to kiss me as I rocketed down the road. Mind, Body, and Spirit all lined up, my own voice boomed inside my head. “This is why you ride.”
Cycling allows me to express myself in ways I haven’t quite figured out how to do anywhere else. From the clothes I wear, to the way my bike is built/configured, to the specific ways I tuck to go faster, push and pull to climb higher, and throw myself into corners and declines to execute them just to my liking. It`s very much a reflection and expression of me, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Farewell South Korea, and Thank you.