Monday, December 12, 2011


i didn't want to ride today.

i wanted to ride all the other days. i wanted to ride when there was sunshine and when there wasn't, when the kids were asleep and when they weren't, when i had the legs, or watched that youtube video of that mountain stage, or when the coughing from the bunk bed drove me just that much more crazy, or when there was everything else to do, and all of it mattered more. as we all know, not wanting to do something, REALLY not wanting to do something, is often a sign that it should be done, and probably immediately.

so i choked down two cups of coffee. i got off the unmade bed, fully dressed, and dragged on my riding clothes. i put on chamois butter. i put on wool. i put on a hat and gloves and helmet and shoes and booties and a spare tubular and some water and a computer and a heart rate strap. i pumped up my tires. i walked down the steps. i did all of these things begrudgingly. i didn't want to ride because i wanted to pout. i'm really good at pouting. i'm really good at ignoring all of the great things that are there, and blowing all the not as great things completely out of proportion. i'm good at being a suck. and i know exactly where my daughter gets it from. (she couldn't make it through dinner without crying every third bite.) and so, even the thing i love to do, this two-wheeled pushing pedals thing, i did, begrudgingly, because i wanted to be an idiot and pout instead.

as soon as i clipped into the first pedal though, all that was gone.

it has always been this way. it hasn't always been this instantaneous - sometimes it takes longer than clicking into the first pedal to really get the head where it should be - but it has always worked just like this. riding has saved my mind, and my stupid, stupid heart, for as long as i can remember.

i'm beginning to hate my thirties. i long for all of those things i remember so fondly and have left so permanently behind. my hair. my self-assigned sex appeal. my inspiration. my creativity. my singular ability to feel, so intensely, so much more than anyone else, and give into it entirely, wallowing for time on end, in feeling. what a bunch of crap. well, not the hair part, but probably everything else. my thirties seem to have left everything else behind, replaced it all with mundaneness and broken dreams, and what the fuck is left to really get on about? a bunch of debt from my twenties? another load of laundry? more questions for which i have no answers? dark days and valleys ahead. or maybe just hills to climb. and i've always loved hills.

so i wallowed for a bit, then got on my bike, and fixed everything. as long as i was out there, doing a good job of staying in a base-miles-only heart rate zone, it was all going to work out. i breathed. i breathed. i spun little perfect circles, over and over and over. i blew a lot of stuff out of my nose. i sipped water. i stayed in the drops. i handled my bike. and we left everything behind. there is nowhere to wallow atop a steel frame made for me, to the hum of tubular tires on hand built wheels, breezing along in air crisp and clear and colder in the shade of leafless trees. obstacles must be dealt with immediately, usually preemptively, and hills must be climbed, because there's no other way out. to wallow would be to freeze. to stay would be to die. so we go.

when i was a kid in high school, i always wanted things to mean something. i loved ceremony, and would invent it for things most sensible people would have just gone through and forgotten. my first kiss was a big deal. my grades were important to me. i tried to save some experiences for times i could share them, the first ones, with certain people. usually i got it all wrong and fucked it all up and ended up doing things on the fly, but even then, i'd grab my huge bag of feelings, and plunk it down on the table, and expect to deal them in, dole them out, subject everyone else to my self. terrible. but i did it anyway. i guess that's what we do when we're high school kids - figure things out, usually the hard way. needless to say, i'd end up breaking my own heart on anything i could, big or small, ceremony and meaning or not, i'd break it a little or a lot, and go from there. somewhat by accident, i figured out that i could ride all this turmoil away.

i lived in a hilly rural area. the people i loved lived far apart. i often couldn't drive. so i rode. after one romantic endeavour or another, i had to ride home, wrestling with meaning and emotions and justifications for kissing a girl i wasn't dating. i wanted meaning. i wanted things to be profound. i also just wanted to kiss beautiful girls. conundrums and difficulties ensued. anyway, i had to ride home. with all this thought and feeling going on in my head, i tackled hill after hill, mile after mile of broken pavement, and i spun circles as perfectly as i could. and somewhere, somewhere on rockingham road, i processed all of that ridiculous emotion. maybe i justified things. maybe it all became that much clearer when there were bigger things (and hills) to worry about. maybe i just forgot to feel so much. but it worked. riding saved me from my stupid self. and i've been doing it ever since.

i don't get to ride to pretty girls' parties anymore, make out with people i shouldn't, then head home and come to conclusions with my hands on the bars and my head in a helmet. i stay home. i do dishes and homework and laundry. the diaper days have ended but the coughing has not. we need more soy milk.

riding will still save me. one click. two click. on down the street. up to the other street. breathing in and out. pacing. spinning. looking. breathing. in. out. gone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


in order for this to work, we've got to go a little faster.

there's the concrete, then the apron, then the blue part that the anglophones keep calling 'd'orré', then the boards, then the black line, the red line, and way up there, the yellow line.

we are attached to these brakeless machines through hands and feet, and these machines attach us to the boards. we must go a little faster.

we must look far, far to the left, always craning that way, pushing hard into what we see, into where we will be, in a moment's breath. there is no breathing. there is that stopping and starting and gasping like drowning or sobbing or exalting. it must be all three at once. like turning, and gravity, and speed, all working at once to threaten death while planting us ever more firmly into the boards.

we run through drills. on-drills and off-drills. hand drills. passing drills. calling out drills. maneuvering over the boards at any point in that glorious oval drills. black line drills. red line drills. never yellow line drills. an old man in a leather jacket, cap toe shoes, and an irish cap calls out the routines, demonstrates them with fluid grace in black leather gloved hand and black leather shoed foot. he is excited. he is not alone. other older men lead us around the track. gesture toward our lines. demand more and accept less. we learn. we progress. what time is it? we've been in orbit forever.

and i still can't get enough.

sometimes, we have speed and cohesion and grace. then we forget, or we get tired, or someone slows down or speeds up, and the flow that was there, leaves. we try not to crash into each other. we run up the boards in awkward lines on attached machines that are squeaky but moving, not stuttering like our pace, or rushing like our head blood.

here we go again.

on. up past the apron and the blue ribbon and onto the boards. in sprinter's lane. we are not sprinting. we are barely keeping up with the graceful stroke of the old man in lead. one by one, we practice passing on high. our pedals sweep past his grey temples, past his glasses, past his helmet that looks so oddly modern. we spin smoothly along, moving tubes of steel and circles of metal teeth past the skin on his face, past his wool jersey by nike, past his chrome lugged cinelli, and off toward another left turn. our necks ache. we check left out of the turns. we check right halfway through the straight. then we're turning again. all the blood rushes to the bottom of me. my vision gets blurry. my open mouth creeps into a vague grin. we're bounding out of the turn.

it's hard not to go faster. it's hard to stand or sit still once we're back off. we want to look over our left shoulders. we want to put on more clothes. the fans are off so that all we can here is our teeth chattering and the boards flexing under rider after whirling rider. we're blending in that cycle. jerseys turn to multicoloured swirls and boards turn into moments and teeth turn into clenches and time turns into space and those both turn into light and all we can see is the black line the black line the red line the black line.