Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PASSING THE TIME BY COGITATING

Some things have been on my mind lately. My recent metric century ride of a couple of week’s ago and this past Saturday’s 45 mile jaunt have provided some time and opportunity to consider the ways of the world and my place in it. This is, of course, a very broad subject and one I’ll narrow down quite considerably in order to make the retelling of the cogitation more efficient.

The "Thinker" - Auguste Rodin(The Thinker – Auguste Rodin) 

When one cogitates whilst spinning merrily along upon a racing saddle, certain things eventually come to the forefront of topics to be considered. I’ve discovered that after 35 or so miles, those things seem as if they want to take center stage and dominate your cogitation. Today, I need not dwell upon that particular topic other than to now begin to cogitate upon how much more central those topics might become on a century ride. I’ll have to make a list so I can check it twice when I set additional goals for this riding season. This one can go under the heading “To chamois cream or not to chamois cream?”

No, I was cogitating more on some of my knowledge acquisition over the past couple of years as it relates to riding. In my home dialect of the Southern Appalachians, I might say that I’d be reviewing my “new larning”. Briefly, here’s what I think I’ve “larned”…

1) The first year back to cycling I was more comfortable spinning along on mostly flat ground. I dreaded hills much less mountains. After all, they hurt! I created significant psychological barriers to climbing and would dread the very thought of going so slow that I’d start falling over and be unable to unclip and certainly would then fall into traffic or over the edge of the mountain. As my speed dropped on the climbs, the dread grew in direct proportion to loss of speed. In my 3rd year, I find myself seeking out things to climb. I feel comfortable on the mountains and couldn’t tell you when I last experienced a fear of falling over that paralyzed me and sent me running back down the mountain.

The first big moment in reducing this irrational fear came when I finally topped Rush Fork, which was my nemesis last year. Once I topped the mountain and realized it was in me to ride it, those fears were significantly diminished on future climbs. A great lesson I learned was from the Wood-man, who taught me to let the mountain come to me. Now, when I feel myself getting those butterflies in my stomach, I settle down and do exactly that – I let the mountain come to me.

2) When times got really tough and I was ready to give up, I would go to my “Lance spot”, which is a comfortable position I found on the bike that was unconsciously inspired by an image I saw of Lance Armstrong climbing in the 2009 Tour de France. Somehow, that image and a certain position I found on the bike with me out of the saddle and pumping hard coalesced in my brain and now gives me power when I need it. I haven’t needed it as much this year as last year. I think I’ve learned to accept a more relaxed manner in which to climb. I’m sure that I’ve also developed some climbing muscles that I didn’t have in my first 2 years of riding again.

3) A great, great lesson that I’ve learned comes from Kent “Mountain Turtle” Peterson and his slogan of “hasten slowly!”. Accepting that I have to go at my own pace and give up competing with the 25 year old riders in speed, has increased my ability to stay on the bike and to be more relaxed. If I’m achieving my own goal, whatever that might be, I don’t need to be overly concerned with what others are doing or not doing. So, thanks to the Mountain Turtle, I’m becoming better at hastening slowly. I still have to work on this one though because I am a competitive person. Truth be told, I let myself get away from the satisfaction of having met my recent goal of completing a metric century and got caught up in my order of finish resulting in less overall satisfaction. I temporarily lost sight of that fact that it was a ride and not a race.

4) If you can walk it – you can climb it! This has become my newest mantra and reduces my need to go to the “Lance spot” and I find it quite compatible with “hastening slowly”. This also complements the Wood-man’s lesson of letting the mountain come to me. No longer feeling the mental anguish of fear of falling over, I find that I can almost literally walk it up the mountain. I figure that my legs have to be doing somewhat similar actions on the bike as when I’m walking so that leads to “if you can walk it, you can climb it!” Granted, I haven’t tried this yet on anything above 12% grade but, so far, it works for me. I’ve cogitated upon the comments of the couple alongside the road Saturday as I was nearing the peak of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In my mind, I was concentrating solely on what was in front of me, spinning the crank one loop at a time seeing only what was in front of me, while these folks were viewing the effort in its fullest context of having climbed the whole mountain and were even kind enough to provide some positive comments as we made our way to the top. I recalled, in my cogitation, the times that I, as a motorcyclist, would ride by a bicyclist climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway or other road, and think “whew, those guys/gals are nuts!” Now, I embrace my “nuttiness” as I am one of “them”.

So, I find myself amused/happy/fulfilled somewhat that in my 3rd year of cycling at the ripe old age of 57 years, 8 months, and 1 day I’m finding joy in climbing things, i.e., mountains and such. How long will this last? Probably until I fall over somewhere along the line…

Until later,

- Zeke

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