At a routine health appointment last week, I had to fill out a very long questionnaire that, halfway through the second side, meandered onto the topic of stress. Right there it asked: has anyone you know died in the past year? with a follow up question: friend or family? I checked yes to the first question instinctively, then hesitated on the second. Two friends died in the past twelve months, both in brutally unfair ways. And both of my pets had died, both gently, both at home, both utterly heartbreaking. I checked friend, then wrote in a 4 before the word and an S after it.
So, yes, I took a little time away from all this. You know, all... THIS. I tried my best to disengage from both bike racing and the internet for a little while, because I needed to reclaim some space in my brain. I worked on my work. I ran. I rode my townie. I read books (paper books). I recalled what was important to me, and what was not. I got rid of pressure by denying its existence, and like Alice's pack of cards it disappeared in front of me.
One thing didn't change. Riding a good bike down sunny singletrack, fast, on a crisp autumn day, is one of the most joyful feelings on earth. For a while, maybe I didn't want to feel joyful, but now maybe I do again.
Back on dirt this weekend for the first time since July. Although I anticipated being in awful shape, in fact little was lost. Less smooth here, less fast there. Trail features have been elided by memory's fog. My mental map of the Bent Creek trails currently resembles the New York subway map: the intersections are clear but the routes are stylized, the distances indefinite. This weekend saw two trips to the trails to reconnect with the bliss, and one interval session to remind my heart how good it feels to pump that hard.
I light a candle for the losses of the past year, and try to use it to light the way forward. I don't know what to do with that pack of cards, though. I might leave it alone for a while. Anyway, I've never really been a true bike racer. Racers try to limit the variables and control everything, but I tend to get more engaged with the process the more unpredictable things get. I am an experiencer, a traveler, a storyteller. An adventurer. Maybe not a very good adventurer, but that's what I am.