I got home from work and stood silently in my bedroom. It was a moment of decision. Was I going to ride or not? For the first time in awhile it wasn’t that I had something else to do, it was that I actually felt an aversion to putting on my gear and slogging out into the humidity… and for what?
I suited up.
When I first started out, it seemed that my fears were realized. My legs felt heavy and the air which was threatening rain was heavier around me. Mentally, I found myself staring at my stem and I was hardly out from my driveway.
Still, I decided to ride on. I know you will think it is silly, but I had joined the Strava climbing challenge and only had a few more days to get the meters necessary to claim the little virtual badge. An over and back of Paris Mountain would bring me about one ride away from the goal.
Down Wade Hampton and onto Chick Springs I rode. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t feeling very motivated, I wasn’t pushing hard. By the time I reached Rutherford Road, I was starting to at least feel that the ride would not be a waste of my time.
Dodging through the traffic at the Piney Mountain Road intersection, I gave a medium effort up the east side. Cresting the top, I was once again feeling down. The effort made me feel slow. It made me feel old. I was feeling sorry for myself.
Then I crossed State Park Road and headed up Altamont. Ahead I could see the blinking light of another rider. He looked an awful lot like a rabbit to me.
Suddenly my mind shifted away from myself to the target ahead. I didn’t take off after him, but I did settle into a pace that had me gaining. I figured I would catch him on The Wall.
Sure enough, I was on his wheel as we both came out of the saddle to keep our bikes moving up the short but steep grade. I noticed that he was wearing a full Strava kit. The jersey was green and the shorts black. Actually, it was a nice design. I’d wear one… if I didn’t have to pay for it.
We exchanged breathless hellos and I was going to go along with him, but he seemed to be hurting from the effort. I rolled easy for a bit, but then kept going as he lagged behind. It was getting late and the rain seemed eminent. I wanted to get home.
However, I had forgotten my morose thoughts. My muscles were now loose and the humidity didn’t seem so oppressive. Rather, it felt like it was playing a part in loosening my earlier tight and sore muscles.
I found myself turning off of Altamont onto Lake Circle. Here I was adding to my ride. I told myself it would help add extra meters to my climbing goal.
By the time I was reaching the last straight toward the Paris Mountain KOM, I was smiling to myself. I was feeling much stronger and the rhythm of my spinning legs was keeping time for each breath. My body was doing its own thing and my mind was just the passenger.
Even Tower Road didn’t seem to bother me now. I stopped at the top and took a picture. Taking time to reflect on what had happened to this point, I thought to myself, “You suffer when you are not motivated so that when you are motivated you can better enjoy the ride.” Avoiding the bike when you don’t feel it, only sets you back for those times when you want to let it loose!
Descending the Furman side was a joy… if anything, it was cold! The sweat from the climbing effort was now a cooling agent with the lower mountain temperatures and wind from the descent. By the time I reached the bottom, I was ready to warm up again.
On the way down, I saw two riders nearing halfway. Farther down the road, I had passed three other riders. Those last three were just low enough on the climb to make me wonder if I might be able to join them.
I quickly sped to the finish and then turned to begin my ascent. My mind wasn’t on much of anything other than seeing if I could catch those guys. As I came around each bend in the road, I would look ahead to see if I could glimpse my herd of rabbits.
Finally, just after passing halfway, I could see a lone straggler from the group. I hoped I could perhaps catch him before the top. At first I gained on him, but I think he realized I was there and started to pick up his pace. I knew if he reached the final grunt to the end before me I would just have to let him go.
Sure enough, when I reached the base, I saw him about halfway ahead. He was standing and giving some effort toward the finish. “Not tonight,” I thought. No need to bury myself just to get around him.
As it was I reached the top just as the guys were regrouping. It wasn’t a great time for me (13:27), but I felt good about the climb. I waved as I came by them as they were turning to make a run down the road they just climbed.
I then made one more climb up Tower Road. At the top, I came upon the two cyclists that I initially saw on my descent. Approaching them I said, “Wow, it is humid out, isn’t it!” They affirmed my weather announcement. I then started to coast toward the road out.
“Hey,” came the voice behind me. “Are you Jonathan Pait?” I said I was. “I was just telling my son about a video you made of the climb up Paris Mountain, and wouldn’t you know it, here you are.” He went on to say he recognized my voice from the commentary.
We chatted some about segments and various riders in the area. Then he said something that made me feel a bit awkward. “Your videos got me from the mountain bike to the road bike.” I didn’t know how to respond to that and so I mumbled something about how I started out on mountain bikes as well.
We parted after a bit more chatting and I rolled away. I admit I write this blog for me even if no one else reads it. It scratches that writing itch I’ve had since junior high. However, to have someone tell me that this exercise was an encouragement to them was a real shot in the arm!
It was hard not to have a smile on my face as I sped toward home. It was no longer about motivation or a lack thereof. It was now all about the ride.
And it was good.