28 January 2011
I can say with near-certainty that on this date at around this time, ten years ago, I was riding on rollers, which are a kind of treadmill for bicycles. Back in those days, that's what I did during the winter. Even after I stopped racing, I still was trying to prove something to myself. Or, more precisely, to disprove something.
What was it? Well, before I try to describe, let alone name, it, I have to say that what led me to ride rollers even after my racing days ended was the same thing that kept me training for soccer after I stopped playing it. I knew full well that I would probably never play again and, even though I enjoyed playing, I wasn't mourning my acknowledgment that my playing days were over. In fact, I felt surprisingly little. But I still had the impulse to train as if I were still playing.
Something similar happened after I stopped racing. Although I'm glad I raced, I wasn't upset when I knew that part of my life was about to end. And once I "retired," I really had no urge to go back. However, I wanted to know that I could.
Why? Well, I always want to feel as if I start or leave stages and challenges in my life on my own terms. It's never a good feeling not to do something because you're not capable of it. The worst of it is that you can't even kick yourself, in hindsight, for lack of effort if you simply didn't have whatever it took to do something that you wanted to do.
Perhaps I never got past or over being the ungraceful, unathletic pubescent child I was. Until I started training and playing, I was taunted by other kids--and sometimes adults--not only for my seeming lack of athletic ability, but also for my perceived lack of manliness, or even the capacity for becoming a man, whatever that meant.
Those taunts were echoing in some recess of my brain. That's the reason why, ironically, I spent more time on rollers and trainers in my early post-racing years than I did when I was actually racing. In an irony within that irony, I was pushing my body--my male body--so hard because I was trying to poound it, or something about it, out of existence altogether, or at least into submission.
I've been on my bike once in the past two weeks. I'm feeling antsy and hoping that I'm not gaining weight. (At least I'm not eating any junk.) But, at the same time, I'm not as ornery as I would've been back in the day. When I couldn't ride--or after a few weeks of riding rollers or trainers--I used to feel resentful and angry that I couldn't do what I wanted to do but, it seemed, everybody else could.
I think that being off my bike for a few months after my surgery last year made me aware, for the first time in my life, that the times when you recuperate, or simply stop for whatever reasons, are also part of the journey. In fact, those times might be almost as important as the times when we're riding and training. For some people, it's the only opportunity to reflect on the question of why they are doing whatever they do.