I was pedalling hard uphill with my weight pushed forward – just forward enough to keep the front wheel down on the ground and not too far forward to let the rear wheel lose traction – between the paved road and the trail along the ridge when I realized this ride was a good idea,despite what my muscles were saying,and continued sucking in humid air and ignoring the nagging burning from my legs.
I’d seen four deer already. One by itself in the woods by the reservoir, and three more who were crossing the yellow blazed trail along the lower ridgeline. None of whom seemed all that concerned to be sharing the woods with me. There was no one else in sight. I rarely see other mountain bikers on these trails, but this evening there weren’t even any of the usual hikers who take advantage of this peaceful spot and its views of the Farmington River Valley.
In June I’d crested the same trail and all along the higher ridgeline trail, it was flooded with white mountain laurels blooms, a cool breeze was blowing, green wisps of wild grass were standing straight up, and the blue sky was peeking through old forest that fell off to the sides on the ridgeline. I was”having a moment”. And here I was again. And I’m usually here about once a week.
An hour prior, I felt tired. Really tired. It was a long day of driving and frustration and disappointment, which isn’t unusual for someone who sells for a living, but I had checked off everything on my to do list, I was relatively caught up with laundry and shopping and chores, and I had nothing else to do. It seemed like a perfectly good time to spend some quality me time cushioned by my soft sectional couch and blissfully hypnotized by Netflix playing on my curved tv screen above my fireplace.
It was also still sunny out, as it is this time of year, but it wouldn’t be light out until 9 O’clock like it was back in June, and though there was ample light to get a ride in, it reminded me that there wouldn’t be soon enough. I was tired. But sometimes it seems like I’m always tired, especially when I’m not doing anything. And so I decided to head out . I told myself I just needed to get started. I could always turn back early if I felt like it. And I knew that once I put my riding clothes on, a chain of events would commence that almost always led to a nice long ride and a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.
As much as it physically hurts to climb a steep pitch of singletrack, it is certainly effective at focusing the mind on something other than one’s problems. The pain and heaviness in my legs and body lifted as I lunged over the top of the steep grade onto the foot and a half or so wide trail leading slightly downhill and as the a pain subsided my mind wandered..
I’d been reading a book “The Sympathizer” , about a double agent during the end of the Vietnam War and as the pedalling became easier, I was thinking about how horrible it must be to live somewhere in the middle of a war, death and devastation all around, and how lucky I am to have the life I’ve had.
There are a few rock obstacles along this stretch of ridgeline that I’ haven’t been able to clear yet. The first appears as a small row of rock, then drops off on the other side as the trail drops downhill. A stone spine lays down the 4 feet, between steep rock outcrops, that you can ride over. Look, this is no Redbull Rampage stuff by any stretch, but I hadn’t cleaned it yet, and usually give up and walk around. I’d considered asking some friends to ride this trail with me so I could have the confidence to try it after watching them ride it with ease, but instead this time I tried to give it a shot alone. I could see the line I thought would work, I pedalled up to it, rolled up on top of the rock surface, and froze as my front wheel was quickly deflected by rock. Not enough speed and my weight was too far forward. But I tried again. This time I rode up with a little more speed, and some determination, and I rolled right down the spine on the other side no problem. Look, again, this wasn’t anything crazy and it was pretty low risk, but it was just scary enough for me, and I did it anyway.
Next up was another rock bank with a couple options for descending on the other side. This one I’ve done a few times but the grade on the other side you need to drop into is still a little scary. You need to have your weight a bit forward to get over the top, then move it quickly over to back wheel so you don’t go over the bars on the other side. I had a slight hesitation on the top but I made it over smoothly.
I related to the main character in The Sympathizer. He said he had two minds, which is why he always saw both sides of a conflict. I feel like that’s one thing that helps me in Sales. I can put myself in the shoes of the customer. But it doesn’t seem to be doing me a lot of good lately.
The main character’s name in the Sympathizer is never revealed. He was a captain in the South Vietnamese army, and so is referred to as “Captain”. This was his strength allowed him to become a trusted advisor to General, another character referred to only by his rank. The General was the head of the Police in the Republic of Vietnam. So the Vietnamese Captain, who was educated in the US and spoke fluent English served as aide to the General. And while he served as and advisor and close confidant to the Genereal, all along he reported back to his Communist handler, Man, a childhood friend. It all sounds very stressful to me. And I guess as I was cruising along on my ride I almost didn’t go on, thinking about the Captain made me feel a little stress stressed out about my job, since although worst case I could get fired for not selling enough wound care medical devices, I most likely won’t face a CIA led interrogation or be captured by the North Vietnamese. My aptitude for seeing both sides of an issue at worst just makes me confused.
My ride continued on and it did not disappoint. I pedalled up hill with adequate power and I descended downhill with a few fleeting moments of grace. It wasn’t too hot, a little humid, but if there had been better rides, there certainly had been many that went a lot worse. I coasted into my driveway and used the remote garage door opener hanging on the viser in my car to start the door upwards. I hung my bike up on the its hook, took off my backpack, and unzipped the back pocket where I keep my iPhone.
“WTF? I never started Strava? Damn it! WTF?” I threw my helmet in the milk crate where I keep riding gear. I pulled my gloves off with disgust. And later on after I had showered and was getting ready to relax for the rest of the evening , there was a twinge in my chest while I realized that I wouldn’t have my Strava stats to reflect on. And neither would my Strava followers. I’d let them all down. “I’m sorry Captain Morgan in Maputo, Mozambique.” That iPhone app that tracks me so meticulously and so faithfully from satellites orbiting 12,000 miles away, that I rely just wasn’t there with me today. Because I forgot. I forgot to hit that record button, so no average mph, no total miles, and no segments were tracked or recorded. “Crap. What if I had a PR?” I sulked, and in true submission, came to grips with the fact that life truly is not fair. Mine actually sucks. Seriously, there was no way I was getting any kudos from Strava feed friends. None. What a waste of time. I give up.