I began this year feeling quite uncertain, almost ambivalent, about the brevets. The past year has included some serious and unexpected health issues in my family. These scrambled up my head, and prompted a reassessment of that big question “What am I doing with my life?”
There are so many more important things in life than bike riding, I told myself. Why, when there is so much to experience in this one life, would brevets be worth all the effort and occasional annoyance?
Before the brevets began, my family’s health situations seemed to settle somewhat. Despite my reservations about randonneuring and my “one life” choices, I signed up, just to see how the season would go.
If you’re a regular reader, you know I have been oddly preoccupied about my lack of physical preparation for randonneuring. Out of shape, riding myself into shape, the lack of winter miles, blah blah blah. I have spent many words on my lack of cycling fitness.
The brevets are steadily teaching me that I don’t have to be in peak form to savor what only a rando ride can offer. These events are not just physical journeys. They are mental explorations as well.
As each ride has begun, my mind has been consumed by themes like the work week, how I’m doing in the job I began in December, worry about my parents, bills I need to pay and errands I should run, what my purpose is in this one life and how I’m probably not doing it.
Yet the longer I ride, the more these preoccupations change. I set aside the bills and errands. Work is put into a larger context. My worry for my parents becomes appreciation for who they are and how they raised me, and I am able to set them aside for a moment. Questioning life’s purpose doesn’t seem as critical as arriving safely at the next control and making sure someone signs my brevet card.
The shift in scenery, from the asphalt congestion of Washington, D.C., to the lush landscapes of the country where people mow gigantic yards and spend the weekends fishing in nearby creeks has a cleansing effect on my mind.
A century isn’t long enough to offer entry into that kind of mental journey. But an excursion that pedals me into the delicious first light of day and carries me through to the sunset hour and maybe even a moonrise is.
The journey of the mind runs parallel to the physical aspects of the brevet experience. My thoughts are no longer trapped in the maze of the everyday. They can roam through the valleys and up mountainsides as Felkerino and I progress. Newborn calves and farm cats stir a hope in me that all will be okay.
The spring sun pricks me with its rays and afternoon sweat stings my eyes. My head reorganizes. I am part of a bigger world than I can ever conceptualize. Trivial thoughts have no place now. Other concerns will wait. My legs must pedal and my senses can’t help but absorb the day. The journey consumes me, and I am grateful.