We are always meeting ourselves. Every moment is fresh, a chance for us to stand in a new place. A different self than the one we were just a second before. A unique package of commitments, health, emotions, and experience.
That is, we can meet ourselves if we are open to it. The mind is quick to dismiss the notion. It craves patterns. Routine. Comfort.
I haven’t been doing a good job of meeting myself lately, but as Felkerino and I wound our way around the DC Randonneurs Ye Olde Frederick 300K, I found myself doing so. The encounter was quite unexpected, in part because this course is one Felkerino and I have traveled over seven previous times and I really wasn’t sure what new there was to find.
It also pleasantly surprised because normally I end up in some weird comparison mode about the past me’s who rode that brevet and how they somehow did it better. And that’s not meeting yourself, that’s just diving into the past with blinders on and seeing someone who was never there.
Because of work and grad school demands, I’ve missed being outdoors so much. I still believe the end goal is worth it, but extended time outside on the bike with Felkerino has been a rare escape. And what better escape than a brevet that takes you from sunrise to sunset through mostly quiet countryside with a few hills thrown in?
Ye Olde Frederick 300K is peppered with the memories we’ve made that now live on those roads and they rose up to meet us as we pedaled along. Gearing up for the tandem’s descent in the always-cold town of Cascade. Pedaling a flat section with the late Stan Miller. The gradual slog to Big not flat Flat and remembering how frozen in fear I had been of that climb the first time we went over it. Chuck and Crista teaching me that the sight of orchards usually means climbing awaits.
While our tires occasionally dusted memories off the pavement, Felkerino and I also enjoyed many of the miles near or with others, especially Steven K., who was excellent riding company. And everyone on the ride embraced the “friend to all, stick together, and don’t annoy the crap out of each other” credo of all good randonneurs. Late in the ride, I even watched five people stop and help Che fix a flat after he ran out of tubes. Teamwork.
I maintained an unusual sense of presence throughout this brevet. Miles kept rolling by and, despite taking just over 15 hours to complete the full distance it didn’t feel that long even with my relative lack of long miles this year. The weather was on the cool side, not really sunny, yet also not windy. Favorable breezes directed us home (the very best kind).
Every moment of the ride I felt absorbed in my life. No worries about school. Work troubles shut down in my laptop. I didn’t berate myself for fitness I hadn’t managed to achieve. I wasn’t even bummed out about not getting sleep the night before because I knew I’d recoup it later.
I loved the company of the riders around us and enjoyed a spirited conversation about the fraught life of dandelions. I appreciated all the work Felkerino put in to prepare our tandem for the day’s ride, and the extra set of legs to power me over the course.
My eyes filled with the buds, blossoms, and greens of early spring, as my lungs breathed in unlimited doses of fresh air. It was such a joy to be riding, happy in my skin, just being me.
Many thanks to the pre-riders and to Sue and Bob for volunteering and supplying us with post-ride treats and brownies. Thanks to everybody who rode with us, too! It was great to be out there. Full set of pics here.
i hear it. since the quarantine , my work has doubled. add a difficult family situation [i am grateful to be living it but it is exhausting and frightening] i find myself unable to let go and enjoy the ride. i would so love to get away for hours, a day, a few days, but it would not be safe. so i an thrilled to live, just a few minutes. vicariously, in your skin. thank you, mary.
Aww thank you Robyn, and hope things smooth out a bit for you soon.
I’ll be in DC sometime in late August(?) on my continental tour. I’d live to meet up!?
Mary it was great to meet and ride with you and Ed and Steven for a bit, before the going got tough! I enjoyed riding with Gardner the second half of the day and the special satisfaction of les lanternes rouges. Hope to see you down the road.
Hi Mark, it was great to meet you and look forward to seeing you on another ride! Have to tell you again, we loved your bike setup!