My house smells like the pungent, smoky aroma of the Dalai Lama. Or maybe I should say, if I ever meet the Dalai Lama, I think this is what he would smell like. The music I am listening to is “Reise, Reise” by Rammstein, the seminal German sturm und drang metal band. Somewhere in the house, most likely in the incense room downstairs, is my 19 year old college student entertaining our new 16 year old exchange student Zhoa, from China, and soon enough there will be another student, Lorenze, and he IS from Germany. “Weeeee’re all living in Amerika, its Vunderbar!” is the next song up by the Germans, and it’s all too appropriate. This conflux of EurAsian smells and sounds is where I am at right now. “Weeeee’re all living in Amerika, Coca Cola, Wonderbra”. It’s a brave new world around here, the last year and a half kind of feeling like the force-blended French/German/Swedish/Italian/Chinese cultural mishmash depicted in Bladerunner. (Yes, I’m the Replicant element with my new high tech nano heart parts.) A large part of the angst is the undermining of not only the national economy, but my own personal economies, economies of new realities, grappling with quests unknown, economies of white-knuckled sailing around rocky, storm blown shoals. But at the same time, the ball and chain around my ankles has been loosed and I find myself sometimes effected not unlike a prisoner paroled after a long stretch in the can, standing outside the front gate of the prison, small suitcase in hand, just wondering what in the hell he is going to do now. No way is that freedom.
The heady mixture of German rock and Tibetan incense is not unlike where I am at with my cycling of late. I have the urge to go hard, tempered with the desire to slow down and meditate on all that transpires around me. I can go hard but I have been strongly advised not to. I have bent the rules lately, I have let the horses run the hillsides. I essentially have a new turbo pump and it works wonderfully, it wants me to put the pedal down. I love my heart more than the family dog, I absolutely admire what it has done for me, and I want to go easy on it. I want to take it out, gently massage it, and lay it down on a satiny pillow to rest peacefully. But at the same time, it has its own desires that make it difficult to tame. It remembers. It feeds on adrenaline and wants to taste the wind, it snarls and drools and chases cars. So like a blind man groping for stairs in a subway station, I try to find the place between the untamed ride and the lotus position.
There is a place that is between training and not-training, in which I mount my bike with no purpose or destination in mind other than to ride, and I let whatever happens unfold. I guess you could call it working out. Not training. Especially not compulsive, self-flagellating type of training of which I am guilty of in the past, and as well, encouraging others to do the same. Working out, in my mind, is done for its own sake, whereas training is done for some higher purpose, to meet some sort of goal or personal achievement, to attain a benchmark, to push the boundaries ever further out. I’ve done that and I’ve met my goals, crossed big events off my bucket list, which is so ironic as how my biggest bucket list event last year might have put me six feet under. Now it’s time to just workout.
It has taken me a long time to figure out that a good workout results in a feeling of potency. Potency is the feeling of being able to physically do what you want to do without undue suffering involved. Potency is a heady thing, to experience it is to literally be full of yourself to feel potential, optimism, self-assuredness. Potency also means ending the workout feeling energized instead of exhausted, ready to take on the rest of the day instead of having to crash horizontal on the nearest soft thing. So I have found the optimal workout ride for me to be 2-3 hours of pedal time. I can do this two days in a row and feel good. I really don’t need to do more than this anymore. My opponent will probably say that I’m saying this because I can’t do more anymore. The Big training for the Big Events thing. He can think what he wants to think.
Five years ago, after a ride up Mt. Diablo with my cycling buddy from the ‘80s, he startled me by saying that he thought any fitness beyond what you need is vanity fitness. I really had a hard time with this…I mean, how do you define “need”? I almost wrote a whole Flashblog about it, but I couldn’t because… I wanted to refute it but in the black cellar of my mind, locked away in a box was a voice saying “yeah, he’s right”. At the time I couldn’t accept that. I thought you can’t have enough fitness, you can’t ever be as good as you can be unless you keep training hard. Wait…maybe he was talking about bodybuilders? I didn’t get it. Now I do. His idea of vanity fitness is what I’ve come to see as compulsive training or, what some people are now calling exercise addiction. If you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about all things cycling or how great you could be if only you could spend a few more hours training then you are probably in this place.
Having said that, I frequently call upon my past exploits and achievements performed in my Third Incarnation, to inform my current riding. I know what I can do and what I can’t do, because I’ve already done it. That’s a firm foundation of mental strength to draw upon. But then I've just described a conundrum, because you have to do the hard training to achieve your highest goal, to know exactly what you are capable of. Maybe what I am trying to describe is an evolution, a philosophy of riding. There are phases and incarnations for each of us, I see myself in my fourth.
It’s liberating to let go of forever wanting achieve More. To finally let go of personal records and bests, to let go of the compulsion to ride ever further and longer. I’m almost to the point of riding without a computer. Just needing to get over stats completely. It took a near heart attack for me to get this needed perspective. I could have died training over the winter for…. I don’t know what…most likely something I’ve already done before just to say I did it again. To think of all the things I might have missed.
That’s the current zeitgeist here in Flashland. Thanks for reading.