Six years ago, after a long hiatus, I rebooted my interest in cycling. And the one thing that always bothered me back then, and still does now, is the time. The time commitment. This one, most important thing you must sacrifice in order to take on the epic adventures you end up writing about.
When this all (re)started for me, I was never comfortable leaving my wife behind to spend the day driving to and from some remote place, with a bike ride thrown in the middle. Or consuming an entire weekend while I pursued some arbitrary cycling mission. Of course for some of these missions I took Kristen along, but being realistic, how much fun could that really be, typically waiting alone for blocks of hours while I did my own thing without her. This always stuck in the back of my head, and I didn’t like it. But I did it anyway, right up until last year.
As some of you know, my grandmother passed away last February, and that was the catalyst for a lot of different things in my life. It’s one of those moments that changes a person. You don’t necessarily know that in the days and months after it happens, but reflecting back after a year or longer, you see it as a defining line. From that moment on, I came to resent the massive amounts of time I had invested in cycling. Recognizing how fragile life can be, and how it can be taken away swiftly and without warning, time now means so much more than it ever did. And the lost opportunity becomes painful. Especially when, in the case of my Nana, there is no opportunity to make up for lost time. The door is closed. That sticks in you like you wouldn’t believe. You just sit there, hating yourself for it. And then you consider that no one is immune to circumstance; anyone you know could be gone seemingly at any time. You eventually reign that in a little, but for a long time you live in constant fear of loss and it renders you practically incapable of doing things the way you did them before.
After my grandmother passed, my wife – my best friend – I was tortured by the thought of her being gone. Compounded by the disgust I felt for all of the time I selfishly invested in cycling and running. How could I have done that. How could I just leave like that, time after time, seemingly with no regard for her as a person, who no doubt would have rather spent the day with me doing something interesting. How many of those days saw her left at home, maybe falling asleep in the afternoon, waking to hope I would return soon, only to learn that wasn’t going to happen. I just never had that perspective before. I do now, and the feeling is sickening almost. I think about training for the marathon in ’07, running six times a week for months. Where the hell was I? Did I just not care? Clearly I care now, maybe to a fault, it’s hard to say.
When Nana passed it forced the two of us to seriously confront the topic of having a child; something we batted back and forth for several years. And as neither of us are particularly good at taking initiative (it took us 14 years to get married), this new awareness of time was a powerful motivator. The rest is history. We have Stella now. She is incredible. Sometimes I wonder, had we decided a long time ago to have a baby, would we have been given her. One of the greatest things about Stella is that, for me anyway, it absolutely validates our procrastination. She absolves any regrets. To me, she is perfect, and who’s to say, if conceived at any other time in our lives, would she have been “her”.
I am so sad sometimes about the fact that she will never meet my grandmother. That is tempered only by the notion that her passing had everything to do with my change in perspective on life, and that Stella was really a product of that. I still wish it didn’t have to be like this though. Why it had to be so absolute. One or the other.
It’s harder now of course, carving out the kind of time I’ve talked about. The kind of time I resent, but the time I know is required to accomplish some of things I want to accomplish in cycling. I don’t feel as if I can just throw those pursuits away; it would be unhealthy. I think people need balance, both in their personal endeavors and their relationships. That’s why this is so difficult; having this awareness, yet trying to make it work. You think it was hard for the past year, not wanting to be away from Kristen. Add Stella to the equation and you wonder how I leave the house at all. It’s always wrought with self-imposed guilt. When I can shed just enough of it, I get out.
I was thinking this morning about how I can realistically accomplish something like 1:20 without the wealth of mileage I feel like that requires. I’m not even sure it’s possible. Of course there are all kinds of tricks, like the “Time Crunched Cyclist” (I own it and ironically don’t have time to thoroughly read it), but the prescribed minimum time investment is probably half of what I have available. And Tabata of course, which would probably kill me before it led to any kind of meaningful physical adaptation.
The longest I’ve been in the saddle in almost two years has been 2 hours 39 minutes.
I still dream about those roads in Vermont I rode almost exactly four years ago. And I dream about riding Washington again, but that one is so much harder, because I wouldn’t do it again unless I was ready to PR. It just requires too many resources from me not to approach it that way. I just don’t know when these kinds of things will become possible again. The concept of “do I have time for it” seems a lot more complicated now.
The one thing I’m hopeful for is cyclocross. I can stay in shape enough to race and put out one good hour. And more than that, I can do it with minimal inner conflict. Kristen and Stella would not be strung out for great lengths of time, and that’s such a perfect thing about a 45 minute race. It feels highly compatible with me right now on many levels.
Life would be a lot easier if I just stopped riding.