It’s downright entertaining how we change throughout our course in life. I’m tempted to say we evolve, but, at least in my case, that might be a bit of a stretch given my inner child’s penchant to emerge — for better or worse — in any circumstance.
With Baseball’s Spring Training in the rearview mirror, I think about life as a youngster when I could tell you the typical batting order for every team in Major League Baseball. These days I would be hard-pressed to name nine Major Leaguers overall.
What really prompts this, though, goes much deeper. I remember days of my youth literally plotting and planning the type of person I wanted to be. What I would deem important throughout my life, and what I wouldn’t waste mental energy on.
Those introspective moments happened on runs while training for cross country or track back in junior high, and later in high school on long bike rides. When I look back across my life, I see that I’ve pretty much maintained those core beliefs and stuck to them.
At an even deeper level is who we are and what we tolerate, something that comes much clearer into focus as life forges on. This struck me one day.
My co-worker and I discussed that we commute on our bikes every day and as such, we really had what I refer to as “commuter fitness” as opposed to real life fitness.
That’s a polite way of saying that I probably could ride a lot farther than your average folks on their couch with their laptops balanced on their tummies. How much effort that balancing act takes would tell me how much farther I could ride than you.
Compared to the people out there who spend more time in Lycra than Cotton, well, the fitness level disparity is probably about the same as me and couch potatoes.
To combat this, I mentioned that my commute straight to work and home took probably 25-30 minutes each way. However, I took a longer route to attempt to be on my bike closer to an hour each way. My co-worker commended me on this, and simply asked, “Do you look for hills to climb?”
I shrugged and said, no, not really. I usually saved serious hill climbing for weekends.
That’s when I realized that, really, I spent the majority of my time just riding for fitness, not necessarily fun. Add more time on the bike here and there.
Next thing you know, I was commuting to work and taking detours to climb hills. Cursing my co-worker the whole way up.
Now I’m not a real testosterone pumped dude. Much more on the mellow side. Had my co-worker said, “Man, that’s wimpy that you don’t hammer some hills” I would have no doubt ignored his message completely.
Instead, he got in my head.
My climbs were hardly the Alps or Rockies, but for commuter fitness, this was big stuff. I could feel the difference in my legs. The need for more. The want for more.
I became a climbing fool, again, commuter level not European-bound-wannabe-ride-a-Marty-Jemison-tour level. Seeking out climbs. My weekend rides climb for 2-3 hours, then turn around and coast home. It got to the point where climbs have became the spiritual focal point of my rides.
Nothing compares to the rhythm and cadence of a climb.
You can’t zone out and contemplate the meaning of life.
You understand the micro differences of grade.
You remain in the present.
You hear your breathing.
Up, up and away.
Feel your heartbeat.
Sense the essence of life.
I’m pretty sure the foundation of my climbing obsession boils down to the same reason I ride 26×2.35 knobbies everywhere, on the road, gravel and trails. If I rode on 700×25, I would have to be out hours longer for the same workout.
Same with climbing. Two hours climbing would be lord knows how many hours on a flat.
Don’t get me wrong: I love riding my bike. I just can’t keep my attention span active more than 4-6 hours these days.
Interesting how I forgot what my motivational buttons were. Even so, it’s good to know they still work.
Time to ride.
Thanks for this perspective. My mind loves climbing- my body less so! My recreational rides are short but they are so hilly that I feel that I really accomplished something.
You nailed it with “my mind loves climbing my body less so.” Love it