Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On toughness

I ride in all weather. I rode this morning when I was pelted with freezing rain and then watched it switch over to fat, lazy flakes drifting down and melting on the wet pavement. The roads are wet and sandy and disgusting, and I arrived at work with sopping shoes and sand caked up and down my pants legs.

That doesn't make me tough. Toughness is a thing you see during races like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France. I am not in the top 30% of tough bicycle riders, probably.

And of course, you ought to ride when you feel the urge to ride. There is no mandate. There is no measure of worthiness to spinning your wheels in unpleasant conditions. There is no enhanced riderness to be gained. No one is keeping score.

For me, riding in inclement weather is a way to test myself. I don't have the time or talent (or inclination) to ride stage races or find other ways to push my limits. But setting off on even a ten mile ride in freezing rain and sleet puts me almost immediately at a place of discomfort that I find interesting. It's an easy way to test my my limits.

And I enjoy it. If I was genuinely uncomfortable, I wouldn't do it.

I am merely at a place in my cycling life where I like suffering. I like climbing. I like the pain in my quads. I like to arrive home wrung out and then stumble up the stairs for lack of juice in the legs.

It's a beautiful place to be, this masochistic phase in my cycling. But it doesn't make me tough.

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