I left on my usual lunch break walk Monday afternoon planning on crafting a lame excuse for a small break. It would go something like this: "Hey guys, sorry work/life has been hectic. I may not post anything this week but I'll be back soon!" I was thinking about how exactly to word this cheerful, open-ended, white lie, because neither life nor work has been hectic. I've just been having trouble crawling out of some life stuff - bike included - and it's all been starting to feel like quicksand.
It's been unseasonably cold out, and Monday was windy enough to have me walking a little sideways. The insides of my ears started to hurt as the crosswind turned into an enthusiastic headwind. I wasn't expecting it, and it shoved the air I was trying to breathe out back down my throat. The suffocating pressure felt like an appropriate analogy to my current life situation: functioning on a day-to-day basis has started to feel like riding into a considerable, seemingly-never-ending headwind on extremely weak [non-Dutch] legs.
In the context of the bike, it's familiar and sometimes inevitable. Shit happens, and sometimes it comes in the form of currents of air that like to mess with your front wheel, your inertia, or both. There is a stretch of windy, gusty days every year in the spring here; early enough in the year that there are cobwebs and dust bunnies still lingering in my legs from long, steady efforts all winter, but late enough that I'm practically begging weather.com to ride outside. The timing is always perfect, because I'm never ready. And so I spend a few weekends pedaling against a wall of air, sometimes doing the walk of shame while trying not to get my steel bike ripped out of my hands and down into the Tama River. It's frustratingly unpleasant and if I'm hungry enough, can shove me into an abyss of hopeless helplessness. If I'm honest, it's never not scared me.
Pushing my cold hands deeper into my pockets, I'd turned my head to try to breathe last Monday, glad that I wasn't trying to ride outside that day. As chance would have it, I was next to a small Japanese cafe I'd taken Alex and Tim to last February. It had been windy, then, too, and we'd found good ramen after riding around the Imperial Palace. Tim - like all cross addicts - skipped around sidewalks and curbs on his Super X, Alex was relaxed and steady, I'd tried to keep up without blowing up.
"I hate wind," I'd cringed to Tim.
"Bend your elbows," he'd said, "lean into it. And keep pedaling. If you coast, you're fucked."
I filed that into the mental "practical things to know about cycling" folder and pulled it out a month later when the wind predictably picked up again. It worked, and like most good advice, it's seeped into other moments, like when I feel the need to mash down on the life panic/pause button...for about five weeks...to get fat and feel really sorry for myself. I remembered, then that while slamming yourself into a brick wall won't always be productive, easing up too much on the pedals - like I've been doing - can be just as silly. In the end, it just makes it that much harder to get back on the bike.
That realization of what I've been doing [or, more accurately, not doing] hasn't gotten me tearing up the sides of mountains on one gear, setting PRs or otherwise accomplishing anything other than sitting in my trainer [and finally completing a workout, to the virtual cheers of my coach]. I've already broken my promise to cry less, but I haven't self-medicated with chocolate in three [!!!] whole days. It's not much so far, but I'm trying not to coast. I'm calling it "active recovery" - of the mental and physical kind - with fingers crossed that a Type A personality and the demotivatingly boring hell that is easy spinning will get me a little closer to hungry.