The task spreads out before me like molasses poured onto a tabletop, indulging in its viscous immensity. Its growing breadth makes it a kind of enigma, the sort distinguished by an elusive end and therefor an intangible beginning. It occurs to me, at this moment, that the difference between those who achieve and those who stagnate is not measured by their greatness, but by their courage to begin. There is a boldness in embarking on that to which the end is unknown, to trust in your ability to navigate a path along which the way can be felt more than it can be seen.
In life, our path is fractured by the paths of those in our social and professional proximity. In training, we are simply a product of our discipline and will. In a world full of change and flux, training stands out as a beautifully simple thing. Time in the saddle goes in one end, and progress comes out the other. The magnitude of the change we see as a result is directly proportional to our commitment to a goal; there is nowhere to to seek answers to our failures but inside ourselves.
The most sacred act in Cycling is, for me, the day-long solo training ride, especially in Winter. On these days of 200 or more kilometers, I rise with the sun still lingering behind the Cascades to the East. There is a chill in the air even inside the house as I shake off sleep and prepare for a ride book-ended by the twin fires of sunrise and sunset. I wait patiently for the streets to be lit well enough to allow my safe passage; perhaps I’ll have another espresso while I wait for the sun to laze above the horizon.
Setting out, my heart will be heavy with dread knowing the ribbon of kilometers, hills and climbs that lies ahead. In Winter, the effect is heightened by the gray clouds in the sky and the knowledge that rain and possibly snow will accompany me. Before I even begin, my mind casts ahead to the warm shower and hearty meal which will greet me at the end of this long day. Yet, the only way to arrive is by loading the pedals at the outset and getting to the business of turning them endlessly until I return to the house.
My usual long training route consists of chaining together my daily training loops. While familiarity with the route serves to comfort me, the conclusion of each loop carries me by my home – each time I find myself tempted to escape into the warm confines where my family, a shower, and a meal awaits. Yet, with each passing of the house, my resolve is energized, I continue. I continue with only the thoughts in my head, my discipline, and the cold and wet to keep me company. When I finally return home, my spirits fill with a sense of accomplishment.
These rides help me find form, certainly, but they serve a more fundamental purpose that echoes in my personal and professional life. They serve to remind that a large task is an aggregate of smaller, more simple tasks and that we need only the courage to begin. Just as a long ride is accomplished by the simple act of turning the pedals, we achieve our goals in life by starting today to incrementally move towards them.
I am reminded through the solitude of the ride that simply beginning is the most critical element to finishing; fail to do that, and you will never have the opportunity to finish. Vive la Vie Velominatus.