Daylight Savings always represents a turning point for my cycling season. In Fall, it represents leaving my season’s goals behind as I find once again the simple pleasure of riding my bike for the sake of riding my bike; the sensation of the rhythm, the hypnosis of rain dripping from my cycling cap’s brim, the cool air in my lungs, the indulgence in Rule #9. In Spring, like the bits of green beginning to appear on the tree branches and shrubs along the street, the ambition to start increasing the intensity of my training is beginning to bud. When I set my clock forward on Sunday, I knew the time had come.
The pleasure I found in riding with my objectives just at my back and a long winter stretching before me has been replaced by a desire to rediscover that strength in my legs that gives me the feeling that I can somehow control the pain of an intense effort. The sensation of Control Over Pain rests in my mind like the shadow of a dream which only becomes more vague the more I try to remember how it felt. Riding tempo on the climb up Interlaken Boulevard on Sunday did little to reassure me that such control has ever been within my grasp.
With Daylight Savings, my attitude turns from being glad that I got out on the bike to being disappointed if I didn’t. Objectives for the season are mapped out – whatever they may be – and a plan is formed around meeting them. At the start, the fitness I had the previous season seems unattainable. I have been working hard to get thin and fit, but the pain in my legs and burning in my lungs tells me otherwise when the road points upward.
Then, slowly, the sensations return. Almost without warning, I’ll find myself at the tight switchback before the steep section on one of my favorite climbs, and instead down-shifting as I exit the turn and hit the first of the ramps, I’ll find myself rising out of the saddle and pushing onward. Then, weeks later still, I’ll hit that same turn while still in the big ring. The power in my legs will feel good despite the pain flooding my senses.
The progression of fitness is something to look forward to. It takes work and sacrifice, but the rewards are palpable; the progression is along a scale of relative improvements, with each improvement a tangible gain over the last. And that is why I do it. That is why I start, for the objective is too far away and too abstract. I am spurred on by the momentum gained through incremental improvement much more than that of the goal itself. The goal is fleeting; once obtained, there is either the next or nothing. The progression towards the goal, however, represents the continuous evolution of the cyclist.
Today I struggle to translate these things I know to be true into how I feel when I struggle up a climb. But over time, by continuing to step out into the rain and climb aboard my bike, I will start to claw my way forward. And each year, the progression starts when I set my clocks for Daylight Savings Time.