When I sit at my computer and surf the biking blogs, I get overwhelmed with messages of titanic effort, suffering, redemption, epicness.
Hundreds of miles of mountain biking in 36 hours! Raising thousands of dollars for an unimpeachable cause by exercising myself into the ground! Jumping off cliffs and flying! Drinking enough caffeine to power a small town for a week!
Bigger! Faster! Sronger! Richer! Go! GO! GO-O-O!!
Okay, America. Put your feet on the floor, relax, and take a dee-e-p breath. Hold it...........
Okay; let it out.
* * *
I still get suckered by the extreme side of my most beloved sport. I get lured by the esacpades of guys even older than my 47 years who pack survivalist essentials into a bike-frame bag every weekend and fly off to ride three days into the middle of the arctic tundra, without sleep, surviving on nothing but hand-ground artisan coffee and scavenged berries. I read about dudes who put in hundreds of austere miles toward their race-readiness, perfectly kitted and floating effortlessly past the 150-mile-mark.
And then I seriously feel I am missing out, or there is something flat-out wrong with me. Am I weak? Is my manhood in question here? Should I go see my doctor?
Where there is room for someone who just loves to ride a bike? Sometimes hard and fast, sometimes slow and pleasurably? Stopping to take a few pictures (heresy!), chatting with a local. Where are the folks who feel good if they get 20 miles in?
Where are the people who aren't looking to completely redefine themselves every time they swing their leg over a saddle?
We are outliers. Persona non grata.
When I first started riding again a few years ago, I took myself way too seriously, and aimed at becoming one of the Extremers. Over time, my body gave me a serires of very clear messages that this was not my fate.
Without a doubt, I am sad I can't ride hundreds of miles at a stretch -- it sounds like a blast. But I am learning, (very) slowly, to enjoy what I can do. And I am learning that there are everyday heroes right here in the anonymous middle of the continuum: people who get up before the sun on Saturdays so they can ride over both the hills they were contemplating the night before, and then go back and clean the house, shop for the food, play with the kids, and basically do a good life, contentedly below the radar.
If you're out there, send me a message in a bike bottle. Or better yet, start a blog. We need to remind each other that we're the 99% of the gene pool.