It’s lonely on the 1. I wish I could say it’s beautiful, and I was counting on its beauty to cheer me up, but the clouds hanging over the sea are like so much blue dryer lint, and the sea itself has the dull gleam of crumpled foil in a trash can. The wind is blowing me back, a strong wind the likes of which I have not seen for five years. I remember Mike Munk telling me five years ago that he’d rather ride up a hill than fight the wind any day, because you can at least see what you’re riding against. I have to agree.
I’m tired, and I have no one to talk to but myself, so this is how I pass the time. I invent as many ways as I can to describe the pain of pedaling seventy miles.
- The air feels like broken glass in my lungs.
- The air feels like dry hay in my lungs.
- My bones are turning into milk.
- My bones are turning into chalk.
- My lower back hurts so much that it feels like a crab is trying to pinch it free from my spine.
- I am so hungry that it feels like I’ve swallowed a bobcat.
- I am so hungry it feels like two stones scraping against each other.
- I am so hungry I can feel my stomach digesting itself.
- My eyes are drying out like peeled grapes.
- I feel like tissue paper disintegrating in water.
I’ve done this to myself before. Not as often as the people I regard as being truly hardcore cyclists, but often enough. This is absurd because I don’t like cycling. My two favorite hobbies in all the world are reading really stupid books, and social dance. If a demon showed up and forced me to give up a hobby or he’d kill a litter of kittens, I would give up cycling first, no question. I’d even keep perfume collecting over cycling, and I haven’t bought a new scent in years.
So why am I here?
For the aftermath. For the victory. For the knowledge that when put to the test, I do not fail.
This is a fundamentally childish impulse, but childish in the best sense of the word–in the sense that the young have a need to learn, and explore, and grow, to discover themselves and the world, that someone more settled might not have.  The older and more experienced you are, the weaker your drive is to discover things–because you know them already.
So this is why I am here.
Because, ultimately, I want to find my limits. And I haven’t yet.