Sometimes you end a ride feeling great. You’ve been sweating and working and just blasting those pedals for hours. Pull into the parking lot and smoothly dismount, slide off your helmet and slick back your shiny, windblown mane.
Other times you barely make it back alive. Drag into the parking lot, almost hit your car trying to stop before tilting over and unclipping just in time. The earth seems to shift and you almost fall as you attempt stand on two painful legs for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Try to remove your helmet, sunglasses fall to the ground. You hair is dry, frizzy and blown out like you stuck your finger into an electrical outlet. Your skin is hot and scaly, the ability to sweat left you hours ago.
This ride was the latter. It started out ok but turned into a death march almost exactly at the halfway point. I’ve never come closer to calling for a ride home. Standing on the side of the road at the start of the Burnt Mountain climb, crying inside as I frantically swipe around on my phone looking for a shortcut to avoid the climb. I find nothing and the choice is laid bare. I can choose life and climb the mountain, legs, lungs and heart burning and exhausted but still moving. Or I can choose death and sit on the side of the road for two hours waiting to be picked up by a disappointed partner. I imagine the look on her face as the opens the door. Rice-cake smile, trying not to be obvious with the judgement. Thoughts on how to deal with failure quick behind her lips.
I clench my jaw, shift into the largest cog I have and crawl up the mountain. Every atom screaming to stop. Let the flame extinguish, there is no shame in giving up. Failure is a growth method. But I can’t so I keep riding. I summit the mountain and howl down the descent. The rest of the ride is a blur. It’s hot, I’m always running out of water, stomach churning and refusing food. Legs barely working. Head spinning from the exertion.