I stole a ride yesterday. My in-laws live close to Durham Forest, and we had to bring my daughter there for her cousin’s birthday party. So while my wife visited with her parents, and my son played with his cousin. What was I to do?
Um, ride. That’s what I was to do.
So I stole away for a little rip. It was especially sweet because I raced last weekend, and rode late on Thursday night (and my son was very quick to point out that I came home too late for adequate snuggling time) and I didn’t want to be away from my family much more. But today, while he played with his favourite cousin, and while my daughter went to a birthday spa party, and while my wife had a visit with her parents, it was time for a guilt free ride. Woot woot.
To make it even sweeter, every fall ride has the added threat that it will be the last of the season, so this time of year makes me want to squeeze in as many rides as possible.
So, with three hours before sundown, my wife pushed me out the door to “Go for a ride. Seriously, Ambrose is playing, and I’m just going to talk to my parents. Go.”
And I did.
And it was awesome.
Because riding a bike is always awesome–even though, for the first time in months, it was a bit chilly and I had to wear a long sleeve shirt under my jersey, and full finger gloves, but whatever.
I did 30k on Thursday night, so I figured an hour or so today would be enough.
An hour or so wasn’t enough. Not even close, because, man, I was on last night. I usually get lost in Durham within the first 10k, and then just tool around in my usual “Where the hell am I” circles, looking for a cut in, but the first 20k was a sweet weave of awesome single track on trails that I sometimes can’t find, and usually don’t ride proficiently. But not yesterday. I found them, I rode them, and I nailed features that I usually don’t–spending a whole chunk of it just nipping from trail to trail. Sweet.
At one point during the ride, I met two riders at a technical climb. While they waited for me to pass, I nailed a sweet ascent, and as I grunted past, I heard one of the riders say “How’d he do that?”. Usually, I imagine riders saying “How’d he cram all of that body into his spandex?” so it was kind of cool to be the subject of a flattering comment. I wanted to stop, get off my bike and tell the rider three things:
- Trust your tires.
- Look ahead of your bike.
- Just keep pedaling.
But I didn’t stop because I was too busy being boss and awesome.
I gotta say though, I was pretty chuffed after hearing that comment.
Later on, when I was back to my usual “Where the hell am I?” circling, I hit the same climb again and totally got owned by the root at the top. Stupid root. And how the hell did I cram all of my body into spandex…
But I continued riding. I nailed a few other features. I missed a few other features. I realized that I should have stopped riding, gotten off my bike, and told myself three things.
- Trust your tires.
- Look ahead of your bike.
- Just keep pedaling.
Good advice. Too bad I was too dumb to give it to myself.
And then the universe spoke to me. As days do, it turned to night. But I wasn’t finished riding yet. I just wanted to squeeze a little bit more into my ride (stomps feet)! So I doubled back on one of my favourite sections for another 6k. Not a smart move. The sun was setting, and it’s descent was non negotiable. But I was on, I thought, and I rode.
And it was dark, but it was awesome. I really couldn’t see the trail in front of me, so I didn’t brake for roots; I didn’t jerk my bars around trees; and I didn’t ride tentatively over obstacles. I just rode. Besides, I figured I knew the trails, so whatever. I’d hit a root and say to myself “Oh yeah, there’s a root there” or I’d hit a rock and I’d say “Oh yeah, there’s a rock there”. Or I’d hit a tree and say “Hey tree, watch where you’re going.”
Don’t worry, I talked to the tree. We worked it out.
But the fact is, because I couldn’t see the small stuff on the trail, I HAD to trust my tires to do the work, and because I have 44 year old eyes, it was like I was looking ahead of my bike because I couldn’t see anything anyways (near or far). And because I was clawing at the last specks of daylight, trying to squeeze the last bit out of the ride, I had no choice but to just keep pedalling. It. Was. Awesome.
I’m not saying I recommend riding in the dark without lights, because, you know, trees, but it made me ride the way I should always tide. Sweet lesson for Team Colin.
It was awesome. I was boss. It was dumb, but whatever.
So I rode an additional 6k while night was falling, and the final k after night had actually fallen. Total darkness. It was so hard to see, I had to ride by feel. If my tires crunched on something, I counter steered back onto the trail
I made it to the Team Colin Support Vehicle under a shroud of darkness, but damn, I kicked at that darkness and won. It’s so awesome to squeeze an extra bit of riding out of an stolen ride.
Stumbling in the dark, I racked my bike, changed into dry clothes, and flipped a CD into my CD player for some sweet driving music on the drive home. It was a Taylor Swift mixed tape. Aw dangit. I ejected the CD, and popped in another. Son of a—it was another Taylor Swift mixed tape. How many Taylor Swift mixed tapes can a grown man possibly own?
Three. The answer is three. Yes, a grown man can have three Taylor Swift mixed tapes, but whatever, nothing was going to get me down, so I cranked the volume on “The Story Of Us” and owned it.
And by the way, so what if I own all of her CDs, including the Deluxe version of 1989 (the one that comes with the special edition polaroid pictures)? She makes good songs. Listening to her sing, I thought the story of ME.
The story of me is awesome.
And I feel like it’s just starting.
And then the universe spoke to me again. I didn’t want a profound life lesson—I was just out for a rip—but before leaving the parking lot, I got a text from my wife. She told me that one of her former colleagues died today.
He retired in June. 3 months ago.
And the importance of the story of ME became even more important.
Because, while squeezing the last drops out of a ride, on a ride that was squeezing the last drops out of the riding season, ON A BIKE WHERE I’M ALWAYS SQUEEZING ALL THE DROPS OUT OF MY LIFE, it made me feel alright about the first few chapters of my life. The last chapter was awesome, this chapter is awesome, and I can’t wait to see what bossness comes with the next chapter. Hopefully I won’t break up with Taylor Swift (because I have no idea how she’ll rhyme Team Colin in her break up song).
I don’t know if my clock will end three months after I retire, but if it does, you can make damn sure there won’t be a single regret, and in order to ensure of that I’m going to keep on squeezing every last bit of life out of the time I’ve got.
And a good chunk of it will most definitely, certainly, absolutely, be on my bike,