AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just Cause

(*Unless I do it again.)

Over the years of doing races and endurance sports events, there are a series of questions that tend to bubble up as the most common. For the Philadelphia Triathlon it tends to be “Do you really swim in the Schuylkill River?!” For century bike rides it’s often “How long does that take?” [I give an answer] “Wow, I don’t even like to drive that far/long!” For marathon and half marathon, there’s a variety, but one that comes up a lot is “why are you running, are you being chased?”
For the upcoming bike trip, there have been a lot of questions, with a pretty decent variety. But one that comes up less frequently, but is still interesting, is: “Are you riding for a cause?” To which I just recently answered “The cause I’m riding for is ‘just cause.’”

So, no, I’m not riding to specifically support any cause. In past years I’ve raised money and done rides for LiveStrong foundation and the National Multiple Sclerosis foundation, among others, but this particular ride is ‘just cause.’

This brings up a slightly deeper question of ‘well then, why am I doing it?’ 
This ride isn’t cheap, it’s logistically challenging, I’ll spend 3 months away from friends and family with only a group of strangers for company, and above all else, it’s going to be immensely difficult. I have no pretense that this is going to be casual ride.
And yet, none of that intimidates me.

In the most generic terms, this will be magnificent, ‘once in a lifetime’, growing/learning experience. This sounds great, but in the same sort of way that life advice boiled down to one sentence and superimposed on a picture of a sunset is ‘deep.’
But you don’t uproot your life for 3 months to have a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience without looking for something more than what can be summed up in 140 characters.

I am doing this ride for the specific experience and the general experience. What does that mean? I look forward to seeing this beautiful country in a wide variety of settings. Endless plains of wheat growing in rural Kansas. The splendor of the mountains in Colorado. Riding alongside a meandering stream in Virginia. Watching the sunset every single night (well, except when it’s pouring rain.) Seeing the milky way splashed across the sky from Yellowstone Park.
And doing all of this at a cycling pace that decompresses time and lets me feel the experience rather than just passing by it. I look forward to challenging myself, as I’ve done with triathlon and marathon recently. There will be the physical effort to do this trip and achieve it, but also the enjoyment of getting a great workout every single day and the clarity of mind and body that comes with that kind of effort.
There are 14 other riders that will start out as strangers, but I will get to know very well by the end. Maybe I’ll make new friends, maybe I’ll be exposed to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. And conversely, I’ll have a lot of time to myself, to decompress and just think (or, spend time not thinking, and just let the miles roll under my wheels.)
There will be lots of challenges; setting up my tent in the pouring rain for several days on end. Aches and pains from riding for so long. Sleeping in a tent in 100 degree heat. But I’ll also learn a lot; The group will cook dinner every night and maybe I’ll pick up some culinary skills. I’ll get really good at camping and setting up a campsite. I’ll see what life looks like in small Midwest towns and talk to people with very different mindsets than my own. I’ll learn what my physical limitations might be, and if I can push past them.
And by conquering all those I’ll better learn what my personal strengths and weaknesses are, and hopefully that my physical and psychological upper limits are much higher than I expected.

TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) summary:
I get to see the country and get beautiful new experiences. I get to challenge myself physically and mentally, make new friends and learn about myself. All while taking a break from the ‘real world.’ It’ll be hard, but that’s part of what will make the experience.*

*That is more than 140 characters, will it all fit on one picture?

Ps, when I’m 60 days into the trip and cursing myself for doing this, point me back to this blog post for perspective. Then I’ll probably curse the naiveté of my ‘past’ self.

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