23 September 2006


Exhaustion does not kill a paradigm, it merely signals it has lost the ascendancy.

I don’t much believe in witches though I’ve sought their council – involuntarily – as early as the age of one. It was an alleged issue of life and death, my Mom explained once, though I don’t recall the actual witchcraft that was performed on me. And indeed there is a saying in my land that pronounces: “I don’t believe in witches, but witches there are aplenty.”

Not too long ago I was talking to Bill on the list about bonking: that physical low experienced during hard physical activity. A weak definition, really, by any account, since the real feeling is that type of awful that dictionaries can’t handle in definitions, not without pictures and groaning sound effects. And so I was telling Bill, who apparently recently bonked and found himself helpless alongside some mountain road until a kind motorist came to his assistance (because some drivers are nice in spite of bicycles), that one ought to avoid those bonking things by resting right, eating properly, hydrating, you know all those little things that make us wise bike riders. Mind you, I said all of that with a certain degree of authority because I bonked once and that made me, well, a bonking authority.

This is where the witchcraft comes in: no more than a couple of days after Bill raises the bonking issue that I bonk after a mere three hour ride. And once again – as happened the first time – I didn’t think I’d done anything unusual; after all I had done this particular 64 kilometer loop before at a 19.7 km/hr. pace. Nothing unusual, I thought.

I should’ve gotten a hint that things weren’t right as I climbed my first hill – the Bicycle Eater, as my son calls it – and I was nearly out of breath at the top of it. That was only 4 kilometers into the ride. I felt very tired. (A little voice told me to turn around but I failed to hear it.) So I pushed on and apparently convinced myself that things ought to get better.


I’m not so sure whether things went better or worse…they just went. Somehow I maintained my normal pace and drank my two liters of energy drink, though I had this strange desire to make it home quick.

I bonked as soon as I got through the garage door; sat down without one wink of energy and no desire to do a thing. I ate and drank like a desperate man soon as I could and then slept for two hours – killing most of the afternoon, ‘cause the morning had killed me – until I began to feel slightly normal again. I thought I had a fever or a cold. My legs were cramping. I was dead tired.

Then I thought about it. What happened? It was the bonkers spell again. The night before I had had no dinner, which is very unusual for me; instead I had two beers. And then again, for some strange reason I had a light breakfast. Only one toast and a cup of coffee: European cup of coffee-thingy, small, tiny. Again, fairly unusual for me. (Nowhere in European etiquette – not even in the most hermetic French baguette circles – does it say that you cannot have 3 tiny thingies to make up for one normal real thingy.)

So I should’ve listened to my advice to Bill: you’ve got to fuel properly and rest properly. That’s what I told him just a couple of days ago, lest you want the bonk to get you. Almost sounds like a spell, doesn’t it?

12 September 2006

This Order

I used to have an uncanny ability to handle disorder. This was so because it wasn’t disorder at all. It was more like a deep-seated desire to piss my Mom off as a teenager; why of course I could find anything in my room, despite what she might think. “You want me to prove it,” I’d say, “well just ask me to find something?” Guess she never did and I’d have to “clean up” my room anyway, her way. Uhhhg!

But I always kept to my orderly way, in a way. Take my books for instance. I could find any book I wanted from any pile whenever I wanted. There was order in my apparently disordered piles. I mean it. I could go from shelve to shelve, from horizontal to vertical stacks, and find the title I wanted as though I knew the exact locations with photographic memory. I’d get this sudden urge to read, whatever, say, Notes from the Underground -- yes, I was a strange kid, an angry kid -- and I’d find it on the fourth pile on the left. Just like that.

That ability has gone. I still have piles: in my office, on my desk, on my night table, but I no longer know where that particular title is to be found. (And you know that you always need that book, the one, the one you can’t find.)

This is somehow connected to bicycles. No, let’s not exaggerate. I do know where I park my bike at work and it is difficult to misplace my Piglet it in my garage – almost. But it happens most often with my bike tools and gear and I have but very few of those, mind you. But damn I had the screwdriver right by the rear wheel! Where did I put the light? My vest? The pump? What’s the pump doing in my wife’s bike when I needed it just on this ride?! (Not to mention the spare tube with the wrong valve to fit my pump; or was it the right pump to fit the wrong tube?)

I guess I’m just not what I used to be; my type of order has finally grown up. I know, Mom, I know. “I told you so.”

07 September 2006

After The Fall

One of the most obvious facts about grown-ups, to a child, is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child. [Jarrell]

I forget often enough. Others do too and it is apparently normal enough, which ought to make us wonder.

My boy Alberte has made a steady come back after his fall. I was greatly to be blamed for it for not thinking enough as a child or forgetting what it was like for me to take those first rides and those spills. But he has come back and has been riding stronger than ever, accomplishing hard climbs and hills that took me longer to accomplish than it is taking him -- honestly. I gather and hope that he is beginning to enjoy himself more -- for himself -- rather than for me: to please me. I push him rather tenderly now, letting him decide when he wants to ride, where he wants to ride and how. My child psychology is so simple and predictable that my boy knows better, I think.

This does not mean that riding has become a free for all. Occasionally he still wanders off into the middle of the road -- as any eight-year-old might on peaceful country roads -- thinking child things and forgetting that cars aren’t thinking or caring about what he’s thinking. This is where I reprimand him most and also why I choose, whenever possible, to ride behind him so I can see what he’s doing; something I failed to do the day he fell. I have come to learn that riding close behind children is a significant safety feature. I can normally hear cars coming from behind first and warn him accordingly. I also ask him to warn me -- sort of like a game -- when cars approach from the opposite direction. We sort of share responsibilities that way.

But he has come back well and strong. Seeing his thin, little legs pedal away, his bottom up from the seat to conquer that hill, just makes me smile. Makes me remember what it was like to be a kid again.

01 September 2006

Love that to which you return…

Some of you must have had this feeling:

…you are riding along with the buddies, you think you’re strong, you hit that hill and a sudden realization hits you square in the gut:

…you’re not nearly as strong as you thought…you will never be, actually…you realize your limits, for there are limits to who you are…to what you can do....

Depressive sensation or realistic acceptance?

My reading buddy, Marcus Aurelius – I sometimes turn to him in times of distress, old-stoic, meditating know-it-all, he tells me:

Be not unhappy, or discouraged, or dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in acting always by the right principles; but when you have failed, try again, and be content if most of your acts are consistent with man’s nature. Love that to which you return…. [Meditations, V, 9]

But then again he never rode a bicycle up that hill….