Over the summer I was training with an American cyclist friend visiting the Dolomites. He’s ten years younger, still competitive and hungry for results. At the time I was moderately fit on the bike, so together we rode hard in the mountains. He destroyed me. Back at my place one day I was recalling a story for him when I said, “I was listening to This American Life on my headphones while riding and…” . “Whoa, wait a second”, he stopped me. “You were listening to a podcast and not Slipknot while training?”. This little question made things very clear.
Unmistakable signs of age. They are showing up. I’m trying to convince myself that these subtle little changes are okay, let’s see what the natural aging process does. On the bike, one thing becoming very commonplace, is the Stop.
What is the Stop? It’s simple, it is saying yes to that nagging call of seeing a great spot while out riding, but actually stopping, getting out of the pedals and off the bike, and actually parking your padded, and possibly chamois creamed, rear on a bench/wall/rock/grass or cafe chair. There are few more enjoyable things to do in life. It is a pause while loving something to simply soak it all in, where you are, how you feel, and to really take in where your legs have gotten you.
I’ve known about the importance of the Stop for many years as I had an experience prove the value of taking this time for myself. I grew up bike racing in Sacramento, California. The beautiful American River Bike Trail was my commuting road, my training ground and even as a kid, my way to school. One particular bench became a standard stop. There I sat with friends and drank coffee while bike commuting to work. There I sat and ate a bar after a huge training day and River Ride. There I sat to soak in it all, being an athlete, being alive and out doing what I love.
In 1997, life took me to Alaska where I commercial fished for 6 months. It was a trying and difficult time. Sometimes 40 hours would go by without sleep and the resulting mental state would have me hallucinating to other places, other times. More than any other place I would drift off to was that bench. It was the natural place my mind would seek safety and comfort. Even so very faw away, I had to go to that bench.
Now, I seek out these Stops. Equally as important as the ride’s experience are the little additions I give it. Ultimately, these things are more important than my average heart rate or kilometers ridden. Today I stopped at a bench I know well and felt the warmth of an unusually warm December day dry my sweat after a 500 meter climb. I looked down on my valley, frozen in the shadows yet glowing in the sun, and I simply enjoyed being.
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