You Get Used to It.

Steam rises from my mouth when I exhale, then evaporates into the dark morning. It’s early, but not early enough for what I’d initially planned. Which is fine, because my heart rate was a little high when I woke up, which is a good sign to back off a bit. The last two weeks have been wet, with temps in the forties, which is what the weather out look was for today. Instead its dry and cold.

I checked the weather as I ate my breakfast of whole wheat toast and Nuttella. The temps have dropped to the low thirties, which I’ll take over it being wet. The cold hurts my fingers and toes, but most of the time that’s easy to deal with. Somethings you just get used to.  I’m out the door an hour earlier than usual so the roads are deserted. As I pedal away from my house the only traffic I encounter are runners running in pairs, their headlamps bouncing in time with their steps.

The cars, which are parked sport windows covered in frost. Its the first time this winter where its been cold enough to frost the ground, along with the car windows. My mind is blank as I head north on SE 13th and it takes a few minutes to occur to me that I’m rolling without my ear buds, or my phone for that matter. What I’m left with is the sound of my wheels on the ground. Soon the enjoyment of that simple sound falls away to wondering why I don’t ride like this more often. Sure it might be safer, but what I’m more concerned about is missing this very sound. Rubber. Road. Pedals. Meditation. It seems so simple.

At SE Clinton I hang right at the K&F coffee shop, then past the house I lived in with the boys. Another cyclist passes me and yells “LIGHTS ASSHOLE!”. I look over at him decide to say nothing. “I’ve got a fucking light” I think to myself. I look down at my handle bars to confirm this statement, the light is there, but dead. “At least I’ve got a white jacket on” is the the next thought. I keep pedaling and hope for the best.

The moon is out as I head up tabor, giving my jacket a low level glow. “That’ll do” I  think to myself. I make a decision to skip the top and do a lap on the circuit. On the descent I gingerly push my bike through the turns and note the ice in gutter. I’ve got to be careful. I’m feeling better and better about my descending, but I can’t let this new found confidence become cockiness. I make it safely.

When the road tilts back up, just past the reservoir, I attack. Just where I would during the circuit race when in pursuit of a prime. It doesn’t last long, and at the top I’m panting and warm enough to unzip my jacket for a moment. I stop, eat a little bit of food. The moon is obscured by a fog, that I hadn’t realized I was riding through. My gloves are covered in frost, as are my cables and break hoods. I note the duality of being warm and cold at the same time and zip up my jacket  and head toward work. If I keep a good pace I’ll have time for coffee before I have to clock in.

The ride passes without incident and I cruise by the warehouse with plenty of time for a cup, even if it is Starbucks. The woman notes my appearance

“Cold out there? ”

A thousand smart ass comments fly through my head “A bit nippy, but you get used to it”

I look down and self conciously wipe a melted piece of ice that fell from my beard.

“Coffee help?” She asks.

“Yeah, that’d be good”.

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5 thoughts on “You Get Used to It.

  1. Your description of the sounds heard without headphones is spot on. It is often hard to explain to other cyclists that I prefer the quiet sounds of the road, my bike, and the world around me to the louder, more immediate sounds of music or talk/podcasts through earbuds. I can’t quite argue that my way is safer; meditating on the bike doesn’t necessarily mean maintaining good external awareness. But hearing dawn before the sun is high enough to see? Yeah, I’ll take that.

    1. Theo, It’s one of those things that I always say I’m going to do more often, but then never do. The act of putting those little buds in my ears as I walk out of the house and roll down the street, deaf to the waking of the world. I rode without my headphones on Sunday, but was so lost in the drama of my day to day (the missing cat, the dead feeling in my legs, the nature of life and the universe) that I missed out on the simple pleasure of the nice rubber that composes my tires. Wish I could have that moment back. Maybe tomorrow I will hear the world wake up.

  2. This was beautifully written. Been having trouble getting out of bed lately- thanks for the push.

    1. Thanks Skander! Good to hear from you. Truthfully, I’ve been having a hard time too. The “events” in this story happened months ago. Writing it was a good reminder to what I want, and what I’m capable of doing.
      Hope you are well — make sure you hit me up when you find yourself back this way.

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