I’m struggling up a hill that two weeks ago I was cruising over. That day, two weeks ago, I was making Big Time and Nate suffer with the pace. I was not the one to set it, but I did accept it and we were moving quickly. Their legs were tired, but mine felt like magic. That was then, now — now I’m in a world of hurt. Big Time and Nate are up the road, battling for something that probably has more to do with pride than fitness. That’s not a judgement, but just a statement. I can’t judge because two weeks ago that was me making the move, then countering Nate’s counter all out of pride. I was feeling good about the work I had been doing, about all the hours I had put in and I was trying to show it. The price for displays of pride can be high and I was paying it now.
After Big Time and Nate there was Joe who was building his fitness, but was smart enough to stay out of the pissing contest going on up the road. After him was Brendon the new guy, never raced a day in his life, and hadn’t done much more than a few hard rides. Later he would say that this was the hardest ride he’d ever been on. Even he is ahead of me. My goal for today was to get in a long recovery ride so that I could work out the kinks that had been put there by the race the day before. What I was getting instead was a hard ride. I knew I was going to spend the next couple hours chasing after my teammates up and down the foothills of Mount Hood.
As I crested the hill I noticed, for maybe the first time, a small church surrounded by a white picket fence containing vivid green grass. The sign of church was constructed of three raised crosses with a board bearing the name of the church nailed to the front. All of it painted white.
The crosses made me think about the suffering of Christ when he was supposedly nailed to a cross. I thought how I was dealing with my self induced suffering compared to Christ’s. At that moment it occurred to me that in the moments before his death Christ was perfect. He had found perfection in his suffering. I don’t know where this thought comes from. The suffering, or anything having to do with Christ has not crossed my mind for over ten years. But there it is now staring me in the face.
The confrontation with divine makes me uncomfortable. Even if I don’t believe. To draw a direct line between what I’m feeling right now and a man — any man who ever crossed the Roman Empire — who was nailed to cross feels like a jump beyond the absurd and in to foolishness. Someone who knows me well once said that what I was looking for with all this writing, riding and racing is a religious experience. I ponder that through several very slow turns of the pedals. Those pedal strokes take an eternity, in the way that our thoughts move twice as fast as our bodies. So the thoughts just hang there. Waiting for me to answer them. I can’t, so I just let them hang there.
Is all this writing, and riding, and racing the same as seeking salvation? What separates me from a pilgrim traveling to a holy land?
It’s all too much and I’ve finally hit the part of the road that pitches down. The thoughts stop and the body takes over. Left middle finger pushes the lever, which pulls a wire that moves a piece of metal on a spring. The chain moves to the big ring. Hands go to the drops and I dive down the hill. I have some people to catch up with.