So, Saturday I rode my bike 50 miles. I did not vomit. Although I did feel like it for the rest of the day. It's amazing how horrible food sounds when you're suffering from a combination of exhuastion and heat stroke. (Yes, heat stroke. I know it's October, but by the time I finished the ride, it was 95 degrees out. Hotter in the sun. Especially when you're on a bike that at this point is moving so slow, you're not even feeling wind. Just pain.)
While I did not vomit, I did suffer other humiliations. I was passed by a lot of people. First all the young, tough guys passed me, but they had an advantage because they have great big muscles and a certain amount of testertone-induced stupidity. Then a really old guy passed me, but I figured he had an advantage becasue he's had plenty of experience. Then this really fat guy passed me, but he had a definite advantage because he had more padding on his backside than some of the other riders, so he wasn't distracted by an aching posterior. And then a guy with one arm passed me, but he, too, had an obvious advantage because he was carrying less weight. Although I still want to know how he managed to balance on that bike. That did not look easy.
And then, after at least half the ride had passed me, we came up on some hills that I swear they had shipped in just for this ride. I live in the area, and I've driven a lot of those roads, and I do NOT remember there being hills like that. It's as if some sick, twisted person literally moved mountains to give me a more difficult ride.
Now, I have to admit that I didn't exactly train for this event as much as I should have. (Or at all, really.) So the first 20 miles felt great. And then the next 10 weren't quite as fun. And by mile 38 I kind of felt like getting off the bike, sitting down on the side of the road and crying. Everything hurt. But at mile 38 I was still 12 miles outside of town; I had gotten myself into this mess and the only way to get out of it was to keep going until it was over. So I just kept going.
While I toughed it out, mile after mile, I thought about things to get my mind off of the pain. I thought about the thesis that I am supposed to be writing right now and the jerk professor who has put as many roadblocks in my way since grudgingly agreeing to direct this thesis. This thesis is mentally painful to me; every time I think about it, it makes me suddenly and shockingly tense. I picture it as a little thought bubble with legs and red tennis shoes, running up to my brain, kicking it very hard, and running away laughing. This has not been a good line of thought for me this semester. However, in the presence of real, physical pain, the thesis was a magic thought. Somehow, thinking of the thesis relieved my physical pain, because I thought about how much more unhappy I would be at that very moment if I had been sitting in a library working on this stupid thesis. I would think about the thesis, and get frustrated, and that frustration would move into my legs, push me up a hill, and then somehow leave my body. Yes, I have discovered how to turn stress into speed.
The amazing thing is, once I had pedaled out the stress, it didn't come back, at least, not immediately. I think it works because when you're on a bike, every problem is easy. That hill ahead of you is a problem, but there's only one thing you can do about it; you shift into a smaller gear and keep pedaling until it's over. There are no variables to consider. And there's only one way it will turn out; you'll get to the top of the hill. And when you know how things are going to turn out, there's very little stress. Only accomplishment. Well, accomplishment and pain. But what's left at the end of the day is you having done something, having expended energy to get somewhere. And once you start to see the world this way, problems start to seem all but solved. You know that what's going to happen is going to happen, and if you just keep going, it will all be over soon.