Anyone else could have seen it coming, of course. Simply put, if this year's winter is anything like the one we had last year, I won't ride either Lucille or Janet from December until late March. But I have been so involved in the glory and discovery of it all, that I haven't thought ahead. I simply cannot imagine that anything so wonderful could be finite. I file his comment away – it will only depress me to think about it. I figure I’ll pedal off that bridge when I come to it.
Well now it’s here. As I ride up the Greenway, the weather is slightly overcast, and the entire city smells like a heliport, a harbinger of the dark days and pollution I associate with Winter. Ugh. I have decided to take Lucille to Central Park and do the Loop a couple of times, even though my heart isn’t in it. I have a ride with L the next day and I need to keep up my stamina. Lucille is good for that because she’s heavier and her 16” wheels require more effort. But something’s up when I get there.
Denial is one of my stronger character traits. Even after the 2nd plane went into the WTC, I was convinced it was a control tower mistake. So I’ve completely spaced on the upcoming New York City Marathon, which happens every year, and pretty much signals the end of Summer (or riding season, as I’ve come to call it). Preparation is in full swing for the event.
The following morning, I’m up at 5.
There is nothing like the thrill of leaving the house on a bike at 6:15 in the morning. The quiet of the City, the excitement of the ride ahead, witnessing the dawning of the day (which I only ever used to witness in a state of hangover and personal remorse from the vantage point of my 20s, if I remember right), catching the city unawares, in a slightly altered, transitional state - it is one of the most riveting and magical things I’ve ever done in my life, and I never tire of it.
The Greenway is well enough lit, but still mysterious at that hour.
Translate: Fiend’s Hill 6 times in a row. (You can't be serious?? I say this to myself, of course). But yes, she means it. “Sure,” I say as we take off at the usual break-neck speed. I always say yes to L. She has revolutionized my biking, and opened up my concept of what is possible. But I can’t actually imagine doing Fiend’s Hill that many times consecutively (In my fourth blog post, I couldn’t even make it up once).
To be honest, it’s paid off. My trip to Annandale was great because I was ready for it. And now that I have begun to access (and build) reserves I never knew I had, few hills hold terrors for me, which is freeing. Off we go.
Fiend's Hill One
As I ride home, I reflect on how The NYC Marathon means different things to so many different people. Runners who’ve posted on the Marathon website talk about the challenge to their lives that the Marathon represents, what running in New York means to them, what it means to be part of the community of runners.
I couldn’t be a runner if my life depended on it. I have a gait like a kangaroo and while I marvel at people who can do it, everything about the sport is personally incompatible with this body.
I am part of another community however: that of cyclists, and the Marathon applies to us too. We can relate to it - many runners eventually morph into cyclists I'm told - and it takes place on territory we share with runners. Though I will not be running the course itself, I appreciate what it takes to do it. And it's forcing me to up my game, which is good on general principle.
I always like to think there will be no marathons in my future. In spite of having been proven wrong on every occasion, my denial remains a habit that's hard to break. But the truth is, marathons appear all the time, whether we are ready or not: unexpected deadlines, protracted times of mental or physical stress - they're all part of life; the stronger we are, the better we will do. And there's a physical cross-over: there's strength in knowing that if you did in one place, you can do it in another. It doesn't matter how you train really, but it helps to enjoy the process. Swimmers choose swimming. Runners choose running. I've chosen cycling. It's the first sport that ever got to me in my bones, and like any runner I've known, I can’t explain it better than that. But I know this: one day I'll be glad for this training. When my next marathon does come, I will be ready.