Grinding It Out

My wheels spin on this blustery day as I speed past the multicolored autumnal view in front of me. The day is warm, too warm for a late October ride, and I pedal my bike with a kind of fury I haven’t felt in a few days. The riders I pass smile through masks and sometimes wave. I feel a sense of urgency and the need to please as I encounter each rider, slightly raising my left hand in a common “Hello” as we pass each other. The headwind makes me really work for my progress and, on this day, I’m feeling prepared for it’s onslaught.

This Sunday ride, the kind of ride I’ve taken for the past three years, is my long, slow pedal around Albuquerque. The day moves slowly and the ride seems to drift or float as if it’s not really me pushing the bike forward. I slide in and out of daydreaming, recognizing that I’ve traveled miles not aware of exactly what has passed. I always wake from my slumber to half-raise my left hand at a passing rider, jogger, or skater. That one act is my only acknowledgement of the world around me. I am, as they say, in the zone.

On this particular Sunday, I’m wearing my Day of the Tread jersey. This one piece of attire represents so much in my present and past. I’ve survived a Heart Event, three years in the past, and this ride is significant in that it marks a milestone in my life. On this day three years ago, I rode about 50 miles on the annual Day of the Tread event in Albuquerque. Think of the event as kind of a party ride; people dressed in costume on their bikes celebrating everything from Halloween to the Day of the Dead, Dia De Muertos. We start in downtown Albuquerque to the sound of music blaring and riders excited at the prospect of a day in the saddle.

Day of the Tread, 2017

In that ride, now in my distant past, I felt good, pushing my Cannondale with my friend Rocky on that morning. It was the first long ride I joined that year. My body did not revolt, as I thought it would, and I came home feeling energized and happy about my progress. A week later, I was in a hospital bed in the ER, wondering if I would survive the night.

Fast forward to Sunday, October 25th. I’m riding along the trail thinking about that past and wondering about my future.

Day of the Tread, 2018

My heart and its physical health is one of the things that propels me forward on this windy morning in Albuquerque. The ride feels like a rescue effort, a personal reflection on the chances of death that I face on a daily basis. And. And. The reality is that we are all in that moment. We just don’t think about it, do we? At any time we can face the ticking the clock; you know the one, that big one ticking down your life. It is, unfortunately, inevitable that the clock will tick one final time for us all.

So, I ride. I ride for myself. I ride for my family. Literally, I ride for my life. The miles i Put in, the stress I put on my heart is a good thing. With each pedal stroke I think about all of these things that have happened and the reasons I ride. I imagine that each push on the pedal is me one step closer to being healthier. Each time I raise my leg and force it back down, I’m supporting my two daughters and hope for the chance at long years with them as they grow up and find answers in their own lives. Too, I’m working for my parents and the opportunity to step in when they need my support. For all of the reasons stated above, I am on this trail on October 25th in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Day of the Tread, 2019

Sometimes, it’s the easiest path to fall into the feeling of that grief reality of death. By contrast, however, I have the choice, we have the choice, to open up to compassion. Yes, we all face our own ends. In that knowledge we can take hold of that common experience and extend ourselves into the feeling of compassion for all folks facing this one stark reality. We are all in this boat, all of us alive today, and we can extend a hand of friendship and support to each other in this moment.

My ride, then, has become something much greater than me on a bike on a trail. Me on a bike represents the move toward something much greater than myself. It’s a meditation on impermanence. Everything changes. Maybe, in this moment, I can make a difference in the lives of those around me. I think that’s what my ride on the Day of the Tread ultimately was all about.

Day of the Tread, 2020