Here we are, decending down the backside of Mont Ventoux. I’m shivering so violently my whole body shakes, I had been climbing for the last hour and a half and now that sweat dried in the cool wind. As I navigated around another switchback I was reminded of this great Steinbeck quote that essentially says that farmers never remember the good seasons during bad ones and never remember the bad ones during good.
Descending a mountain is the same way, each switchback slowly melts away the memories of pain and slowly (but surely) you forget how you got there at all.
The pleasure erases the pain.
First few days of riding here in Provence.
90 miles with Dylan: Abandoned preschool, empty mental institution, trail mix, 6 apples, 1 flat, 1 sunburn.
Riding up the coast of California from Santa Cruz, Deux North’s 8 riders test a new bike built for every kind of road. After 2 days and 200 miles, the group meets the story’s narrator, El Chapulin (The Grasshopper) to listen to his story, tell their own, and compete in an event that he created over 15 years ago. On the final day. the 100-mile Grasshopper Adventure Series race serves as the finish line for Deux North’s Hunt 4.
So proud to be able to continue to tell these kinds of stories, thank you to my partners in this Dylan and Aaron (they actually did 99% of the work) and to Specialized and especially Chris, who believed from the beginning that we could bring this bike to life. Hope this is a reminder to everyone that the fun stuff happens when you get off the main road.
I had the pleasure of riding with these fine gentlemen over the weekend, I was humbled, I was dropped, I laughed, I wanted to cry. In the end it was 200 miles and 22,000 feet of climbing that I won’t soon forget. Stay tuned later this week for an exciting announcement from Specialized.
Riding in Tucson: 4 days, 305 miles, 18,500 feet of climbing, 20 hours. All different, all beautiful, all sun, all smiles.
I feel cold before I notice I am alone.
Hours before we were together, laughing and smiling, the sun hitting our Vitamin D deprived skin. We climbed as fields of cacti gave way to barren desert and we sucked air that inexplicably tasted like sand. But that was all hours and many thousands of feet ago, and now I am cold and miss my brother.
I like to think of pain as a beam of light: focused, intense and beatable. I like to imagine myself in a room alone with it, letting the beam pass through me then laughing mirthlessly and asking more. It’s beatable because it’s defined and predictable.
I wish I could say I let cold sweat run down my legs and slipped my hands into the drops, climbing beautifully, respecting the mountain with my best effort. I wish I could tell you that I stared at the beam of light and was warmed by it, but this was different. The light had hit a prism, reflecting and refracting pain in every direction. So many things were hurting, so many things were wrong that I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to quit.
I start thinking about how nobody ever tells you how appealing quitting can become when you are on the limit; reminded of when I used to be a wrestler and sometimes in the middle of a hard match, I would fantasize about quitting. It’s easy to think that all I had to do was relax the shoulders and count 1, 2, 3 and it would all be over. It is the warm comfort of quitting that makes resisting it so important.
I feel a hand on my lower back and am snapped back to reality. I’m freezing, 27 miles and 7,000 feet into the accent up Mt. Lemmon and that prism-like, unfocused but ubiquitous pain is racking me. Dylan rides next to me and I can’t tell if he is grimacing or smiling. We ride on in silence and while we aren’t exactly winning the fight against the mountain, we aren’t losing it either, and sometimes that’s enough, that’s enough.
Roads we rode
Roads so straight you they remind you of the cartoons when Wiley cyote would pick up a winding road and snap it straight. Roads so curvy you slide back on your saddle before you bank into them. Dirt roads that sent dust into your already dry mouth, choking you, reminding you the desert could kill you if it so please. We rode roads that went to 9,000 feet and ones that went to a barb wire fence. We rattled our teeth as we flew over cattle guards and roadkill.
We rode to the edge of our limits and to the end of our bottles. We rode into new friendships and took a lap around old ones. In the end, it became clear that it’s not about the roads your ride, but how you ride them.
Raced down in Delray this morning. Nice to feel the sun on my legs again.
Deux North - Hunt 3
My whole life has been about stories. Bedtime stories turned to campfire stories, turned to morning after stories, turned to success stories. Dylan and I created Deux North to tell different kinds of stories. Ones about passion that becomes obsession and friendship that becomes love.
I love this project, these people and these stories, won’t you follow along?
Great weekend on the bike, soon it will be all veins and ice.
When I saw these two this morning I slowed down to stay behind. Her Dad was just barely holding her shoulder, enough to reassure her but not enough to impede her.
We pulled up at a light and I mentioned how well she was doing and said it would be no time before she was flying past me. The girl looked up proud, sizing me up, agreeing that, yes she would be beating me in no time.
Her Dad said she had only been riding for a week and asked if I remembered the freedom that being able to ride a bike brought you as a child.
"Remember it?" I laughed "I have been trying to top it for the last 25 years"
"Find anything?" he asked
"Not yet, not yet"
I should have never left, and I had my chance to stay.
This is what I am thinking as I am projectile vomitting on the side of a god forsaken road in New Jersey, tucked between what I think is a cement or brick plant and an office building. Being sick in New Jersey is bad, being sick in New Jersey in the middle of a bike ride, 25 miles from home in lycra is even worse. Over the next 1.5 hours I drag myself over the bridge, into a cab (where we pulled over twice for me to eject some more demons) and finally into my Lower East Side apartment. And it is there that I stayed for the next 20 hours.
Night fell, the sun rose and I woke up feeling better. My eyes were sore from bulging out, my throat raw but all in all I was OK. Later that night I did the only thing I could think of to make it better, I got onto my bike.
I was still weak and certainly not strong but riding last night that didn’t bother me at all, instead I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because, however small a glimpse, sickness shows us what our bodies are like when they don’t work, when they are broken. The pain of being sick doesn’t bother me too much, it is thinking about what if I didn’t get better that gets me.
Our bodies and health are fleeting and they are a gift. I hear people everyday joke that “they can’t remember the last time they ran” “or their idea of a workout is lifting a cheeseburger” and you know what it’s not funny, i’s not a joke and I am so sorry for you.
You see there is dignity and grace in pushing your body. There are lessons in thinking you can be better and learning you can’t be the best. Everyday you do the same things over and over. You become hollow, a receptacle of repetition. You meditate, you pray, you fail, you hurt, you want to quit. Do all of that and eventually you are rewarded. It likely won’t be a trophy or a win that you get but instead, the breifest glimpses of greatness. Those times when your legs don’t feel like you are attached to them, you are flying, you are lightness, you are, can I say, beautiful.
It is these moments that I ride. It’s why I ran, and this is why I will never take my health for granted. You get one body, and one chance to make it worth it. You will never be a pro athlete, but if you take care of your body it will take care of you.
5AM alarms never get’s easier but you do get faster, you do get better.
Instagram Roundup, It’s been a lot of cycling.