I’m sure everyone who participated in RMCC’s Rubber Mallet ride last night didn’t have as philosophical a ride as I did. This was the third or fourth time I’ve ridden with this group, and it was the third or fourth time I was bringing up the rear. As most of these people are career road riders I didn’t mind that at all. I’ve always understood that two of the reasons I have a hope of keeping up with those fitter than me on a mountain bike is first, because I have short burst power to get over technical terrain and second, because I simply believe that my bike will carry me over just about anything. The times I’m in greatest peril on a mountain bike are when I over-think a scenario, grabbing a handful of brake in a moment of doubt, or questioning a line when there’s no room for questioning. When riding comes down to endurance fitness rather than unerring commitment to accepting personal hazard I suffer. This is good. I like to suffer.
We were riding along the Trans Canada Highway, two abreast in the shoulder. I don’t know these people, and outside of a couple of stock questions I don’t know small talk. In the middle of the group riding beside someone whose face I knew from town, everyone else having conversations with their neighbours, we peddled in silence and I smiled to myself. I knew this guy was a talker, but something in me stymies even the most conversant people I know.
We were passing under Mount Rundle, the Trophy wall above, riding in a group of twenty-three riders. My front tire inches from the one before me, a steady cadence and the asphalt passing cracked and staggered underneath. My legs were already burning and my heart already pushing its upper limits. I was absorbed in these two facts, a cocoon of awareness that wrapped me tighter and tighter until I was alone among this monkey chatter of base conversation. I’m fortunate, I guess, to be able to be alone in a group.
Throughout my life I have been aware of, but never fully appreciated how much I need to escape myself. In adolescence and young adulthood – before I found climbing – I exclusively used alcohol, books and sleep to disappear. Climbing soon became an important part of my coping and now after climbing, cycling and running have been substituted in. I have poor resilience. I’m unable to deal with the trivialities of life. I sink and attack myself. If I had to deal with my full consciousness my entire life I wouldn’t be here anymore. I’m thankful Charlie talked me into riding with the group last night as I had given up on it before it even began.