This blog series follows me, an extremely average cyclist, as I go all in to complete the legendary Leadville 100 race on a singlespeed mountain bike.
Planetary retrograde is an optical illusion that occurs when a planet appears to be moving backwards in orbit due to its position relative to us, the humble earthly observers. If you subscribe to astrological ideas, a planet in retrograde often means the emergence of little burrs, annoyances, and disruptions in many aspects of daily life- whether it be in communications, or inter-personal relations, politics, or technology. I stopped believing in astrology in high school because my horoscope kept forecasting 3-star days for me at best, with low prospects for my love life. I googled the term “retrograde” because I decided to it would be a great analogy for where I am in life and how I feel about my progress. It turns out that Mercury has been in retrograde for the whole damn month of July, and won’t look normal until early August. If I still believed in that hokey stuff, it would explain a lot about the last few weeks, like why I haven’t been able to make myself write this blog, or why our TV keeps crashing, why Flowers.com delivered my Grandma’s birthday bouquet two weeks early, why I feel like I’ve been speaking a completely different language from the people I’m trying to communicate with, why these random girls I have never seen around the County before keep stealing my QOMs on Strava, and finally, why I’m actually all worked up about it.
July wasn’t all bad. It finally started to feel like summer. I took some extra time off from work, and even work has been mostly ok, as I spent a lot of time alone gardening while listening to my podcasts. Earlier in the month, I raced the Firecracker 50, and had an absolute blast. I signed up for that race the evening we got back from 12 Hours of Mesa Verde (early May), and was beside myself excited about it since. Even with the course re-route due to the obscene amount of snow left on the trails, the experience did not disappoint. I rode well (enough), crashed a couple times, and finished within my anticipated time. Naturally, I wish I had gone faster and blown my ETA out of the water, and qualified for the Singlespeed Olympics in Tokyo 2020, but daydreams aside, I was pleased. Over the following weekends, I rode sections of the Leadville course, and supported Lee and some of our friends for their Silver Rush 50 race. I enjoyed being on the support side of an event for once, relaxing, hanging out with friends, and watching the racers do all the hard work. While I tried to keep my thoughts about what my hypothetical finish time for that race would be to a minimum, the time on my hands gave me ample opportunity to realize how much of a spaz I am. Still. I also made it through a tough training block, and rewarded myself with nice long weekend in Steamboat Springs with a friend, my second one this summer. This involved bikes, camping, good food, and sitting in the river to cool off.
Life has been good to me, which is why the little black clouds of self-doubt, scientifically known as “Shoulds” that keep coming over me are so insidious. The little worries about what I should get done in any given day, snowballed into stressing about the stressing. Stressing about stressing made me feel guilty that I haven’t been meditating as much as I should. Stressing and not meditating have been somewhat detrimental to the sleep I should be getting. Failure to meet certain numbers and metrics on my bike computer makes me wonder if I am still moving in the right direction with my training. So does going down in rankings on Strava segments (I still don’t know how to stop getting emails about it). I feel like I should be faster than I am right now, my heart rate should be higher at my top efforts, as should my functional threshold power (if you don’t know, don’t ask). Riding my old singlespeed in Steamboat this weekend should have felt much easier than it did. I shouldn’t have been breathing that hard on that pitch. Perhaps all my improvements this year are due to the new fancy bike and not me. As the Shoulds gained momentum, they situated themselves into all areas of my life, from what I should or shouldn’t have said, to whom I should have said it to, to what I should really be doing with my life, or not.
With only two weeks until Race Day, all this griping looks like I have been moving backwards, towards my old tired and anxious self, and towards my old habits, with little time left to make improvements. But just as a planet in retrograde has the appearance of backwards orbit, yet in reality is still moving in its normal direction, what I am experiencing is as normal as can be. I think those Shoulds will always be there, and though I am bothered by them enough to write about it, I’m not bothered to the same extent that I used to be. I am still following the training plan to get me to the start line. I am still taking the steps and doing the work to become a better person, stronger rider, and someone who may eventually develop a sense of direction in life. Meanwhile, everything is as it should be.