This magnificent boulder, perched atop a craggy peak and overlooking the valley below, was once a vision to behold.
Today, after thousands of years spent enduring high-altitude sun, temperature-induced swelling and shrinking, and unceasing Chinook winds, it survives as a mere grain of rubble.
Movement, and the speck releases its millennia-long anchor. It dances into the atmosphere, sails over the summit at its heels, and drops into unfamiliar territory.
Descending amidst pines—Bristlecone, Pinon, Ponderosa, it cuts a path between smatterings of Douglas firs. Aspen groves, decorated with quaking leaves brave enough to persevere this time of year, blur past.
Chaperoned by downward drafts, the grain crescendos several foothills before maneuvering onto an elbow, which gradually subdues the Rocky Mountains into easterly plains.
Upon arrival, it lands squarely between my front teeth. It crunches as I clench my jaw, dodging the wind’s latest attempt at introducing me to the pavement.
In an idle attempt at making my profile as aero as possible, my forehead’s almost touching my handlebars. Through narrowed eyes, I enjoy a blurry view of my stem. Whatever’s playing in my EarPods is inaudible.
“This sucks!” I used to howl along with the wind. “I can’t believe this is happening!”
I’d continue indulging: “I mean, for fuck’s sake! I finally have a couple of hours for a bike ride, and this is what I get?”
Perspective determines reality. So unsurprisingly, anyone armed with this attitude inevitably experiences a shitty ride, wind gusts or otherwise.
After a mindful shift, though—i.e., choosing to characterize the wind as a friendly competitor, instead of damnable nemesis—I recognize this as an opportunity to dig deep and discover how badly I want these miles.
Whether cycling—or parenting, working, or anything else—it also helps me appreciate that speed isn’t always tantamount. Instead, sometimes, it’s just about slowing down, pointing toward our goal, and learning to remain comfortable with discomfort.
“On your left!”
I’m snatched from my reverie as a pair of cyclists announces their pass. I smile and nod at the rearward rider, who offers me a spot at the back of the train. I tuck into my drops and draft behind them, minimizing the headwind to a breeze.
Riding on two wheels, powered by a biological motor, we’re strangers momentarily bonded by air currents.
Armed with the proper perspective, I also recognize a more profound truth: While each of us experiences successes and failures at different times, we all understand how it feels to struggle—as well as the outstanding sensations that accompany finally overcoming.
I smile and mentally bow at the rider in front, respectful not just for the beauty of our shared humanity, but also for their act of support and encouragement.
Today, you’re my windbreaker. Tomorrow, I got your back.
Or front, as the case may be.
Keep rolling: Pain & Discomfort: Pushing Through, Not Past