When I’m tired, I get quiet. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m tired until I realize my eyes are down, fully occupied with reading the line of the trail, and I haven’t said a word in more than a handful of minutes. “How are you doing?” a friend asks. That’s another clue.
The alarm shook me out of bed at 6am to roll out at 7. I got a Clif Bar down. I took the dog for a quick constitutional. Then I suited up, threw a leg over my top tube, and pedaled out of the driveway to meet the boys.
I was already tired. No days off since before the New Year translates to heavy legs and a strong urge to keep sleeping, but I showed up, because the only way is forward, and also because I said I would.
C chose the route, and it was a good route, and I resolved to follow along as best I could. I didn’t make a big deal of how tired I was, because who wants to listen to that? No one. That’s who.
I thought, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ride into something like a second wind, or I suppose, in this case, a first wind.” Anyway, I kept pedaling. I kept up. I even enjoyed myself, because trail riding is the best, even when you’re not.
C continued to ask me how I was doing, and honestly, the roots were taking it out of me. My right shoulder, the one I wrecked last Spring, was cramping up. I kept pedaling, because that’s what you do, but I also secretly wished that, instead of turning right into another patch of woods, we would turn left, toward home.
This valuable experience, the digging into whatever your body will give you, the management of your emotions, the subjugation of your personal agenda to the larger goal of just finishing the ride. I will call on this later, the next time I’m off on a long run or ride, and I hit that wall.
Just stay quiet. Get as efficient as you can. Keep going. And if you can, be fucking cheerful.
When finally we got back to the top of the hill we all live on, I split off from the guys, thanking them over my shoulder for having me along. I sat up and rode no-hands along the road to my house, glad to give my shoulder a break. In my mind, I was already making coffee, already plundering the refrigerator, already feeling better. And thinking about tomorrow.