Riding amongst the sludge and chill wind, waves of breathlessness floats me up the road and goosebumps rise on my arms as I rip over hill tops. From the middle of the street I could feel the surge of grace as the chill wind blows and swoops me into town like a flock of birds finding formation, heartbeats loud again. I'm alive, heart racing, but inspired and well.
Something extraordinary happens in the lifetime of being a cyclist. You set out to make your heart beat – loudly and often – and eventually you start to hear it. And then you hear it louder with the years of riding. And if you ever find that it has pulled the brakes on its intensity, or lowered the volume of its beating, you miss it and long for it. You miss the vibrancy in your veins. The thing you were initially afraid of—the thundering pain in your chest and the loud beat — is the thing you now search for.
Riding my bicycle quickly, gracefully, powerfully, makes me feel alive. The thing about that rush in my veins and lungs is that it’s addictive. Realities of life start to sweep back in, halting the memories of perfect rides in San Francisco and Oakland on loop in my head. But I’m going to try my best to keep the movie on replay; tranquil oceans, golden mountains, and flying birds casting shadows in the early morning sun. The ache in my legs fades against the ache of emotion that comes from somewhere in my heart.
Snow from days before made for mud and puddles, but the lack of cars and pedestrian activity doesn't leave me wishing for tarmac. Dirt and mud slowly changes to pavement, continuing on a carless path through neighboring hills where the climbing begins. Small climbs around lakes and woodlands warms my legs up for the climax of the ride – Old Forge Road. I start to hug the road with some easy pedaling, pushing my way forward, muttering words "You got this" to encourage me to reach the top.
Upon reaching the top of the climb, my tense face becomes a calm smile. Regaining breath, my struggle only brings me closer to home. I drop off the road onto a dirt and gravel trail. Surrounded by a canopy of leaves and snow covered grass, and sounds of rivers are everywhere. After this ride ended, when my face and hands returned to their normal shade again, I had to admit that there was a peculiar afterglow that accompanies riding in the depths of winter.