Two miles of hot, dusty gravel road. One mile, at least but it felt like much more, not riding my bike, but forcing it up the hill beside me. We weren’t even five miles into our ride and I was experiencing a new “first”. I was not having fun. My cyclometer wasnt recording my mileage. I was carrying the Camelbak water pack; something I hate doing because it adds another five or six pounds to the already large amount of weight that is my body on the bike. Sweat poured off my body like water in my morning shower. Dust coated everything; my body, my sunglasses, my contacts, my bike tires. I wondered, feebly, what kind of effect this dust was having on my chain, crankset, and derailleur. I knew this meant work cleaning my bike later; a necessary inconvenience, but one I wasn’t in the mood for. A quick glance at my sketchy cyclometer says it’s 105 degrees. It’s really about 95, but it feels every bit of 105 today. “Why am I here?” I wondered to myself. ” This is not fun.”
I told my son I needed to stop and rest. By this, I did not mean get off my bike and haul it up The Hill Of Death. I was already doing that. I really meant I had to stop. Completely. Sit down. Take my helmet off. Breathe. Clearly something was wrong. I never, ever have to stop. Not on a ride. Not like this. And never, ever this early in. I was tired. I was depleted. I was mostly very, very hot. I can ride in rain and cold, if I have the right gear. I can ride at night, usually without much gear at all. The one condition that stops me still on my bike is the heat. I’m not talking about just a warm day that seems bad until the air from riding your bike cools you. I’m talking about that still, heavy, oppressive heat that makes even breathing hard. Regardless of the temperature on the thermometer, when this kind of heat hits, I simply lose all power. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m at the age where, most of the time, I’m experiencing my own personal summer anyway. So, when the weatherman says it’s 95, I’m experiencing 115 degree temps. I simply melt when this happens.
We rested for about 15 minutes then we muddled on to another location, where there was a rock I could sit on in the shade. This location was a hundred feet from the start of the Payette Trail around Applegate Lake. We practically crawled to the start of the trail, me spewing misgivings the entire way when, usually, I am the one encouraging everyone else onward. We ventured forth, deciding to tackle the singletrack trail for a little while, then turn back.
Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. I was riding my brakes almost entirely on the descent which characterizes the first half mile or so of this trail. My bike didn’t feel stable under me, but I think that was due to the fact that this was very rocky single track and I have become accustomed to the solid asphalt of the road. I was already tired and in no mood to exert the required effort that manhandling a mountain bike on a downhill requires. Further, I wasn’t exactly excited about packing my bike up that hill, especially after the hill I already climbed. I let my bike roll for a few more yards, then I called out to my son, who’d disappeared from view. A few moments later, he appeared below me, his bike and his youth handling this trail with far more success than I. I told him I wanted to go back and he, surprisingly, agreed with me. We turned our bikes around, rode back up as far as we could, trudged the rest of the way to the top, then rolled down the dusty road that we’d just walked up.
Later, while lounging in the sun at the swimming hole that we discovered at Applegate Lake, we were reflecting on this experience. Last year, at about this time, we made this very same ride. Sure, we had to walk up that initial road, but I don’t remember feeling quite so spent at the top of it. I also don’t remember feeling nearly this apprehensive when tackling the downhill. We have done this ride twice, with minimal mishaps. Last year at the end of the ride, I missed on a switchback, landed on my back wheel and tacoed the thing. This cost me two days of ride time while my bike was in the shop. Not something I was especially thrilled about, but neither was it a traumatizing event that left me scared to ever attempt this ride again. We speculated about the heat, the fact that we’ve become used to riding the road, the fact that on a day like today, the swimming hole looked far more inviting than the trail. There are any number of reasons for today’s ride fail. All of these factors could have contributed to the dread I suddenly felt heading down that hill. I don’t know. I suspect, more than anything, I am not in the same mental and physical place I was last year, and something deep within me knows this. Somewhere inside, I sensed I wasn’t up for the challenge of this trail. I was too tired. I would likely make mistakes that even I, as a rookie mountain biker, would know not to do. I was afraid of the consequences of such mistakes. I’d spent enough time in surgery this year. I wasn’t about to sign up for another visit. Maybe I’m still experiencing a wee bit of radiation fatigue. Admittedly, this week is far better than last, and last week was better than the one before. I’m feeling like I do have more energy every day and I am accomplishing more, though not nearly what I hoped and planned to accomplish by this time in the summer. More than the physical drain, I just mentally didn’t have the strength and the determination to make that ride today and I knew it. Deep in my psyche somewhere, I knew I couldn’t handle it. I’m not sure what that’s about or why. It could be I just like the smooth flying sensation of the road as opposed to the adrenaline-driven jarring ride of the singletrack. Maybe I’m just getting old.
Whatever it is, I am okay with it.
My son and I spent the rest of our day enjoying the water. That was much more fun.
It’s one of those early summer days, just perfect for wasting. It’s a warm, clear, zero-percent-chance-of-rain day in Southern Oregon. It’s the kind of day that results in a greenway full of young lovers walking hand in hand, dog owners meandering back and forth disregarding the posted “Keep to the right” admonitions, and cyclists of all types rolling through. I should be among them. But I’m not.
Instead, I’m home…which I don’t mind…wandering listlessly around the house trying to find some project or task that can both absorb me, and for which I will have the staying power to complete. The Significant Other is off at his part-time job. (Yes! He finally got a steady part-time job!) All my kids are gone, for the moment. The youngest just headed off to her dad’s for Father’s Day weekend. The college student is away at college and won’t be coming home in between the end of her term and the beginning of her internship in Portland this summer. The recently graduated child is off being recently graduated, enjoying her friends and working. The son will return later, at which time, I’m hoping I have the energy to go for a bike ride. Until then, it is just me, here, alone. I love being alone. I love being in my home and alone. I almost never have a problem finding something to engage in. In fact, I am the one who is most likely to be voted “The Person Who Has Too Many Things She Wants To Do To Have To Work.” Today, something is definitely wrong. I find myself feeling almost…not quite, but almost…bored.
It isn’t that there aren’t plenty of projects to be done. There are. Even as I peck these words out on my laptop from the upper deck of my town home, I hear the S.O.’s voice in my head suggesting laundry as a top choice to become absorbed in. It is, in fact, overflowing, and it does, in fact, need to be folded and put away. Then, there is the garage, most of which, I’ve gone through, tossing decades worth of paperwork that no longer has any meaning in my life, but which I just never took the time to toss. I’ve worked the overwhelming pile down to a box and two 2-drawer file cabinets that I must go through and organize into a useful filing system. There are several bins of school paperwork that managed to just get tossed into bins over the course of the year rather than being filed in the appropriate binders. (I find there are binder people and there are file people. I am most definitely not a binder person. Give me a file and let me flip through it, please. Binders, for me, always end up in bins or buckets…or files. I’m far to busy to take the time to carefully open the rings, select the pages I want, get them copied, then return them. Forget that. I’m the type that grabs the file and plans on the go. When I’m done, it all goes back in the file ready to be pulled out again and used next year, this time with added notes and comments about what did not work. If I really had my way, I would have neither bins nor binders nor files…I’d have an iPad. It would save me so much time rummaging through the paper pile. It would save space: good-bye binders and files. It makes sense. It is also a pipe dream for me, right now, as I look at the fairly large amount of medical bills I have yet to pay, combined with the expenses associated with now having two children in college.) Organizing the garage and the remaining files would be a worthwhile project for an afternoon such as this. So would reading a book, going to get some tomato plants and beginning my veggie container garden, or going for a bike ride, or working on developing any one of my many blogs which I’ve neglected over the last couple of months.
There are any number of tasks that could absorb me. The problem comes when I begin to consider my energy level. There’s not a task here, including this blog post, which I think I’ll have energy to complete and I hate the idea of creating yet another unfinished project in my life. I hate unfinished projects. Just yesterday, my Mac crashed. It’s possibly a video card going bad. But it is something I now have to deal with, which I can’t because it will cost money, which I just don’t have. Another unfinished project. I hate this. I hate how life can sometimes be going along swimmingly, in fact, perfectly, if it weren’t for all the loose ends.
Yesterday, I had my three month follow-up appointment with my surgeon. I always enjoy meeting with this man because, besides being a personable sort, he has this way of rendering highly technical medical information into easy-to-understand packages for me. Yesterday, he took a bit of time discussing what I might expect in the months and years to come. He suggested that I’ll probably be feeling much better in the next couple of months as far as energy levels are concerned, but that I should expect it to take a year, maybe more, before I feel like this is finally behind me. In short, I need to give myself permission to feel tired and to rest when I just can’t go on.
I wonder…is today’s almost bored listlessness just another way the fatigue is manifesting itself?
I told you I wouldn’t have enough energy to even finish this post. I’m going to go take a nap.