Day 80: Cycling


Day 80

A six-lane expressway is taking shape. It cuts through a landscape of farms as though the road’s path is pre-ordained and everything else in its path must give in. The sight is a bit upsetting for someone who has seen the farms and the pace of life around it before the expressway was added to it. Fast cargo and faster cars roaring through what has been a birdsong filled environment will come along soon enough. The narrow village road that we knew, now makes just an underpass and the village traffic ducks under this expressway and continues on its small road. This will change more than this. As much as I see the need for an expressway, I mourn for what we are about to lose.

The concrete gash is deep in the landscape as I noticed this morning riding my cycle to the farm. I cycled to the farm and back. It makes a return trip of 60 km. Pedaling through a landscape is also an attempt at connection. The rider feels every rise of the gradient. I am learning the topology of this region. I know the rises and the slopes. In cycling, the flattening of a landscape as often done by motor vehicles, is undone. One feels the land in its character. That which the throttle of a car erases, comes alive with the pedals of a cycle.

This has been the longest I rode since last year’s ride from Manali to Leh. That was in August. In September I participated in a 1200 km brevet (Bliss in the Hills 2019) and dropped out of that ride around 90th km at night. The night on the highway looked difficult to ride through. That was the end of long distance attempts. It is striking that I could not get out on my cycle in all the months since then. By March riding of course became uncertain when I broke my leg. Those months were filled up with a lot of running, reaching its peak injury potential by February in Russia. 

In the three months of lockdown of which the first two months were of extremely limited mobility even inside the house, I had the time to think over and put things in perspective. I think I was done with ultrarunning when I sat with my leg up looking out of the balcony day after day. But I guess you are never done with things that come to form you in ways that are more than just an activity in life. I have seen runs mirroring the course of life. Maybe, that’s just my reading of it. Everyone relates differently to what they do and what they like. Running, cycling and touring are the pivots around which seasons of my life pivot. With today’s 60 km ride, I am reassured about my leg. It does seem to be a limitation still, but not serious enough to prevent me from taking the trails again. I have spent these months reading personal essays and articles from people who are in sports for a profession. What drives them seems to be the same basal urge to experience that oneness which comes with a deep dive in an activity. For some, it happens to be sports. After that deep dive is made, every diver emerges differently. Some who dived for speed and depth and other metrics, go chasing them and some who dived for the thrill of it have a different journey. What is common is the dive. And the immersion for both of these types is near complete. 

I am taking these deep dives, emerging to the surface to catch a mouthful of air to get back in again. This cycle will continue. On many days, it feels fortunate to be able to do what one likes to and have the necessary minimum resources to continue on that way of life.

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