Well, here we are...in Gulfport, Mississippi. 5 days of cycling and about 330 miles are behind us, with another 90 ahead of us tomorrow until we reach our final destination of New Orleans, LA. I've never been to New Orleans, and I'm looking forward to it. In fact, I hadn't been to Alabama or Mississippi for that matter. Though cycling through a state may seem like one of the best ways to see it, when you're focus is being spent mostly on drafting from the wheel in front of you so that you can rest long enough to power forward and help push the hand cyclists up the hills....or which way to adjust your butt on your seat so it's not on fire, or you're simply in the middle of a pack of bikes at 18 or even 23 miles per hour, it's a bit difficult to really take in the culture of an area. So, I'll need to be making more trips back to these areas at some point in my journey. Whether it be on this trip, or decades from now, I'm sure it will happen.
So, if I'm not able to dive into the culture of these areas...why would I choose to leave Bella and put myself through physical suffering? Simply, because my mind needed it. The camaraderie, of course, is a huge factor in what put a smile on my face for the first few days here. There have been many great instances of hugs, smiles, laughter, and new friendships. However, along with those friendships come conversation...which for some people can be extremely cathartic as they may have never opened up to someone about their struggles before. However, for me...many know that in person it is hard to shut me up. Silence is extremely uncomfortable for me and I just babble...about anything. Plus, I do have a lot of curiosities and ask questions because I genuinely want to know. Various topics come up: family, work, travel, hobbies, and of course; unloading my baggage and offering to listen and learn about others. Often times I'll just be reading a sign out loud in the voice of a character I've made up or impersonating someone else. A few people love it and laugh, and others want to shove a sock in my mouth. The worst part is....I'll just end up talking more to make it seem not so awkward.
When I push myself to my limits, however, there is no energy left to converse. There is no time to focus on all of the problems in my world, let alone those of the entire world. My mind is consumed with what is immediately at hand. Riding a bicycle from point A to point B is a lot simpler than coming up with ways of how I'm going to help save the universe.
"Pedal...shift...dig...reach...push the bar...boost the rider...help your comrade."
Legs...knees...butt...back...shoulder....they all hurt. I want it to be over. I want to stop. Only 20 miles in, 60 to go....
"Pedal...shift...dig...here comes the bridge...catch your buddy, help him push the riders up the bridge."
I have nothing. I push in short bursts and can barely keep up. I can't push any longer...I don't have the strength. I need to fall back. I have failed.
"No, you didn't fail. You came here without training and need to be proud of what you've been able to do. Manage your expectations. Focus on your own ride. They have this. Fall back...fall back far enough where you can't hear the call for pushers, because you are now doing more harm than good when you answer it. It's okay...you're not conditioned for this...though it's difficult to fall back and leave your buds to finish pushing without you, be proud of what you've been able to do." -end of monologue tangent
Well.... maybe my thought process is rarely a clean slate....and the few times that it really is...may just be when I'm operating at full capacity and not over it. Once I'm pushing beyond my limits, perhaps I'm being counterproductive once again.
I suppose the point that I'm trying to get at tonight is that pushing your physical limits and focusing on one thing completely is sometimes necessary to help do a hard reset of the mind. Through writing this and reading it back to myself I see that pushing them too far or having unrealistic expectations can lead to only more questions and clouds.
Balance...how often I need reminded about it's importance.
On Ride2Recovery's website they mention that challenges will push a rider physically and mentally. That pushing, is helping me hit the reset button and to come out the other side, once again transformed into a man with a bit more of a purpose and sense of self. I must not allow the fact that I couldn't push as much as I wanted to distract me. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to even finish this ride out of the blue, and here we are with only one more day left and I'll have completed another challenge alongside some of the most motivating and inspiring people that I've ever met.
The people....oh the people. Earlier, I mentioned my need to shut up and reset the brain. Well, luckily those short moments of "suffering meditation" can do a mini reset, if not at least close a few browser windows. Those little resets allow me to open up and be "myself" a little bit more. For those of you that have been following along the last few years, you understand that I've been searching for who that person is and often talked of dropping "the character." Today, I went full happy mode, perhaps manic could be used to describe the extreme high that I was experiencing...and when I caught myself in it, I became self conscious and a bit paranoid that everyone was thinking I was crazy, but that's an entire conversation in and of itself. Either way, I believe I'm in company that understands my crazy, and have made a lot of new friends along the way.
The main staff are base of the Ride2Recovery family tree, and they're welcoming arms and smiles have me feeling right at home. Meeting all the new riders has been much easier because of the welcoming staff. When you participate in a challenge such as this...you truly do form bonds with those you ride and room with. There aren't many times in life where I've put in grueling work kind alongside another person or a team without befriending them. These challenges are a way to facilitate those bonds and bridge gaps with people you may never have crossed otherwise.
Well...I'm not sure if this was written in a way that could be followed, but as always, I tried my best to verbalize what I was feeling tonight.
It's 10:22, the alarm is set for 6:15, and I am not going to stay up as late as I did on night one. Therefore, this is goodnight.
Almost forgot...there's a storm coming in that could derail tomorrow's final leg into New Orleans, so do your anti lightning/flooding dance to help us finish the challenge safely.