It's been indescribably great to be able to run and cycle again in the last few weeks, even if it's only a mile or two per day. My body still rejects the exercise sometimes, and the operation site will take a while longer to heal yet, but I'm definitely back on the road to recovery and fitness. My mileage is increasing on foot and by wheel, and I'm making sure to pedal somewhere at least once a day. The theory behind this is to get my rear end used to sitting on a bike seat day after day - definitely something I think I will be thankful for once I get on the road! In the short time I've felt fit enough to be training again I've already managed to give myself a couple of setbacks by doing too much too soon. Slowly but surely I think I'm learning about moderation and pacing myself, which can only be a good thing (as frustrating as it is.)I also recently finished a fantastic book, 'What I talk about when I talk about running' by Haruki Murakami. My good pal Tom bought it for me just before I left the UK, and I only just got around to reading it. I've always maintained that I'm much more naturally inclined towards running for recreation (rather than cycling), and Murakami really captures some of the true essence of why it's so special. Running is what I missed the most while I couldn't exercise, and I think a lot of that is down to it's cathartic properties - I can see now that I use running as a way to work out all my stresses and worries. Usually when I return from a run I feel much better about things, and more equipped to deal with the day (I'm a very strong advocate of the morning run.) So why am I going on a long distance cycling expedition? Well, for one I don't think I could run it. But also, I do love cycling, maybe just in a very different way to how I enjoy running. Running comes easy - you just get up and go. With cycling there's a little more preparation involved, plus the maintenance of the bike which can be a real obstacle sometimes, for me anyway. The rewards are also very different. While I find running instantly makes me feel calmer and releases endorphines which improve my mood, cycling takes longer to get absorbed in and become really enjoyable. But it offers huge freedom - the chance to travel great distances under your own steam. The pedaling can get kind of repetitive as with any endurance event, but I also find that reassuring. You do the same thing that you've been practicing how to do, and the bike responds in kind. Before you know it you're on a mountain pass somewhere, or crossing a desert, or weaving in and out of the Manhattan traffic. Cycling for me is about the journey and where it takes me, while running fulfills a different need for letting myself drift into a particular state of mind at a slower pace, with the only real goal of making it home again at some point.
Murakami has an entertaining view on cycling, which he took up as preparation for a triathlon. I can identify with some of his thoughts, and disagree strongly with others, but it's fun to read nonetheless:
"Cycling training alone is, truthfully, pretty tough. Long runs done to prepare for marathons are definitely lonely, but hanging onto the handlebars of a bike all by yourself and pedaling on and on is a much more solitary undertaking. It's the same movements repeated over and over. You go up slopes, on level ground, and down slopes. Sometimes the wind's with you, sometime against you. You switch gears as needed, change your position, check your speed, pedal harder, let up a bit, check your speed, drink water, change gears, change your position...Sometimes it strikes me as an intricate form of torture. In his book the triathlete Dave Scott wrote that of all the sports man has invented, cycling has got to be the most unpleasant of all, I totally agree."
Slightly tongue in cheek, obviously! The book a great read, and an inspiration to anyone who like running, recreationally or competitively. In fact, it's kinda just inspirational all round. I also wanted to share this great line with you:
"Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness."
Anyway, moving away from the idea of cycling as a form torture, I had a lovely ride a few days ago from Brooklyn to Queens, via the East Side of Manhattan. Here's a few pics from my mini - adventure.