Sunday when I went to team practice, after being unsolicitedly advised for five hours by frump lady, I received instructions from my latest cycling crush. I don’t have a nickname for him yet but it’s probably going to be something like Kafka or MTB guy. His name is Murakami and he’s a Japanese national champion on mountain bike (I think) and road. He asked me how the ride was and I told him honestly that I was a piece of crap riding wet noodle legs. I dropped my mileage by over 100km and tried really hard to only ride the necessary miles and I still had noodles for legs. He looks at me with a straight face and says, “And that’s weird, right? That even riding less miles doesn’t give you enough recovery? So lay off the bike already.”

I had an instant girl-boner. I love when guys are rough with me!

First of all, I was honored that he took me seriously enough to even offer me advice. Our relationship is new, but I like how it’s developing. I confessed to him that I want to go pro. He cocked an eyebrow at me as he fiddled with my bike. “If I wasn’t aiming for pro, I wouldn’t need to quit the shop I love to come here and hang out with you, dropping five grand on a new set of wheels in the process.”

“Ah,” he nods at me silently.

He took me seriously and now I will take him seriously. I have ridden twenty kilometers in two days. The twenty I rode today were all errands that would have taken double the time on public transport, so I consider them necessary. And I rode them on Chamerion to save my legs the inevitable climbing that my neighborhood entails. Tomorrow is a work day but I will take the train for the second time this week. So that will make it twenty kilometers in three days. I haven’t ridden this little since March.

In order to take the edge off of my lack of forward momentum, I decided to head up to 瀬音の湯 (se’oto no yu) for a bath. The salty thick water ought to do my tired legs and saddle sores some good. This time I went prepared with a body scrubbing towel, foot pumice and razor. Lately I only shave my legs when I think about riding fast. There’s not much other reason to shave. I figured since I was going to luxuriate, I’d go ahead and girly-up my arm pits, too. There was a time when I was self conscious about arm pit hair. Now, like so many other things in my life, I’m too old to care.

The bath was surprisingly crowded for a Tuesday afternoon, but I was surprisingly indifferent to it all. I had my purpose and it was recovery. I showered, soaked, then got up to shave. Soaked some more then got up to stretch my poor abused quads. I paid special attention to my hip flexors, particularly the right one which I tore so many years ago and never healed properly from. I worked my shoulders a bit, too, and went back into the hot slippery water. Then I headed for the cold bath. It was 22ºC, so not actually cold enough for my taste (in winter it drops down to about 15º-18º and I soak in it until the air in my lungs starts to sting with the cold), but it felt good. Two laps of hot-cold and then I got out. I towel rotated the shit out of my shoulders. It made me sweat somewhat, so I gave it a good rinse in the shower one last time before heading out to the veranda to nap in the shadow of my mountains.

I slipped into a deep meditative sleep lying out on the lawn chair. I treasure these moments. My mind, initially noisy and hung up on my stunted relationship with Thunder, slowly began to drift. As it always happens when I meditate, I didn’t realize how much I had released my habitual grasp on my attention until I started to climb back out of the depths to the world where my body lay. I think it is something about human minds that they always want to cling to something. On the way down it wants to cling to the memories of unreachable happiness, on the way up it wants to dive back down into the depths. I believe with practice I will become smoother at letting go. Right now I simply focus on being grateful for each successful dive.

Heavy and reluctant, I wake my body from my toes up, wiggling each muscle gently to remind it that it can still move. When I stand, the exhaustion in my legs is twice what it was before I took my bath. The ride home was hard. I’m home now and my legs just want to curl up in bed and check out for the day. I don’t even have the motivation to pick my laundry up off the floor. Thank goodness I had leftovers in the fridge because the idea of walking more than five steps right now is just so exhausting to think about that I think I need another nap already.

Part of me is happy. I’ve never been able to destroy my body to this degree before. I’ve always broken somewhere critical, usually my hamstring insertion, but my ankles and knees have gone out on me, too. To have accumulated this much fatigue that two days of complete rest with the addition of a natural mineral bath and self massage is still not enough to re-energize me means that my body accepts the abuse. I am apparently designed to cycle.

The rest of me, of course, is miserable. I can’t ride. Riding calms me and focuses me. I need to ride to feed my spirit. I’m doing my best to stay distracted, but when you are trying to distract yourself from one thing, you are apt to distract yourself from much more. I can’t think about work at all because if I do I get stressed, and if I get stressed I need to bike it out. So no work. Just going to have to wing it again tomorrow. I also can’t really think about my dreams because they make me want to take action. I need to focus on not taking action right now because any action I take will inevitably give me an excuse to get back on that bike!

Heh. Recovery sucks. I know it’s part of training. I know I have to do it in the right amounts or else my body will force me to do it, like it kind of is now, but it sucks. Let none of us be confused that recovery sucks.

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