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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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chasing happy

In the Quiet Stillness

Yesterday was my precious Sunday practice. After 92 brutal kilometers of climbing, chasing, hair raising descending, and generally wallowing in the pain cave, I came home to collapse on my living room floor.

My nap yesterday gave me the precious chance to wake up early this morning. Up a whole hour before the sun, my mind took its time to slowly wake up to the day and to my existence. It’s funny how the world of dreams and the world of waking, and the world of society outside are all so different from each other. At once I am the same person in each of them, and yet I am very, very different.

This morning, in the quiet stillness of dawn, I am filled with an aching appreciation for all the people who have touched me in this life so far. There are those who I meet in my regular life, and there are those who I have never met, and there are those who I used to know well who have now, for the distance between us, faded into my memory of them. To all of you, regardless of where our paths put us now, at one time we crossed, and perhaps we will cross again, but even if that never happens, I want you know that you are with me in my heart.

When my own life becomes too heavy to bear, I think of those of you who believed in me and it gives me the strength to get up just one more time and to push on that one extra step. When I fear that my dreams are too big for my tiny existence, I remember when you refused to doubt me, and I choose to believe you instead of the nagging voices in my own psyche. And then, when the quiet of morning arrives and I have the freedom to look at all that I have done and all that I have yet to do, I remember you and I secretly hope that one day, when I’ve traveled this path that I’ve set out for myself, that you might be able to share in my victory.

So, to all of you*, thank you. I hope I can be worthy of everything you believed of me.


*Peggy, Lloyd, Secret anonymous blog-stalker, you’re in this too.

Digging Deep and Things

Today’s practice was insanity. We rode our hill repeats loop course this morning — five loops of a ten kilometer course featuring a steep (15-17% grade) hill followed by a long, flowing, fast descent. This week I had ridden 170 kilometers leading up to practice and only forty of them were gentle. The rest were brutal hills through these beautiful mountains that I live in. I had done my best to recover, but rock climbing, trials practice and an impromptu plank competition (x2) had left me sore from top to bottom and the power necessary to climb the hill brought me well into my anaerobic zone. I was hurting.

Our theme was “each person leads one loop.” Five team mates meant five loops. The shop owner joined us this morning and watched our form and gave us all advice on posture, cadence, gears, pacing. It was real time and highly personal. I like that man more and more every time I meet him. I lead the second loop and focused hard on my breathing (exhale completely, open your chest) and my pacing. I wanted to make sure I could lead the group solidly through my entire loop even though I knew I was the weakest one on the climbs. When he came up through the ranks and rode next to me his only words were “that’s it, nice form!” I was exhilarated!

My thighs were on fire and I was sweating rivulets down my face and arms. It was dripping into my eyes and I was panting, my heart pounding as I finished the climbs of the second loop. I took a deep breath and headed into the descent quietly dreading the remaining three loops and wondering if I would even be able to complete them. The central hill is so steep that more than once I’ve gotten wobbly from exhaustion and my pace had slowed so much that I was afraid I would simply topple over. You’re pushing so hard into the pedals that even if you wanted to bail you’d be hard pressed to unweight them long enough to unclip.

We headed into the descent and this is where I seem to shine. Even though I reflexively tense up when I feel overwhelmed technically, and I find high speed descents on tight mountain passes to be very overwhelming, I have been focusing consistently on my technique. When I’m taking corners I check in with my whole body to see where I am on the bicycle: Where is my weight? Where is my focus? My hand position? Am I leaned in or upright? Do I extend my inside knee? How close does my line take me to the edge of my lane? Was I able to adjust mid turn? Could I have pedaled this corner? Braked later or lighter? In barely a month’s time I have gotten so much faster on my descents that my team mates are starting to have trouble keeping up. This is good.

And it is not just the corners that I’m taking faster. I seem to have an ability to fly on the flats that even the boys in my group don’t possess. I burn out faster than they do still, and if they try to sprint and over take me then I will most surely drop behind, but I don’t let up. I push it and I hold it. My eyes become fierce, my form light and compact. The world around me hums and blurs until there is just me and the road and perhaps the wheel I am chasing. It’s an intense and dangerous place to be in, but that is where the beast lives.

With the power of the beast I dropped frumps no less than three times today. I’m feeling very smug about it.

After pracitce Kamiya-san talked with me a bit about my form and my training and where I should put my focus. The man has incredible patience with me. He is just a spring of information and he just lets it flow whenever I ask. I love it.

Coming home I met with my neighbor, a former marine and sniper. We talked about the power of the human will. Apparently in the marines they teach their cadets that the power of will is strong enough to control the body and overcome any emotion. I don’t believe in overcoming emotions, though I know it is possible. As he was talking to me what I heard him say was

The human mind and the human heart is stronger than any circumstance you can find yourself in. If you want to be the champion hard enough, no one will be able to stop you.

As an old woman, or so the journalists who cover professional cycling would want me to believe I am, I am starting this journey at a serious disadvantage to the young’uns who have been nurtured and sculpted since puberty for their sport. Sports science would have me believe that it’s too late for me, that my body’s ability to produce power is already in decline, that my timer has run out and that I’ll never make it. But I don’t believe in science. I believe in myself. All I have to hang on to is this aching, burning desire to range free over the roads, chasing down my rivals and devouring them with the pure animalistic hunger that keeps my heart beating and my legs churning.

Today I learned that even though that may be all I have, it is really all I need.

Unhinged

Recently my SLAMpig told me that my brain is unhinged in a way that enables me to accomplish things that others might not be able to. He was careful to mention that that didn’t mean I was obligated to accomplish things, just that they were accomplishable to me if I so desired.

Today I’m sitting at home in my air conditioned house looking at housing listings online. It hasn’t been a year since I moved here, to a place that I thought was paradise at the time. I told my friend that I was considering moving and she look at me incredulously.

“Again??”

Yes, again. I’m looking for something and I’m willing to take risks to find it. The problem is that what I’m looking for does not fit into the well defined categories of society. I’m seeking freedom, and my People. Those are not things that one can be sure to find if one follows the typical common sense advice.

That’s why I moved out here in the first place. I used to live a ten minute walk from my job. I was in a small apartment in a quiet-ish part of town. Lazy is a better word. It was a corner of town where people drove their cars to work and came home to their families and ate dinner watching tv. They are not my people, of course. But I thought that I might be able to find my people while living there so I stuck it out until 〇〇 called me. There was good reason that I would find my people in 〇〇, so I came here. Here, amid mountains and along a gorgeous river, I suffered through a brutal winter in a drafty house. Just as the weather started to turn pleasant, the tourists arrived, ushered in by my neighbor and his monstrosity of a “Family Lodge” which he carved out of a quiet mountain and now uses to turn peace, solitude and nature into noise, misery and pocket cash.

So I’m off to look again for another place to live. This time, like before, my goal is the same: I want to find a place to live that will put me in touch with my People. This time I have a much better idea of what to look for than before. In short, I know I need green and I know I need quiet. I also know I need a space where I can maintain my bikes. Moreover, this time I think I know who my People are, and where they are, and this time I’m going to pick a spot that I know for sure will make them easier to play with.

These are where I will find my People:

N’~ will be my People. Her friend Komachi will be my People, too.
SiZu-san will be my People. He kind of already is my people, but he’s far from me so it feels like he isn’t my People.
Sempai will be my People. He said he wants to be my people, and who am I to turn that down?

I found a spot that will make all of these people closer to me. It will also make my current workplace closer while keeping me at the foothills of my favorite ride: Iriyama Toge. And it will put me in closer touch with the people who I desperately want to adopt me: Team You Can, Hachioji.

Most people would think this is an awful lot of work to go through just to live closer to some people who aren’t my family. Most people would wonder why I would go through the trouble to still have an hour commute from my job. But I am not most people. I am unhinged and to me, this makes perfect sense. I live a Spartan life as I am told. I have few possessions and at least half of what I own is either a bicycle or a bicycle accessory. Moving for me is actually a simple thing outside of the adjustment period. Sure, I would like to have comfy furniture and Nice Things, but not if they prevent me from finding my Happiness and my People.

I suppose that part of what unhinges me is that I do not value what others value. I do not value comforts in the typical sense. I do not value fancy clothes or expensive electronics. Even as I type this I wonder to myself if there are people who do value those things still; that’s how far removed they are from my life. I do not value a respectable job as I know that a job is something given to me by an organization, not a human, and an organization cannot care for my well being. I do not value money because money cannot buy me People. I do not value convenience because convenience makes people dependent on the civilization around them. I do not value civilization because it separates us from our Humanity.

To me, my decisions are perfectly reasonable and hardly troublesome. I lose nothing of value and I gain adventure by picking up and moving to a new place. I gain the ability to hope for something better, the chance to try something new, the chance to succeed where I have failed in the past. Perhaps the greatest thing I gain is the ability to prove to myself that, I could if I wanted to.

I think Freedom is a skill that one must practice or it will perish. One must practice being free by breaking out of their box, tearing down their boundaries and frightening themselves with the possibility of tremendous change. Most people are not free. Most people are afraid to be free. I am not afraid to be free. I am unhinged.

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