Thinking on Summer Gravel

In Blog by Eric Benjamin1 Comment

It was time. I had to figure out what the hell was making that noise as I rode my bike. It creaked like a wooden rocking chair with each pedal stroke and drove me crazy. I couldn’t tell what was causing it. The bottom bracket (BB) was damn near brand new, but maybe something was wrong with it. Time to put her on the stand.

I completely disassembled the BB. It looked fine. I cleaned her up, regreased and reassembled. Then I had a happy, accidental find as I finished cleaning the bike. This is a good reason to clean and maintain your bike! Screws, bolts and things will loosen over time. Cables will fray. Chains will wear. I was cleaning the frame and checking things out when I noticed the culprit. My derailleur hanger was loose. I thought the noise was coming from the rear, but when riding, noise reverberates through the frame and it is hard to pinpoint. I tightened the hanger, made sure the derailleur was shifting correctly and went for a ride.

It was about 10 am and already hot. I was sweating buckets working on the bike outside. I downed two glasses of water and brought three water bottles with me for a short 35 mile ride. The Garmin crept up to 100º. It usually reads a bit warmer than the actual temperature, but it was feeling hot out there. My bike was quiet again which made something else possible. Without the bike noise pissing me off, my mind began to unwind and deep thoughts ensued.

Summer Gravel-001

High pressure and blue skies overhead

I feel like I should be able to ride 100 miles like I used to. Thirty-five miles should be a piece of cake. But my mind and my body are not in sync. It is hard when I used to easily ride hard for 35 or more miles and now that is a hard workout. By the end I am tired and I wonder why I am having such difficulty. Then I look at my Strava calendar and see my lack of mileage.

This ride was a good one and by good I mean I got on the bike, hit gravel in about one mile (a great thing about living in Emporia) and soon my mind began to unwind and I was able to unpack some things that have gone on with me this year.

I am not riding strong because I have let time get away from me. I went from training strong in the cold to barely riding without realizing it. I didn’t realize it because I had bigger things happening. I am sure you all have had that happen before. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But I have some mental things to overcome and perhaps writing them here will keep me accountable and get me over this hump I haven’t been able to conquer.

Summer Gravel-002

It doesn’t look like it but this was a decent climb

I haven’t ridden the Dirty Kanza 200 since I had unexpected open-heart surgery. At first that was a no-brainer. I simply couldn’t. It worked out because that is the only reason I shot the DK200 – I couldn’t ride. It was good for my photography career. Funny how things work out (thanks Universe!) The second year I wasn’t up to 200 miles yet so I shot it again.

But the third year of shooting was because I couldn’t get my training consistent like it was when I was riding the DK200 and training for other races like Gravel Worlds, The Farmhouse Classic and the one I was training for when I found out my mitral valve was failing – The Stagecoach 400. After surgery the rest of my life fell apart just like my valve and it was hard to train or do much else. This website became stagnant and I went into a cocoon state.

It’s all good. I needed to slow down and regroup. I needed my life to change. I needed to live for real instead of walking through life as a zombie.

Even though I’ve done great things these past few years, something was blocking my path to things I needed to do. It kept me from training consistently, writing and starting the new blog I’ve wanted to start for years. Writing felt like riding through mud, training was hard and I wasn’t seeing the gains I wanted. Before I knew it I found myself out of racing shape and not creating. What was stopping me?

It was fear, plain and simple. The fear of failure, rejection and loss developed in me long ago. But here’s the thing. I wasn’t acknowledging it. If I see it and acknowledge it then I can move past it. But I wasn’t. I was just seeing things on the surface not happening and feeling aggravated about it. I was feeling sorry for myself but not getting to the root of the problem.

As the gravel crunched under my tires and the sun shone hot overhead, my mind unwound and things became clear.

My lack of training and writing aggravated me, but there was a mountain of fear blocking my way. Deep in my mind, there is the fear that I won’t be able to ride 200 miles again, that I will never catch up with everyone again, that maybe my heart will even fail again. And writing – maybe people may not like it, maybe I will fail, maybe I will have to get a shitty job again. But all this is just a script in my mind, a movie playing up there. In other words, it is not real. There is no need to protect myself from unreal thoughts. Real life is rarely as bad as the negative thoughts we have. So I ask myself again, “What is the worst that can happen?”

I suppose I could die on a bike ride, but that is highly unlikely unless a car hits me. I have been given the green light by the cardiologist to ride again. If I try, the worst is finishing the DK200 late, or not finishing at all. But at least I tried. In reality the worst is that I will die never knowing what my best could have been.

And the new blog (this one is already a success) may not take off. It may not find readers. It may not make money. The worst thing is that I will have to find a job again. That’s not too bad. Not trying will protect me from being vulnerable, putting my thoughts out there, but that’s the only way to live! Being vulnerable and authentic takes courage and makes life worth living. It puts the excitement back into life. Life is supposed to be an adventure! Fear is valuable to keep us from dying but it shouldn’t keep us from living the way we want to!

Hills in the distance

Hills in the distance

Once again, it is time to Feed My Monkey! So here I am writing again. I am not making excuses, rather I am finding ways to organize my time to make time to write and train.

So fuck you fear. There is no such thing as failure here, only learning opportunities. Everything I try becomes a learning experience and I get better because of it. The only failure in life is coming to my end and having regrets. And that is not something I plan on doing.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric