Crouched on the sofa with dread weighing heavy in your chest as you rasp and click into your cycling shoes knowing that this is going to hurt is never easy. But needs must.
Look out of the window at the weather but it’s just habit, it doesn’t matter, it could be the blue sky of daydreams, it could be cold grey bone deep drizzle. Get out. There’s a job to be done. Doing this now might make it easier later.
Keys, wallet, inner-tube, phone, click, click, sigh.
Out the door and pedal joyless out the usual way towards the usual hills, no bikes are wonderful from the first revolution here, no tra-la-la, nothing but self-inflicted hurt. There will be no easing of life’s woes, nor the soothing of a troubled soul through calming pedal strokes. None of that schmaltz.
Push the body to the limit, push again, then again, again, again, again and just once more before turning for home, empty, cracked, destroyed. It will be easier the next time. There is a reason.
Before you’ve even hit the first hill your heart is ripping at your ribs, scratching at the cartilage, trying to escape and liberate the scream. This ride hurts already, but then it’s been hurting for days.
Push the body to the limit, find there isn’t one. Push again, find a new limit, and then again to see just how far you can, for giggles. But there are no giggles. Look over the edge, again. Push that heart to the brink, further, further, just because you’re the one doing the pushing now. Just once more before turning for home, empty, cracked, destroyed. You were empty, cracked and destroyed when you left the house so it’s a bit of a futile exercise. But you try to reach the point of oblivion so at least you might be too tired to actually care and there’s the thin hope you might find the momentary void of sleep.
Breath comes in uncontrollable stuttered gulps, not from the effort, but from the emotion, large empty sharp-edged boxes of air, it’s somewhere between trying not to be sick and just remembering to breathe. Just keep breathing and it will work out in the end. Keep breathing. In, out, gulp.
I’ve done this enough times now, go for a ride to try to control the pain, try to regain some kind of direction, I’m going over there, that’s my choice. Steer at least one part of your life the way you want it to go and maybe the rest will follow. Start with a bike. It’s an easy familiar start, build on that. If the hurt that’s been a bolt ever tightening on your sternum can be relieved by a self-inflicted pain that punches it back out even just a little bit then that might help. Punch away. Punch away. No-one gets to hurt me but me.
It doesn’t really help but you go quite fast. A hollow victory.
Some muscles don’t get stronger through training.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.