Back in 2000 I was still in the corporate world but had one foot out the door – I knew my time working for the man was limited. Lance Armstrong had just released his book It’s Not About the Bike and I was ready to lead a team down to Boone to check out the routes that had brought him back into cycling after his bout with cancer. He had just won his first Tour de France and his story had Larry, George, and me, all fired up. I had a business meeting in the general vicinity of Boone, NC and decided this would be the trip to check out the epic climb up Beech Mountain. I would go it a lone.
Arriving at the base of the mountain late afternoon, I was filled with nervous energy anticipating the climb. Clipping into my pedals and turning right onto the climb it started going up almost immediately. Sweat began to pour into my eyes as I turned to the right again just past the real estate office nestled into the pines. It looked beautiful as I tried to take in the views. After the turn it was a beast. The incline registered over 20% gradient and the twigs pushed on the pedals for all they were worth. The bike barely moved and the brain began to perform some quick calculations. There were no gears left as my right hand desperately tried to find another tooth and no shift happened. I was in the granny gear and the turn ‘round was glacial. My mind screamed at me to keep pushing but the tired, depleted twigs were unresponsive to the call to action. I got nothing. Defeated, I did the only thing left to do, I turned the bike to the left (halfway up the climb) and surrendered.
So began my love affair with cycling the mountains.
In sixteen short days, four of my cycling buddies (Littlest, downer, Blondie, Guv) alongside Miss and me will head to Lake Annecy, France and our third reunion with some of the hardest climbs in the cycling world. We will climb between 6,000 – 10,000 feet each day for nine days. Andrew, our son, will ride his bike (and train) from Berlin to meet up with us. He and Miss will enjoy cycling with us on some of the days and taking in the Alps and mountain lakes on others. It will not be all about the bike but in some sense it will. It will be about the bike, beauty, and best friends being together and doing hard things as best we can. There will be no turning around this time. I may be nearly 20 years older than my first trip to Boone, but I am much wiser – I have more gears and I’ve trained more effectively. My relationship with pain has also changed. Back in 2000 all I was doing was riding. My core was weak. I hadn’t drawn the correlation between the core and transferring power to the pedal. It hurts training the core but only for a short while. We’ve all embraced this pain, together, in the 3PP. The stronger core will not only transfer power more effectively, it will also take the strain and subsequent pain off the lower back. Are you slowing down and strengthening your core and BTL core, friend? Or are you just focused on getting to the top without calculating the cost? There is more to life than simply conquering your climb, isn’t there?
So, this trip will be a celebration of slow learning, slow cycling, slow suffering, and slowing down, together, to take in the beauty, not the beast. Together we transform. Always together. We will focus on each other (giving courage) and the beauty of God’s creation (giving thanks). We will find joy in doing hard things together. We will discover the gravity hack too. You see, friends, the mountains have an anti gravitational pull if you slow down and let their beauty in. If you turn your head to the left and right and take it in, you will find your spirit lifted and your pedal stroke invigorated. You will strain but with less pain. The beauty will pull you up. Life is bitter and sweet, poison and wine, beauty and beast. Focus on the beauty not the beast. Focus on the beauty. Good.
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…