I'm so sick! My brain is fighting with my body. I wanna puke but my pride won't allow it. I'm the middle rider in a group of three: Crash is leading us through our typical Wednesday ride around Paradise Valley, in the dark. His 16 year old son, Panic is riding at his best just behind me. He is so close that his front tire periodically roughs up my back tire. It's a sharp reminder to keep pedaling despite my desire to stop and purge my last three meals all at once. I can't stop, I mustn't. If I do, I've convinced myself, that I will never get better, I will never improve.
I'm not sick in the sense that I have a cold or flu or anything like that. No. My body is revolting, kicking and screaming against the harsh task master of extreme exertion. We're cranking our bikes through one of the most difficult and physically punishing sections at Paradise - "Two Trees". It's dark, wet, and everything is covered with sloppy mud and ice. I can taste it in my mouth, I'm covered in it.
I've ridden this section of trail dozens of times yet somehow it never seems to get easier. Tonight it seems particularly grueling. Lactic acid crashes through my legs like a hurricane. My back aches and my hands would probably hurt if they weren't so numb from the cold, wet air. That cold air, by the way, I can't get enough of it. I'm breathless and it feels like I'm wrapped tightly into a straightjacket. I bite and gobble the air. My heart is red-lining and it feels like it's teetering on the edge of exploding.
And then it happens. Almost like clockwork. Usually some time between 35 and 45 minutes into a ride I pass through the doorway. I cross the threshold. It's a transcendence of sorts. I reach a point when the storm subsides, my breathing calms and my heart settles into a steady cadence. It feels like this massive weight is lifted from my body.
It's an odd feeling because it was only moments earlier that I wanted to be put out of my misery and now I am lifted. I don't know if it's a mental breakthrough or a physical one but I find a renewed energy and determination to push myself. Lee's son who was just hot on my trail is now 10 feet back, then 20. And now that I've noticed it, I expect it. I drag myself along knowing that I will eventually hit the tipping point and my energy will gush out the other side. Not that it diminishes the crushing pressure that leads up to that moment but now I have hope. And sometimes that's all I need to keep myself from puking.