Have you ever had one of those days or weeks that are let's say challenging? Maybe it's from the change of the summer into winter, or maybe it has to do with work, or life, or a troubled relationship, or could be that you just turned another year old.
Recently everything hit me at once on my birthday. Turning another year old was no big deal, but it was just that this on top of all other life's challenges had me very close to the edge. I woke up feeling a little stressed. I went outside to breathe the cool winter air and felt sunshine which was a surprise considering that it had been overcast for several days before. I was definitely not in the mood to work so I said what the hell, "I am going for a ride!" It had been weeks since I had been on a real ride, so I dusted off my mountain bike, gathered up my gear, made half a peanut-butter sandwich, filled my water pack, and headed for the hills.
With no destination in mind, I headed for the hills. I hit the dirt in about 10 minutes after a good warm-up climb. I had an urge to ride to the top of Mt. Ashland. This physical challenge would make me at least forget about things for a while.
I climbed up some of the hard sections on the trail and harder hills feeling my heart pounding in my chest and seeing the condensation from my heavy breathing. After about 8 miles of climbing the problems that seemed so important began to feel not so bad.
I continued my climb and cleared section of the trail that I usually was unable to. My body was now sweating in the cold air. My breath was very heavy and my spirits were getting better with every pedal stroke. Dark clouds began to form in the sky, but this only made me push harder.
After 12 miles of climbing life's problems were no longer on my mind and all I cared about is reaching the summit. I stopped for a bite of my sandwich. In about 10 seconds the whole sandwich was gone. It was one of the best peanut-butter sandwiches I had ever eaten. The rain was now falling from the sky and the temperature continued to drop the higher I got.
I reached the summit after about 2 hours, 15 miles, and 6500ft of climbing. It was bitterly cold and the and the wind was blowing right through my lycra. I was almost in the clouds that were moving quickly across the sky. I felt no pain and quickly put on some mittens and my tights. I sat for about a minute admiring the view of Mt. Shasta on one side and Ashland of the other and took a few deep breaths. Within 3 minutes I was heading back down the hill.
I descended the mountain quickly and kept in control. My hands, toes, and face were numb and I could barely squeeze my brake levers. After about 45 minutes I was back at home, feeling more alive than I had felt in months. I put on Jimmy Cliff's, "Bright Sunshiny Day" and danced around my living room, still so high from the endorphins.
After an excellent dinner and some very good birthday cake, all I could do was sit back and smile and be thankful for the things I had: family, good friends, food, health, and inner peace. What else really matters? What a wonderful world it is.
It has been a couple of weeks since that ride, but I can still feel the high that I got from it. When everything feels to be hitting you at once there is one solution that will make you forget about life and your problems. Get out and ride! Longer and harder the better.