A couple of days after my most recent century I took the car out to get some groceries and I decided that a gas pedal, though very useful, is far from the most satisfactory means of acceleration. On a bike it is very rewarding when you've gotten yourself up to twenty or thirty miles an hour, in a car it's just what happens when you put forth the most minimal of efforts.
I felt really enlightened at that moment, like I was about to turn into a cycling enthusiast and I was going to start getting emotional boners (henceforth to be referred to as "heart-ons") over cycling, preaching about the evils of fossil fuel and danger of cars and bringing up my bicycle every time I open my mouth because I love it so much and how the only thing that gets me through each day of dream crushing work (yes I feel like my job is crushing my soul's dreams but crushing dreams is actually 65% of what I do at my job) is knowing I am going to hop on that bike and pedal, pedal, pedal.
The next morning, my enthusiasm was squashed more thoroughly than Lenny's puppies as shortly after Jen left for work I discovered that I had two flat tires. I carried my bike two miles to the nearest bike shop where I was informed that they were out of inner tubes (fucking silly) but was allowed to borrow a bike to go to the next nearest bike shop to buy some tubes. I hate bikes.
Anyway, the Redding century was the most enjoyable bike ride I've ever been on. I never once thought about the futility of riding in a big circle for no reason beyond bragging rights. In fact, I even enjoyed the scenery. I came very close to appreciating Redding. . .ewww.
Including rest stops and a flat tire, I finished in exactly eight hours. I figure that means I had about seven hours pedal time which, according to math, means I averaged over fourteen miles per hour. They gave me food at the end of the race and I felt pretty good and decided that it hadn't been absurd enough, so instead of calling Jen to pick me up, I decided to ride home with "Boombox" on repeat. I know I said that there are only two options when attempting a century: finishing it or not finishing it. I'm going to have to add a third and that is "fucking a century in the ass". Yeah, it sounds dirty. Yeah, I'm okay with it (ooh, I'm going to add a fourth category "being hit by a car" because it is better to have a category and not need it than need a category and not have it).
For years, heavy physical activity for the sake of exercise has brought forth interestingly twisted yet wonderfully cathartic thoughts to my brain: I would spend the entire time envisioning painful ways to die. Maybe a mugger would jump out of the bushes and stab me repeatedly in the gut. Perhaps I'd get hit by a car, the impact crushing my torso in a way that would allow me to feel my intestines being squeezed out of my body through my groin. Possibly I would trip on the sidewalk, hit my head on a parked car in a very specific manner that would cause me to be paralyzed but still able to feel my body. I would, of course, soil myself because I'm sure that is the natural reaction to this type of injury, which would anger a herd of feral cats who would begin to devour my incapacitated (but still feeling) body with their small mouths of very sharp teeth and I would not be found until the next morning when somebody would come out to get their paper and see my bloody mess of a body which will send them into a catatonic state of shock as they notice one of the sated beasts curled up and sleeping in what was once my ample belly as I mouth the words "Please kill me."
It would be easy to say that these fantasies are a coping mechanism as running any distance carrying two hundred and seventy pounds on bad knees is awful, but doesn't seem all that bad when compared to ridiculous evisceration. One could even argue that this is a very clever trick that my mind plays which forces adrenaline into my bloodstream allowing me to run faster. I think, however, that it would be somewhat more accurate to describe these thoughts as a sort of mental sweat, a sloughing off of ephemeral toxins, exorcising while exercising. I have forced myself to do physical exercise without allowing my mind to dwell on thoughts of a tortured death but I never feel as refreshed or euphoric when I am done. I never feel as clean. Something magic happens when I sweat death that allows me to end up feeling carefree and simply happy.
During the Redding century, I never thought about my own death, I thought about my wife's. I imagined that I would come home after triumphantly finishing my century only to find her brutally murdered. Around mile ninety-two I habitually smelled the air and checked for smoke as I was within a half mile of my house and kept thinking it was burning down as I rode. I don't know how similar sadness is to fear, but it seems to me that both can be pretty cathartic. The tricky brain/adrenaline theory may be appropriate here as I was able to average better than twenty miles an hour for seven of the last ten miles but I like to think of that ride's daydreams as more of a sign of maturity. Apparently personal torture no longer involves harm to my physical body, my inner demons no longer base my affliction on insularity but on a relational nature, and when my mind naturally envisions that which would cause me the most pain, it doesn't even involve myself anymore but my wife Jen. I don't care how much this disturbs most of you, but this gives me a bit of a heart-on.