2020-2021 When I became an Ultra Cyclist
It's been an interesting few years. We can never really predict anything. These last few years have been an reminder of that.
In 2019, despite serious issues with the bike and a final 110 miles with what turned out to be a fractured femur, I finished my 3rd Pars-Brest-Paris. The contrast between that ride and the previous ones was stark. The world changes, and we either adapt or don't. So I adapted! And with that came the expansion of ideas that should always be the hallmark of change - at least for those that let change build us instead of tearing us down.
The last 2 years for me have been a gentle reminder of challenges I'd conquered long ago. It's only been since the pandemic that I really thought of myself as an immunosupressed person. Who knew that would ever become an identifiable sub-group of people? 17 years ago, when my (very unique) disease started, I went to a therapist that specialized in chronic illness. "Your life can't be the same, but you have to find a ground that keeps you healthy and is maintainable for the long term". In fact, most of my career as a long distance cyclist came in the aftermath of learning that lesson. The alterations I made were subtle enough that not many ever realized they were even there. All my friends with children got phased out or kept to the outdoors, hand washing became second nature, I gravitated towards a sport with very small groups.
The result of my adaptation, I passed on to my club and for the last 2 years, we stayed open when others stayed closed. While I could have hidden, I didn't, instead choosing a course that was why I felt was maintainable. And our club succeeded. We managed to host the only 1200k in the US during 2020 and 1000k in 2021. And people had some hope - that adaptation was possible and that we could take care of each other and stay safe. Even me, who almost certainly can't expect to survive the coronavirus.
And there were other unexpected benefits. Without constraints from outside, our club enjoyed the ability to explore again. We emphasized safety over all else and gave people choices that led to some achieving goals they helped define themselves. And for the first time, I found friends to ride with - an irony to say the least. I have closer friends now than I ever did before the pandemic.
There were costs too. It's hard to be a leader and it's a role I never really wanted. Being a leader is about acknowledging that some will disagree and even hate you for the decisions you have to make. That as many times as you want to please, you have to live with the fact that you can't always do it. We have to live with our imperfections and the consequences of them. But we also find solace in the moments when those efforts are recognized.
So imagine my surprise when out of the blue, my club gave me an award! Not for being a great rider or mega-miles, but for something far more significant: for keeping them safe and keeping all of us on the road. This is only the third award I have ever received that will retain its power and stay displayed. The first came from the man who got me through my adolescence and kept me from falling to despair, the second from a man I worked for years ago that respected me for following a new language called Java when the world rotated around COBOL, and now this one. All unexpected and all with the meaning that comes with the true spirit of the word "award".
All things change and 2022 will bring yet more changes to all of us. Let's hope we all find a way to adapt and help each other stay safe, the way my club has helped me. Without their caution, I of all people would never be able to do what I do. It's not what we do for ourselves that will really be remembered, it's what we do for others. So let's face this new year with hope and the miles that are before us. That's why it's called Ultra Cycling!
Happy New Year