The War: 1359

A major crisis, bringing the world to a standstill.

In the context of The War, however, a minor footnote:
"(…) and in the fourth year, the bullets flying, a pandemic assailed the world (…)"

We've always been at war with... Oceania?

- - -

I first came across the concept of "There's an XKCD for that" through Michael Nielsen's tweet. Riding back home, the Feuchtersleben quote rung in my head: "Reue ist Verstand, der zu spät kommt". Aptly, I found there was already a post on this very blog with this citation.

I'm not Randall, but even the (meta?-)meta-discussion on a certain number of prior experiences sufficing to last a creative lifetime has already made it here.

- - -

That same post with Feuchtersleben's tragic realisation had, further down, the inspirative antidote.

The only way out is through.


Cachaça and Helles

Somewhere downtown, at a bar with a couple of friends. After two bottles of wine, a couple of beers and a few drinks, the realization of a rare event: I was the worst time-trialist sitting at that table.

- - -

Six days were much too short: forty-five.


The War: 999

A war is also fought during retreats. Many gloryless, fightless steps back, in the hopes of later strides forward.
- - -
I dragged the bike bag back down the stairs towards the subway station. It would have to wait.

On the days that followed, many a standing ride ensued, and throughout the constant fear in the back of my mind. Is it back?
- - -
Two weeks later, we made it to the check-in counter. The performance was lacklustre at best, but deep within, I celebrated joyfully

Everything - the season, and more - is not lost.


Life: a racing metaphor

A two-hundred mile drive early Sunday morning, enjoying along the way the usual diet of beetroot juice, a honey sandwich, a couple of bananas. And a strong espresso from a thermos before the warm-up.

Riding flat-out from the gun and still dropped like a rock within the first half-hour. Legs bursting and the constant feeling of being about to puke. Not even halfway in, the thrown towel - no point driving oneself to sickness for a second time this month. Early call at the showers and a two-hundred mile journey back.

- - -

Lack of doping controls, unfair game play, all the other conspiracy theories notwithstanding - it remains a challenge I can't seem to master easily, with different weaknesses rearing up each time I let the guard down and fail to attend to any seemingly diminutive detail.

And yet, hours into the drive home, the void feelings from the empty endeavour still mixing with the endorphines, the realisation that the only way out is through: more.

- - -

Any similarity to real life is obviously not just a coincidence.

- - -

Stars of track and field, you are.


Douro Deja Vu

Late March. Somewhere over the Pyrenees. The eleventh flight of the year already, on a machine named after Erlangen.

In spite of this having been my third training camp installment in this still young season, my training volume to date is likely the smallest since attaining my current category. Work commitments, health concerns, and abysmal weather kept epic outings and frequent interval sessions at bay. Instead, I'm now happy to simply work out a sweat on the indoor trainer during early morning sessions, or follow wheels of my loyal training partners as we fight the elements on the roads south of Munich - or, just now, the wet shores of the Douro river. I still hope to convert the vast amount of overtime clocked into miles under more inviting skies, and draw encouragement from the fact that, even with all the woes and interruptions from yesteryear, the season still ended successfully - perhaps even stronger due to the freshness off the forced break.

- - -

If life does begins at Forty, the Thirties are providing for a most interesting, roaring prelude, shaking up the concepts of career and work-life-balance, relationships, luxuries, or sporting goals. Not the manager, but not quite an employee either. No longer racing the Bundesliga, but still unwilling to drop the towel. Not exactly committed, yet neither absolutely single. Far from riches, and while insisting it is not splurging, rewarding myself more often, say, with a new suit... or four.

American essayist Flannery O'Connor once posed that "(n)othing needs to happen to a writer’s life after they are twenty. By then they’ve experienced more than enough to last their creative life".

I gazed over the snow-covered mountains overlooking dry plateaus in the distance and, devising a traversal crossing of the range, established just how little applicability I could find in the writer's statement above.

- - -

As if those twenty years hadn't been busy enough.


Nihil obstat

The wind was gnarling with the waves breaking high against the seawall.

DCFC's New Year began playing just ahead of a silent countdown.

As fireworks went off in the distance, a Swiss army knife opened a beer for the toast.

I drank a bitter sip and felt a sudden urge to throw the bottle off into the dark waters. Instead, I offered the sea some and brought it back to the recycling bin.

- - -

The Last Time I Saw Richard was on as I poured the remaining coffee and packed for the upcoming ride.

Picked for its symbolism, it was the ride that ended '16; now it should begin '18.

This time - perhaps it was the warmer weather, perhaps an altogether different mindset - I thoroughly enjoyed the descent.

- - -

Deep Blue Something gave way to Natalie Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette as the endorphines of a sun-soaked five-hour ride hit me in the evening. One more day to go. This gift comes with a price. But in such moments I realize just how much I'm glad to pay the bill, time after time.

- - -

There's a sunset somewhere every second of the day. But when one happens to watch it...


365 // Fail better

I took my health for granted. Drinking from noon until noon again and waking up to cross a mountain range the next morning.

And then there was Iceland.

I loved the struggle. Always boasting of seeking the hardest path. Betting against the odds and relishing on the challenge.

And then there was Iceland.

I thought I had the answers. The meta-knowledge on how walking down the path differed from knowing it. No hay camino, se hace camino al andar - and those were worn soles.

And then there was Iceland.

I believed in a four letter word. And that a deed done with it could never be lost.

And then, there was a weekend in Reykjavik. An alarm clock that went off too early Monday morning. A whispered "don't let go" before the hotel door closed behind me. A drive to the airport, and then, the void.

- - -

I recovered completely, once more highlighting just what a fabulous piece of machinery hosts my consciousness. But I am now aware of just how special simply carrying out everyday activities by myself can be.

I still cherish my ordeals and voluntarily give up comfortable positions, be it in sport, work or elsewhere, to fight what I believe is the good fight. Yet I'm learning to give up martyrdom and realise that the struggle should not be an end unto itself.

I still undertake those metaphorical hikes, however I now appreciate that sometimes, the walk will not leave a path - or that such path may lead to a dead end and one must then backtrack, as hurtful as that may be; one way or another, the knowledge gained is not static but must constantly be learnt anew.

- - -

Someone once told me it only happens once a lifetime. That I know not to be true. Poor are the souls who have not yet lived through it. And I'm all the richer for - even if only fleetingly - having touched the skies once again.

Yet a price was paid for this experience. The effects of those butterflies flapping their wings were felt by others as well, and I have to acknowledge my share in not properly restraining those, or dealing with their aftermath. Howe is right: the knowledge that makes us cherish innocence makes innocence unattainable. Which, however, in turn "adds to a rich and complete picture of being human (...), part of the wildness and beauty of (a) life lived with depth, commitment and grace" (from a comment in this very blog).

Indeed. Always - and all ways - Yay!