It's the third day of the first training camp for the upcoming season, and I'm at home, with a sore throat and a minor sunstroke. Inspired by my out-of-season springtime and the phenomenal weather currently gracing the Balearic islands, I may have pushed, erm, just a tad beyond what would have been deemed appropriate for this time of the year (#FuckReasonable being the tagline of choice on many of my recent Strava rides) - and must now pay in full the price of my daringness.

With my training mates gone to explore the decadent bar scene, I sit, my entire body hurting, shrunk in the couch by the fireplace, as Elbow's "Leaders of the Free World" plays in the background. Between writing friends back in the Continent and sipping chamomile tea with honey, I skim through some entries from this very blog. Reviewing stories from the past few weeks - and years - somehow the aches are diminished, and I must restrain myself not to begin drawing plans for yet another long, and fast, day in the saddle tomorrow (maybe I do want to keep that remaining tonsil after all...).

Nevertheless. I wrote, and I hold to it, that inspiring others is the ultimate goal behind sharing my adventures here. Sometimes, however, it turns out that I am the one inspired. Even if perhaps a bit narcissistically, I manage to be touched, why, even admire some of my own prose as it reminds me of the obvious conclusion when facing this evening's maladies:

That's a bill I'm glad to pay.


Canadian Lakes, Bavarian Mountains

November 21st, 2010. Bruce Peninsula National Park, somewhere by Georgian Bay. After a cold, windy night, the morning sun coloured the overcast eastern sky with shades of magenta. The sea is a good place to think of the future - but on that weekend, a lake had to make do.

- - -

December 21st, 2016, Winter solstice. Atop the Wallberg, Bavarian Alps. The alarm clock went off at 4 AM ahead of the drive to Rottach-Egern where the clear, moonlit sky made headlamps redundant for the night ascent. Reaching the top just ahead of dawn, I savoured a cup of coffee awaiting the first rays of sunlight.

- - -

In between, exactly two thousand, two hundred and twenty-two days. I swear I did not plan the dates.


Le Sacre d'hiver

I flew back from the Middle of the Atlantic with more questions than answers, clinging dearly to the hope that my stream of overflowing emotions somehow managed to reach out, to inspire and embrace. I was afraid, exposed, and exhausted - yet simultaneously radiantly happy and whole. And as I woke up from almost twelve hours of sleep the day after, I could hear that electrifying music playing again - silently and yet so loud.

- - -

Walking back from our company's Christmas dinner, I contemplated the small, and perhaps not so small, goals and milestones we've achieved, and the plethora of ideas and plans for the way ahead we had just discussed over a Nero d'Avila or three. For the first time in many a year, I felt like there could be, however blurred and tortuous, a greater goal, a sense of purpose. Reaching the subway platform, Münchener Freiheit greeted me with its trademark classical concert on the background. I had to smile.

- - -

The wind didn't come stiff from the North, but rather gently from the South. The Föhn, a dry, warm air rushing down the Alps, is perhaps the most charming meteorological event to grace the Bavarian capital and its surroundings. The clear air allows for an untarnished view of the entire mountain range, and, for this cyclist, is seen as a standing invitation to hit the slopes of what is now - replacing Burg Feuerstein, the ascent to the Castle of the Fire Stone, from seasons gone by - my favourite local climb, the Peißenberg.

Going under 20 minutes to the top, in December no less, is perhaps less than reasonable in view of progressively ramping up volume and intensity. Yet - despite the training wheels, the crust of mud still stuck to the frame from a previous Autumn ride - with the legs effortlessly turning whatever gear I chose, come wind or hill, there was absolutely no holding back. And how could I? After all, the music was almost deafening...

- - -

Comme dans le Sacre du printemps. Mais, c'est l'hiver? Peu importe: Yay! toujours.


The lobster of Reykjavik

Casting off an old, confining shell is, however painful, a necessary act for the lobster to be able to grow - as Rabbi A. Twerski points out when discussing growth through adversity. Using such as a metaphor for getting out of our comfort zones (or, in the case at hand, jumping from the heights of the tallest mountain, sans parachute, in hope of learning to fly) would be exactly fitting, but for two caveats: One, when doing so, we may not enjoy having the protection of a rock to hide under, with the metamorphosis due to take place out in the open, akin to rebuilding the hull of a ship in the maelstrom of a perfect storm, when the safety of the docks is not an option; And two, while the crustacean, as it undergoes the shedding of its old and growing of the new shell, has - probably - a good idea of how his new armour will look like, our growth process leads to an entirely unknown final state - wherein lies its terrifying beauty.

- - -

Deciding to face such undertaking could be cast as the single most important question, defining our whole existence. I'll argue that, should the answer be delegated to reason and reason alone, then we are ultimately no different than a sophisticated, yet mechanical, and thus soulless, artificial intelligence. And there's no point of living // if you can't feel alive ...

... and no better way of feeling such than helping someone else find the same.

- - -

The sun broke through the winter foliage on a cold December morning. Temperatures in Munich were almost as many degrees colder as the latitude difference to Iceland's capital. A thin layer of frost covered the cars parked left and right as I opened the balcony door, placed the fan outside, and climbed on the bike.  Four hundred watts can cure almost everything.