Wednesday, December 15

Jumping at Shadows

I dread when the time changes and the days get short. I've never been afraid (ain't skeered) of the dark, but its often daunting to go out of the house, into the wide world before the sun has put in an appearance for the day, and at this time of year, when I'm on early shift I leave the house in the dark in the morning and the sun is setting as I leave work for home. There's some level of darkness for my commute both ways.

In the past this has quelled my motivation to ride and I've chickened out and drove or begged a ride from my lovely wife/chauffeur in lieu of facing the darkness alone. But as my seven year old has gotten older I've encouraged him many times by saying, "There's nothing in the dark that wasn't there when it was light." And its true. The dark alone is no reason to pause.

These days its usually not the lack of light that chills my heart in the mornings, but the actual temperature out in the dark. The cold can be a strong deterrent, and despite my best efforts to mitigate its effects I still sometimes sit, full dressed on the couch drafting my call-in excuse. And then I drag myself out the door, into the dry icebox that is the Front Range prairie-scape and I head west toward Golden.

I've always been good at keeping warm in cold temps. I am a heat engine, usually overheated any time I'm inside and typically comfortable outside in cold weather as long as I keep moving. Despite being a furnace that burns carbs, when I stop moving I get cold. And that first five minutes on the bike are the hardest, when I'm still closest to home before my heart gets pumping and delivers warm blood to my cold-shocked extremities.

But lately a new game has motivated me to keep moving. It’s a race actually, and it works best in the well-lit streets book-ending my commute. It goes like this:

As I approach a pool of light from a street light I pick up speed, I glance over my shoulder and see him, my adversary, chasing me, and I stand up on my pedals to outrun him (which jump starts my heart of course). I glance back as I pass through the light cast by the street lamp and invariably he overtakes and passes me as I pass directly under and then leave the pool of light. He shoots ahead into the darkness and fades into it. I race ahead, pumping the pedals to try and beat him to the next circle of light on the pavement. And somewhere in the darkness I always pass him. As I enter the light I glance around to find my opponent. Here he comes again! And we duel it out again with the same outcome.

The race is on as long as there are islands of light to race to, me and my shadow racer, trying to beat each other to Golden. Sometimes if the pool of light is big enough we'll race neck and neck for a long distance and I'll watch out of the corner of my eye as he pedals furiously to overtake me. And then I drop my eyes to the road and attack, jumping up on my pedals and rocketing toward the edge of the darkness ahead. He always beats me there, returning home to the shadows of the pre-dawn, never relenting, never tiring, always attacking.

We do it all over again on the way home.

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