Sometimes I find myself day-dreaming of cycling through Scottish back roads or perhaps descending alpine descents in Switzerland. In my perfect world kids would be given bicycles and hiking sticks and encouraged to set off and explore. There would be no suffering or anguish, only the thrill found in exploration and the joy of fellowship. It is just as I begin to imagine rafting down rivers of chocolate that I come to my senses and am slapped with reality. This world is full of pain and suffering and to try and avoid it is childish and unrealistic. Instead, we must learn to face the suffering and be resilient enough to find ways and withstand it. More so it is the suffering, the pain and the anguish that teach us. It grips and moves us internally in new ways, shapes and molds us, forming opinions on the world around us. Without pain, we wouldn't know the true extent of happiness. Throughout my life I have observed suffering in numerous outlets. I have seen pain in the form of friends losing loved ones, in the hands of hungry children begging for money, in the faces of men and women whose lives have spiraled out of control through addiction, in the devastating wake of natural disasters obliterating towns, countries and lives. This pain is inevitable, unavoidable. A part of life.
The pain experienced on the bike however, is by choice. The torment on my mind, the anguish throughout my entire body as I fly across the pavement at 30 mph, nothing but a few centimeters of rubber making contact with the ground - a willing gamble of safety. The constrictive grip of my hands around the bars, my legs screaming bloody murder as they pump in full force, pistons revving at over 100 rpm, treading on the fine line between hysteria and reality. It is my conscience choice to push through this. I have the great gift of choosing this pain.
As I suffer - as I push myself into oblivion to the point that my body wishes nothing more than to shutdown - I am thankful for the pain. Thankful for the opportunity to choose to suffer, to grow with it. No ride is complete without that struggle and the joy that comes from relishing in these painful moments. While it would be a dishonor to compare my suffering on a bike to that of the real pain endured around the world, it is humbling to have the chance to suffer alongside the rest. To tell the universe that I am not too good to hurt. To remind myself over and over again that it is through pain that we grow, stay thankful and keep us better off the bike.