Telling stories

“The story of a ride like today is a freakin’ novel.” So says my riding partner.

He’s right.

Each ride is a story that stretches from the tendrils of the unopened lily to the straining and slowly decaying muscles of our bodies. It is massive rocks stacked like wafers, whose dimensions change with distance. From the trail, these tell a story of even symmetry and the ongoing patterns of layering in geological time. Up close, I imagine these massive structures talk about grain and texture, foothold and handholds, risk and wonder.

There is never just one story of a ride. It’s multiple from the start, and in the end I like to choose one strand that epitomizes what most needs saying. Today I need to tell the story of how impoverished telling these stories remains. Or maybe how fleeting they are. Or perhaps they are personal in a way that matters most to the one telling the story.

Ride reports are often long, and in my opinion, can read like the story of a longwinded and breathless child. “And then, this happened…and then, this other thing happened…Are you still listening? This is really cool…And then, something else happened…You shoulda been there…”

You shoulda been there.

Maybe that’s one of the important functions of ride stories. To invoke a yearning, in the self to ride again and in the other to join.

Ride reports often point toward feelings, sensations, and emotions. They are about burning muscles, fatigue, bonking, recovery, exhilaration, wonder, contentment, peace, adrenaline, focus, flow, one-ness, laughter, fear, hope, loss… These are difficult things to recreate in text.

Long rides–really any long endurance undertaking–can start to look a lot like a metaphor for life. Fresh-faced to weary, persistence pays off. It’s not always fun, but there you go. That’s life. This is a common trope in accounts of ultrarunning and “epic” ride reports.

Maybe telling the story helps us to sort things out. Sometimes a ride is not okay, and persistence does not pay off. Telling the story can help to reconcile the tragedies of varying sizes and proportions. They can give a series of events meaning and provide purpose, particularly in the face of futility and loss.

Maybe the little stories are practice for when we really need narratives that save us.


Century flowering

See those long pointed leaves, growing in little clumps? That’s right, they’re all over scattered throughout the lupines, locoweeds, larkspur…one of those purple “l” flowers. Now see that one over there with the stem taller than you? With all the little white flowers? That’s the century flower in its last gasps of life. They live for 75-100 years before flowering in full glory. Then they die. That’s right, see all those tall brown sticks, cracked and bent? That’s last year’s crop, this glorious specimen’s future.

After a long gasping climb, it’s easy to feel as if these beautiful blooming flowers are just for me. The chemicals coursing through my body enhance the beauty of the vista and these singular blooms. I know they bloom careless to my life, my climb, my concerns. But maybe that’s why they make me feel special. They are for me in their negligence of me. It’s a gasping beauty that doesn’t give a damn. It doesn’t care about my straining muscles, my beating heart. My brake-clutching descent and mud-slipping crash will not change anything out here, save wearing away the soil my tires and my bleeding leg pick up and take home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crested Butte downtown to Strand Hill to Strand Hill Bonus and back to town.

15 miles?

With Chuck R.