Wednesday 5 August 2015

Three times out of my mind

To several people I had declared, before coming to France this time around, my hope, my intention to attempt to ride up Mont Ventoux from each of the three sides* - to join the Club des Cingles du Mont Ventoux. Typically for me I had no trouble declaring this intent before I got here, but once here I had doubts and, frankly, fear of both the effort, and failing in the attempt. I mean actually, I was pretty sure that once I started in on I'd find a way (unless they closed the summit due to weather - which is not unlikely).

So while I declared with some abandon while at home, once on the road I kind of turtled, and waited. I told myself that I'd do the climb from Bedoin again, on fresh legs after I'd taken the time to acclimate to the summer heat over here, then I'd take stock. Always delaying. Always hedging. Always thinking too much.

That ride went well, but I was still too much in my own head. I had reasons: heat, the effort, overall timing, being good to M rather than focusing on me. I spent a lot of time just before falling asleep playing out these excuses to all you folks, knowing that you'd be fine with it. That you'd be fine with me if that was my decision.

The thing about these excuses is that they were too much about what you would be thinking and not enough about what I was thinking - about me. What do I expect of myself? Do I do these things for others and their esteem of me, or for myself? After the Thursday I rode up from Bedoin we were sitting over supper with our visiting friends, when RA asked, pointblank, "So, you don't seem very happy about this, then why do you do it? Why the effort if you're not satisfied or celebratory after it?"

Fair question. We know each other well enough for her to ask it. And, of course, it is a fair question. Is this a benign-ish kind of self-harm? Is it a "because it was there" thing? Who or what do you do it for? I gave her a decent answer. I said it was because we live in a pleasure-saturated time, that we've lost our taste for the growth that comes from discomfort and effort. I said it was because I could enjoy the wine and fine food more after the work.

She was reasonably satisfied by these, but not totally, and neither was I. Mostly because they continued to locate most of the impetus for it all to some more abstracted, outside-of-the-self, ideological intellectualizations. Which, as I reflect on it now, are a kind of ego-has-no-clothes thing. They aren't really my answers. They're someone elses. They're good answers, and I like them, so they're mine in that way, but they're not really mine at the core.

The reality that after riding up the first time I could not put riding up three times out of my mind - that I couldn't sleep easily because I was thinking about it - said to me that I was missing my own points. That I was not making very good points. That I was dodging something.

So after a great ride on Sunday with M, where she rode like she'd not ridden before, up to the Abbey (Sananque) road, and then down to the Abbey, and then back up (which she gasped as she reached the top that it was her Ventoux), and then up and over and down the Col du Murs ...

M climbing up the 3 kms (avg grade 8%) from the Abbey. 

At the top.

A selfie at the Abbey. Why not?

... I asked for a consultation. I told M all my symptoms, not that she hadn't sensed them anyway, and I asked her to help me process it. So she did was she often does, she dove right into it and started working out the details - how we could make a day of it, that Tuesday would be the best day because she could drive me to Bedoin on the way to the market at Vaison-de-la-Romaine that she needed to get to, and after that she'd meet me in Malaucene after my first climb and descent, and so on, and so it went.

One of the best things about a long term relationship based on good things like love and common interests and a sense that the other is worth the time and effort just as much as for them as for yourself is that you get to understand intuitively what is needed, and what is not. And in those times when you get lost in yourself and you think that she doesn't know you enough it becomes completely apparent that there are times when she knows you better than you know yourself.

Because sometimes getting over yourself is understanding what your self needs, and then doing it with as much abandon as possible. (Which for me is not much as I have control issues and "wild abandon" often makes me ill, but at least I could focus on what was relevant and necessary at the time.) I needed to do this, and afterwards a good "why" would come - or not - who cares. Who knows these things?

I've been reading Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance over the holiday and he calls these things "quality" and "care". It's elusive and subtle but it's a start. The basic thing seems to be that thinking does not make it so, that thinking can keep you from making it so, that thinking isn't doing enough, that doing and details and care and seeking good are closer to it.

So at 7:30 we arrived at Bedoin, I put on my chicken socks (which are both cool and a gift from M), and I got started:

Chicken socks on, game on.

Up the first time, from Bedoin. (The dude who offered to help,
using my flip phone, took two of these finger-infused pics (not
much help at all) and then asked me to take a pic of him holding
up his bike for proof to his German buddies.)
After the descent to Malaucene I had the requisite croisant and quiche along
with an expresso, and a l'eau. M met me here and then followed me for the
rest of the ride.

The climb from Malaucene is unarguably more picturesque than from Bedoin,
and it's almost as challenging with a 7.2% avg grade (From Bedoin the avg grade
is 7.6%. And when it's your second climb of the day, it might as well be the
same. At both of these climbs are ranked (Bedoin (203),
Malaucene (299)) as more difficult than Alpe d'Huez (725), mostly because of
overall length.)
While I rode up from Bedoin without stopping, I took a fuel break just over
halfway up the second time.
Second time's a charm. Now I know it's doable,
barring weather issues.

And there was one weather issue. About halfway down to Sault the rain came
down hard enough to stop me. The brakes were not effective enough for me
to feel confident on a road I did not know. In about 20 minutes the rain passed.

After the rain and sweat I change kits. (Have to give both ABES kit some profile!)

In Sault we found a great cafe, Le Promenade, which had
"Burger la maison et Frites" on the menu. Obviously this
was the choice to make, and in French style I ordered it,
medium. M's Nesque salad is topped with "saumon fume".

The climb from Sault is the longest (26 kms) and easiest (4.5% avg). The first
20 kms are often near flat and likely average around 3%, but then you arrive at
Chalet Reynard and have to climb the same last 6 kms that you do from Bedoin.
Just when you allowed yourself to feel strong, you hit this corner and turn into a
steady 8-9% to the end. I managed to keep all of the burger down, but there was
some uncomfortable belching and poosting along the way. 

Yup. Three. 

The team! 

So what is it? Why? Well for me it is, in part, learning to be true to the "reasonable" (I don't always know what that word means, but I'm using it here, with caution) tasks your self asks of you. Here I speak of the self as that part of you that you do not fully understand and may never fully understand, but that you spend your life - consciously or unconsciously - trying to pin down.

I did this, for me. My self. And I. Then I could sleep. And now I can relax. Until the next task comes along. For now I'm back in my head and clear.

start - 7:38 am, finish - 9:19 am
climb time - 1 hr 41 mins (no stops)

arrive - 10:03 am
Croissant, quiche & espresso!
start - 10:28 am, finish - 12:01 pm
climb time - 1 hr 30 mins (one stop)

arrive - 1:40 pm
Burger & Coke!
start - 2:35 pm, finish - 4:19 pm
climb time - 1 hr 44 mins (one stop at Chalet Reynard to get set)

Finish at Bedoin at 5:01 pm
Total time: 9 hrs 23 mins
Ride time: 6 hrs 59 mins
Total distance: 137 kms
Avg speed: 19.6 km/h
Max speed: 65 km/h

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