Saturday, September 3, 2022. Willcox Flyer Bike Ride.

I am riding my bike fast, slightly downhill, along a two-lane asphalt road. There is a stiff tailwind with occasional crosswind gust. These are the grasslands west of the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. I am in a sea of thick, waist-high grass up to the edge of the road. I fly by the undulating waves of yellow green.

For more than two hours I battled the same wind as I made my way to the turnaround point. I stopped, drank blue Gatorade, and ate watermelon.

I dip down into a ravine and up the other side. I begin the uphill section to the western shoulder of Dos Cabezas Mountain. My legs feel thick, the seat is unforgiving. I am alone. My breath turns labored. There is a long steep section coming ahead.

I hear voices behind me. The voices are getting louder, two women chatting. They are talking about everyday things. They are passing me. One turns to her right and says, “Hi there! Beautiful ride isn’t it?” “Beautiful ride!” I say. And it is, just not right at that moment for me. There is a pang of envy. Why can’t I go faster?

Then I remember. It’s true in cycling, it is true in life. I must never compare myself to others. Sometimes I will feel good, and then I won’t feel good. At times it will feel inexplicably easy, fast, smooth, and effortless. At times it will feel bogged down, slow, and uncomfortable.

What never helps is comparing myself to others. They are doing their thing, having their ups and downs, their successes and failures, just like me. Comparing is poison. When comparing, I am unable to appreciate the success of others. That’s bad, but even worse, it puts me in a place where I am less able to gather up my strength and push on.

I crest the last hill. From now on it is downhill and then flat. I take a big gulp of water. I put my head down and change to the highest gear. I hit 40 miles per hour and sustain 35 for many miles. I finish the ride in 4 hours, 17 minutes, just 17 minutes slower than my fastest time under much better conditions. I lay down on the cut grass of the park at the start/finish line. I hear others talk about their ride, the wind, and the hills.

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