Maybe throw a dart

imageI pulled the plug on my 600K at mile 302, according to Strava. A few miles less than that on the cue sheet. I was 33 hours into it and I couldn’t make the math give me a finish. The organizer had given me a pep talk over the phone when I called it in, and I got back on and did another half hour to find out how fast I could really go in the headwinds, but eight and a quarter miles per hour wasn’t going to get me a finish.
At the hotel, I had a beer and a bath and some real food and went to sleep. Then I went home.
I didn’t feel good about it, but I did feel basically OK. I’d done my best, and math is math. I could have finished the remaining 72 miles, up through the Pine Barrens against 30mph headwinds and a detour around a forest fire, with the knowledge that finishing a doomed attempt under your own power is an honorable thing to do, but making volunteers who are already dead tired wait an extra few hours while you make yourself feel honorable isn’t.
This was my first brevet season since before marital separation, and my stated mission was to see what I was capable of. My unstated fantasy was to get all the way through a Super Randonneur series, which is a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K in a calendar year.

I went into the first randonnée of my new life, a little 100K near Boston in April, nervous. I finished. It wasn’t very hard. Then I finished 200, 300, and 400, and was reminded that being up to it physically is only part of the sport; you have to have your stuff together in terms of gear and navigation, too.
Let’s just say it’s been an effective shakedown season.

A 2016 SR series is still within reach. I could find another 600 before the year is up.
But in order to return to randonneuring, I deliberately put aside something else I want to return to: fiction writing. I was once a novelist to watch, before I made some decisions that parted me from that route. Now nobody’s watching and I have a finished first draft (“finished” in that it has a lot of pages and says THE END at the end) that needs to be completely torn down and rebuilt—a job I guess I thought would click into place after I killed the 600. Just one success after another.
I am not recovered from separation, financially. Or from the recession, by quite a long shot. Or from the loss of the client into which all my eggs had been, by me, put. I shouldn’t be hammering on anything but new business, consistent craftsmanship, and relentless invoicing for Typeflow. And being a good dad. And maybe some dating. Oops, that’s three. And brevets. That’s four. And the novel. That’s five. Which has a short story in front of it first. Six.
And my house turned into a disgusting pit (seven) while I was chasing the SR, which—wait, was that even my stated mission? Didn’t I go into this saying I just wanted to see how far I could get?
Didn’t I find out?
Does everything have to go as far as I can push it just so I don’t feel like a quitter? Even if the win makes me fail at everything else?
Because I could. I could pull an SR out of this year. I could let the house collapse to shit again, fuck the novel, forget the short story, spend another, oh, five hundred or a thousand dollars I don’t have on registration, bike stuff, gasoline, tolls, hotel rooms, recovery days when I don’t have enough mental function to make any money, unexpected medical appointments, and win my self-respect and my trinket.
I still may. Bragging rights are really attractive, and so is quiet self-respect. Winning gets you your choice of both.
Or I could say I did what I came for: I found out. Done.
My weight loss has reversed. I’m gaining now because not only am I not training, but I’m not riding.
Simultaneously, I’m 2500 words into the short story. (Words written during the SR attempt: 0. Figuring things out so I could write more than 0 words: 0.)
And my kitchen, TODAY, FINALLY, is clean. It hasn’t been since April. It’s been frat-quality revolting. If you went barefoot in it, your feet turned black. I’ve had a thing of wipes near the bed just for decrudding my fouled soles before letting them touch my sheets. Which are overdue for laundering.
Yesterday I washed the kitchen floor. Today I washed it again, and walked around barefoot, and oh Jesus, it felt so good.
It was hard pursuing this sport married with a family. It’s easier as a single parent in that the decisions don’t require ratifying by anyone but me, with the exception of custody schedule changes. It’s also harder because no one else is taking care of anything while I’m off pushing pedals in little circles.
I may still go for the SR.
But—
If I don’t finish it this year, I can start a new attempt next year. If I don’t finish the novel this year, it sits there looking at me forever. Failure as a randonneur is seasonal. Failure as a novelist lasts as long as you’ve got. It just keeps rolling over and getting grandfathered in.
Two ridiculous ways to spend time, competing with each other, when the obvious answer is grow up and forget them both; your business and your family need you more.
I don’t know.

Cramping was a problem. It slowed me down on the first 200 hilly miles because I had to clip out to change my foot position to make the cramps stop, and then I did the rest of the ride with my cleats against the flat side of my half-clipless pedals. I also had to go a little easy to prevent more cramps. So I didn’t get to the sleep stop in time to sleep, and when I left, I was too tight against the clock—so I sprinted for the next control and burned the rest of my matches before the headwinds that finally did me in.
Or, put another way, I wasn’t up to this brevet.

There’s an October 600K in Nebraska that would work with the custody schedule, probably not make me cramp (because it won’t be 10,000′ of climbing in summer in New Jersey), and cost a lot, and the kitchen would turn to poop again by August.
Or I think I can get the short story done in a couple of weeks if I focus, and then start writing the draft of the book where I actually know what book I’m writing.
If I don’t do the SR.
I don’t know.
Maybe I’m done for the year.
Pick your failure.

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3 Comments

July 5, 2016 · 8:58 pm

3 responses to “Maybe throw a dart

  1. mtkr

    Can I cast multiple votes for finishing the novel? And personally, I think it’s an amazing accomplishment to have finished the 200, 300, and 400K events.

  2. Keith, it’s been eons since I met you at a Pennwriters conference, and lots of things have changed since then, I know. But I know, too, that you can do whatever you choose, and you’ll do it well. :-)

  3. It’s always amusing to hear about “miles” done in a 600 km brevet. Didn’t Code Napoleon get to you guys? A SR series is always going to be there. Get some people together and it’s much easier.

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