xc racing

Woods pinball ricochet piloting by shoulders, hips, leaning into the grips and over brake bucking foiled if you think or plan too much. Approach an ascending series of switchbacks, drop three bike lengths off the wheel in front at every straightaway then out of the saddle throttle open full, swing high sit heavily back down, that poured concrete in the legs and ran barbed wire through your lungs. Haven’t done one of these for awhile, twenty minutes ago we the field burst clattered into pedals, looked up, wobbled, head down gravel crackled out of the bannered start/finish, flash of the tape in the periphery gives way to no spectators, not even the others, really.

Intractable contradiction: With no riders around there is no reference, no marker for one’s own movement. Gaining? Losing ground? Which way up to the surface? Can’t remember if this is how hard I can go and not more. Or in traffic, letting up to breath to rest to break, but no, must pass pass or in fairness let by. “Take it if you want it.” “Thanks, man.” If you’re in company something is probably wrong, you’re probably indulging yourself in too slow or fancying yourself unsustainably fast. The habit of racing is finding a way to compete against an imagined objective fixed point established by a marginal idealization of oneself, but the feel is quickly lost when you’re away from it.

Into the second hour and the last the third lap, now the ridges and the periodicity of the slopes is a bit in you, faster less desperate through these sections. Careful not to follow the tempting lines of the bikes with suspension, when someone goes by there’s a sheepish irresistible check for a derailleur through teary eyes and trembling sore heat. These short efforts are alien different, more about letting the conflagration bloom full, more about an incivility and ferocity. Unpracticed, it comes far too late, but enough so that snapping out of it into 1100 warm smiles at the finish feels like a tumble upside down and full heave of air from a kiss.

Much later I see more clearly the unexpected need in (not of) attention, the need to let thoughts come and evaporate like morning mist, having thoughts the enemy of skillful right activity. Back to emptiness to go faster.

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Lutz, A. et al. (2008) Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Science, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 163-169.

Wallace, A. (2006) The Attention Revolution. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.