We went on our routine weekly evening ride tonight - as always, about 15 or so very fast men and me. Again, as always, we entered the trail together, but before 50 yards had elapsed, I was completely alone. I wasn't worried about it, though. I know this trail well. In fact, getting dropped (again) this evening gave me opportunities I never would have had by struggling to keep up with the guys.
For example, getting dropped allowed me to slow way down when the sweet aroma of honeysuckle wafted up my nose. Gave me the chance to really pay attention to the way my bike danced through the rock gardens, floated over wet tangles of roots. Allowed me to settle into my own personal rhythm, one with my bike, as I flew down hills, and then rode purposefully back up the climbs. I listened to the sound of my own breathing, my heart beating, felt my muscles working, and marveled at the capabilities of the human body. Getting dropped enabled me to play chase with a muskrat who taunted me from the side of the trail, then darted out in front. I stood up and gave chase briefly before he ducked back into the shrubs; I smiled as I passed, while a squirrel chattered excitedly from an overhanging branch. I paid attention to and cherished everything about riding - the smell of the dirt, the rustling leaves, the creaking of the trees in the wind. I was no longer just riding - I was living, and it was glorious, painful, thrilling, overwhelming.
I realized tonight that the racing, the competition, the trying to keep up with the fast folks, none of that really matters. What matters, to me anyway, is that I am privileged to be able to ride, maybe not skillfully, maybe not fast, but I can ride, and that is what gives life to my soul.
So why do YOU ride?