Rising from the Ashes: Suffering on the bike
“Cycling is an excruciating sport - a rider’s power is only as great as his capacity to endure pain - and it is often remarked that the best cyclists experience their physical agonies as a relief from private torments. The bike gives suffering a purpose.”
-The New Yorker on Team Rwanda
“Cycling and suffering are inseparable - you can’t have one without the other.”
-Jonathan “Jock” Boyer
Cycling hurts. Ok, maybe not like the graphic above, but for a long time, I shied away from acknowledging this little secret I carry silently within myself:
It hurts every time I ride my bike.
I don’t enjoy cycling because it hurts. Every. Single. Time.
It doesn’t get easier with time and practice. It gets harder because when I improve, I ride faster and longer. So it hurts. Every time. Rain or shine.
Ok Angie, pain, I mean, point noted (because I repeat it so much here).
Now, moving on.
To hear Jonathan “Jock” Boyer, former professional cyclist, the first American to ride in the Tour de France in 1981, the 1985 winner of RAAM (Race Across America), an inductee into the United States Cycling Hall of Fame in 1998; and Adrien Niyonshuti, Rwanda’s first cyclist to represent the country in the 2012 Olympics, say that you’ve got to suffer to become a better cyclist, I feel comforted that I’m not alone in my suffering on the bike.
Now, when I get on my bike to train and it hurts, I don’t see it merely as pain - I see it as purpose - it’s a price I have to pay to get better in the sport.
Replace your view of pain with purpose. There is always a reason for pain. It is usually associated with self discovery and actualization.
For me, it is exactly it. Even though it hurts, I ride because it gives me purpose. I am training to ride across America for 40 days.
Why do I want to ride across America? Because I know I am wired for ultra endurance feats. Every time I push my body to the limits, someone is inspired to get off the couch and do something great with their lives. I get emails and messages from people who tell me that.
I am no super hero; certainly no professional triathlete or cyclist, I am plain ol’ Angie, but this Angie is one determined gal who knows how to dig deep in her threshold of pain and endurance to go longer and farther than others.
For Adrien Niyonshuti from Team Rwanda, he cycles to seek purpose behind the pain of his past. He lost 60 of his family, including 6 of his brothers and his mother’s entire line of heritage in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (from the film: Rising from the Ashes)
Watching Rwanda represented in the 2012 Olympics was especially moving for me.
Sitting in the movie theatre, withholding a stream of tears, my heart swelled with pride and pain.
Pride at watching a genocide survivor representing his country in the crown of all competitive sports - the Olympics.
Pain as I remember Paul Bragiel, the man who inspired me to ride across America. I could almost feel how Paul felt when he used to watch the Olympics as a little boy and desired to be an Olympian himself one day.
The Olympics is a powerful vehicle of peace that binds this world. Regardless of race, culture, language, religion, background, values and beliefs, entire countries are united as each stands together in support of their own. The entire world chimes in unison as everyone puts aside their differences to cheer their national athletes.
I see my bike as my personal vehicle of peace. I have a vision of riding across America, seeking out and interviewing immigrants who have come from various parts of the world to settle in America and call her home. America, the land of the free. America, the land of equal opportunities. Regardless of your color or background, as long as you work hard, and dare to dream and reach for the stars, you will get there.
This is not a patriotic pledge for America. I am not an American. I am a Malaysian who calls Singapore home. But while I am here in America, I value the warmth, hospitality, generosity, kindness, and tremendous opportunity given me to pursue dreams I have only dared dreamed of as a little girl, but am now taking steps to accomplishing them.
It becomes almost emotional for me to describe how important this bike ride is to me. It represents my dream and hopes. It represents a gateway to greater things I cannot even fathom right now.
Cycling is my personal vehicle of hope. I invite you to ride with me, this summer.
P/S: The morning after I watched Rising from the Ashes, I rode my hardest and most powerful ride ever.