ML final reflections: ‘The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break’

The Monumental Loop is everything. It is place, people, performance. We sometimes think of nature as going out into the realm of the apolitical, escaping from the world. It never feels that way to me. This route feels incredibly human, at every level. It is the creation of Matt and Pablo. It exists because of their imagination and work. The route persists because of the advocacy of everyone in the local community who resist efforts to diminish our public lands. I am grateful to have come to Las Cruces and to reap the rewards. The MONUMENTal loop is a fantastic testament to the advocacy that goes into protecting national lands. I am lucky to have been here, and grateful to everyone who fights for public land, always.

It would be easy to talk about the challenges the desert threw at me, but I have done my best to avoid personifying the desert. When we athletes disappear into the wilderness it is easy to place ourselves at the center of the universe, but in this trip I was reminded how meaningless I really am. The desert continues, unmoved, whether I am here or not. 

There were definitely moments when I felt challenged beyond all belief and was tempted to shave some miles, skip around, grab a ride. I knew nobody would mind – I was injured! However I felt a complete pressure, not from anybody, but from myself. Yes, the pain was bad, but it would be nothing compared to the complete emotional void I would fall into if I did not give this loop everything I had. I’m a firm believer in doing things fully. Once you start to make compromises, it becomes easy to compromise again, again, again, until you’re left with a few scattered miles. 

I feel like I could have pushed myself harder, but I don’t feel like I let myself down too badly. I have to work on my grit, on simply just pushing, harder. I am potentially addicted to living on the edge of my limits and with the blurred memory of a week, it’s hard to believe I was really suffering as much as I thought I was. Athletically, my performance left a lot to be desired. I’m a little disappointed in this but motivated to improve for next time.

All I can say is that I am forever indebted to this group of cyclists. We may travel in different ways, but we are ultimately all in love with seeing the world while connected to it, not from a car. As Edward Abbey says ‘a man on foot, on horseback or on bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles’. Hayley and Gordon were driving me to the bus stop to get back to ABQ  and we were talking about feet problems. I told them that I have been systematically ripping my toenails off over the past year to try to prevent future issues, and they both nodded and said ‘great idea’. I think this may be the litmus test to find out whether you are in the right group of likeminded weirdos, whatever your sport! So many people helped me on this trip, with a place to stay, with the route, with conversation, coffee, rides, sharing some miles, taking the time to talk to me. I am very grateful.

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