Next week I will spend three days pedaling my bike more than 180 miles in the Trek Across Maine, an annual fundraising event for the American Lung Association. It's my third year participating, and before you say, "Wow, sounds like fun! Sign me up!" let me remind you that Maine is very hilly (mountainous, actually) and that last year's ride can be summed up in one adjective: miserable.
Without a doubt the first day was the worst. We woke to soaking rains, temperatures in the forties, and a forecast that promised only more of the same. Normally about two thousand cyclists ride, but the extreme weather whittled down our numbers to less than half of that. Those of us still hardy (or foolish) enough to wrap ourselves in Gore-Tex and brave the downpour shivered at the summit of Bethel's Sunday River Ski Resort, waiting for the start gun and wondering what the heck we were doing.
The deluge never stopped. Sixty miles up and down Maine's twisty roads and around her scenic lakes, with every single part of every biker's body soaking wet and cold. The rest stops, where hundreds of volunteers hand out granola bars and Gatorade, became La Brea-like mud pits. The port-o-potties, those odiferous (and yet roofed) structures, seemed like sacred places of refuge from the tempest. (Imagine wanting to go into a port-o-potty and you get a sense of how bizarre the day really was.)
Days two and three were only marginally better, and yet I found myself signing up again this year. What gives? Am I a masochist or do I just love soggy granola?
I do the Trek because I believe in healthy lungs and clean air, and am willing to fundraise and ride to support these goals. I do it because I enjoy the camraderie of the other cyclists, as well as a break from my everyday routine. I find it satisfying and oddly relaxing to spend a few days doing nothing more than getting from point A to B, even if I have to climb some hills to do it.
Another reason: I enjoy training for the ride. Logging one hundred miles or so a week in preparation for the Trek means I get in some nice long rides whenever I can. And those rides are not just good exercise -- they are periods of creativity. There's something about the repetitive motion of pedaling that generates a calming effect in my head which in turn leads to insight. I've brainstormed titles; composed poems; and worked out character issues. Some call it a form of meditation; others liken it to runner's high. I call it an unexpected gift.
I'm curious as to what activities fuel your creative fires. Are they solitary pursuits or group events? Do they involve nature, or technology? I'll watch for your responses and think of you next week as I pedal under (hopefully) sunny skies.