The only problem with completing what could very well be the single biggest ride of your life is the feeling that happens afterward. Not the immediate feeling you get on the Champs D'Elysees or the feeling you get when you come home and go out for champagne and oysters to celebrate. Those feelings are all great. That stuff is all wonderful. You celebrate and you should. Mark this. Remember it.
Then you wake up on Monday morning and the world is still charging forward at a 9-5 pace. You make strong coffee. Your partner goes to the office. Your friends are at work. You peek into your own office and remember the condition in which you left it: pristine chaos. You realize that you have deadlines looming right around the corner. You have a shit ton to do and you better do it or the mortgage is going roundhouse you next month.
Back at it.
As hard as it is to get back in the rhythm, this is a beautiful part of the experience. Every email you send reminds you that you were, just weeks ago, punching out watts instead of sentences. Every minute you spend shoring up the accounting underlines the context of the ride: you're just some average schmuck and you got a chance to ride the entire Tour de France. Then you went and did it. That really happened. Really.
Two nights ago I had a dream about the Tour: it was anxiety-ridden and stressful. I kept needing to be home for appointments and I could never find a way to be back in France early enough the next morning to start the following stage. I had this dream several times while we were riding as well. It was always a good reminder to enjoy, as much as possible, this extremely difficult thing that we were trying to do. Now that I am back at home it reminds me of the simple fact that we all know to be true: the worst day on the bike is better than the best day in the office.
The only problem is: what now?
And I don't mean what's the next big ride. I mean, you've just done something that everyone (including you) thought was not going to be possible. You've been underestimating yourself all along. What does that mean for your life? Are you living the exact life you're supposed to be living? Are you letting things slide by the wayside? Are you falling back into a contented complacency? Discovering the part of you that got you through the Tour is a little like waking a sleeping monster.
And you can tell by my use of the second person that I'm disassociating a little bit because, quite frankly, it's kind of uncomfortable.
This is one of the great gifts that sport can give us: a glimpse into possibility, a reminder to reach. Whether or not (and how) we apply it in our daily lives is up to us.
It's possible (probable?) that I'm over-thinking this. I've been known to do that now and then. But I continue to unravel this great adventure every day when I sit down at the keyboard to work on the print piece that will run in the next issue of Peloton. As I am forced to dissect it piece by piece, I see new things. The guts of this thing are messy and wonderful and revealing. There are so many things that will never show up in pictures, so many stories that passed completely undetected by lenses and observers. What these moments mean will be different to each rider and each reader, and I can't help but speculate for myself.
On Saturday I pedaled for 30 miles and thought, only 90 more to go. Then I pulled up to my house. I was just getting warmed up. While my legs and brain slowly re-adjust to wanting less, I hope my heart will always continue to ask for more.