Okay, it is official now. I have heard from three experienced cyclists who have taken long cross country tours ranging from five weeks to ten weeks. All three of them said the same thing: Beware the 2nd week! I heard what I expected to hear. The first week is new, fresh and exciting. Each morning is filled with the anticipation of taking on a new challenge and encountering new people along the way.
Then something happens. An invisible, nearly impenetrable wall hits you. You suddenly realize that you have four, six, or nine more weeks of this. The close friends and family that you have depended on are now 500 miles behind you and getting farther away with each pedal stroke. The comfort and security of home has been erased as you improvise hour to hour your food, drink and sleep.
Yesterday, I celebrated July 4th with family and friends and we made the party a “Send Off” gathering as well. My son told me about his work colleague who was the third of my “Beware the 2nd week” informers. This person said the first time he attempted a multi-week cycling trip he gave up and came home after ten days. Since then he has successfully completed a number of them, but that first one unnerved him.
I must have had that on my mind as I slept last night because I awoke today unnerved as well. A dream stayed with me this morning that has forced me to take a deep, sobering breath. The scene was an Olympic skulling race where rowers were competing on a one-mile stretch of water. Somehow I was dropped onto an island platform just above the furthest point out to sea. My task was clear. I was to jump in and swim alongside the skullers back to shore.
I was feeling calm and mildly confident about the challenge. The environment seemed safe and controlled. There were four race lanes each with a skulling boat slicing speedily through the water. Then suddenly it occurred to me that this was the same water where officials reminded people that the water was so cold hypothermia usually settles in within about ten minutes. I wasn’t going to be in a boat and I knew the swim would take me closer to an hour, far beyond the realm of safety.
How did the dream end? Well, I found myself still readying for the journey ahead fully aware of the risks, yet with a strange mixture of both confidence and resignation to what the outcome might be. The warnings didn’t seem to change anything except for the growing realization that this was no afternoon swim in the heated gym pool! I stood there feeling that there was no turning back. I was out in the ocean on this platform and there was only one way back to shore–swim the mile in the cold, frigid water.
I do admit to feeling sobered this morning. I am pondering this strange feeling of being keenly aware of the risks and trusting that I will move through this pilgrimage fully intact. I think the 10-minute rule in the water from my dream represents the 2nd week warnings from fellow cyclists. In the dream I had this image that despite the warnings I was going to break through that 10-minute hypothermia barrier and find a calm, strong pace to take me back into shore. I somehow felt both sobered by the realization and confident at the same time.
Now back to reality! I haven’t even got to the 1st week yet. For now it is errands and a few more miles in preparation. And to my three fellow cyclists, “The warning has been noted! I’ll be praying for invisible hands when that time comes!”