I rode the trainer for exactly 41 minutes this morning. Today is March 23, 2013 which is the day after E3/Harelbeke and the day before Gent-Wevelgem. Were it not for the ripping wind outside, the pelting snow flurries, and the temperatures hovering around freezing, we would have gone for a standard one hour recovery ride up and down the canal, capped off with a serpentine ride through downtown Kortrijk and a lengthy stay at our favorite coffee shop/bakery – or bakkerij as I say in my finest Flemish.
This is also Easter week. Over the past three years as a result of a spring Classics race program I’ve come to really savor my time in Belgium during this particular slot of time on the calendar. Weather over these years has been generally agreeable so that the daffodils are budding, colorful Easter decorations are everywhere – but in a warm welcoming sense, as opposed to the abrasive Christmas decorations spotted in September; plus especially on the sunny days as we wind through Kortrijk, there is a friendly buoyancy in the air.
Today also marks ten years since my dad’s stroke which occurred March 23, 2003. As he says with his fondness for all things nautical, it’s the day that took the wind out of his sails. Homeward bound and driving north on the New Jersey turnpike from a collegiate bike race, I remember the exact feeling I had as I heard the news that Dad was in the hospital. Like a swift punch to the gut taking the wind out of me, I literally couldn’t breathe.
I can recount most of where I’ve been on each March 23rd for the past decade. Where my mind grows fuzzy, I scroll through past training logs for an easy and exact reminder. Cycling has clearly characterized the past ten years of my life since every single one of those March 23rds featured a big training day with the exception of 2007 when there was a number pinned to my back and I was racing Redlands.
With inclement weather churning outside and feeling as if it’s still the dead of winter, today has just had a very strange cloud hanging over it. My mind is spinning somewhere, everywhere, and nowhere all at the same time. Which somehow is a bit like riding the trainer, therefore going literally nowhere on a rest day for 41 minutes, sandwiched into the most animated week of bike racing of the year.
My thoughts today always turn back to Dad, both my incredible parents, my entire family, and what we’ve been through the past ten years. It’s impossible for me to describe what it’s like living with a brain injury, but as the son of a brain injury survivor all I can say is that it changes everything: the emotional, the physical, the mental. Every day presents its challenges back home – imagine injecting Novocain into the entire left side of your body rending it numb, next put a sock over your left hand to remove nearly all acute dexterity, and now go about your day, your year, your life. It’s a silly comparison, but likely as literally accurate as I can offer.
What’s incredible is that while a stroke often and easily tears families apart, there is still every bit as much love and support in our family as before – in fact, I would say more. After some troubling periods, Dad has come to graciously accept all that’s transpired. In fact, talking with my parents who are back home in New Hampshire this morning, he announced that he is as happy as he has ever been in his life. My parents are an incredible source of inspiration and resolute determination. It’s therefore flipping through these training logs and seeing the places I’ve been all across the globe each Easter week – with considerably more away from my family than with – that I recognize all the more how much support they truly provide.
Hopefully someday soon this frigid, dank weather will lift across the European continent and we can race in conditions more suitable to short sleeves. Tomorrow’s Gent-Wevelgem has already been shortened and there’s talk of postponing it or canceling it outright because of the weather. I’m absolutely focused on the race at hand, but will still be thinking about my entire family today, tomorrow, yesterday, and always. While the wind howls outside right now, the proverbial breeze is steadily picking up, putting life back into dad’s sails.