Friday, February 8, 2013

The Hardest Month

February is the hardest month.  It is about survival.  The brittle cold wind whips against the faces of cyclists as they suffer to turn over the pedals.  There is a still warm bed they left, for what?  They left for the coming spring and summer, but certainly not for February. 

February is the hardest month, so it was shortened.  No one could stand the extra days, so they did away with them, leaving the bare minimum.  Four weeks of windswept rain and freezing fingers is all anyone could stand, so that calendar was truncated—the extra days would be slipped in elsewhere.  Every four years February is even harder.  The suffering gloom and gray stays for a day further.  March is denied to us for an additional 24 hours.

Through the depths of our East Coast haze we pedal though February searching for form.  Ice cream headaches without ice cream happens in a cold only found on such a search.  There is something inside that gets us out of that warm bed to struggle with layers of lycra, only to put our selves in pain during the hardest month of the year.  Every ride ever undertook in February has been met with hesitation, but left with blithesome pride.  

February is the hardest month so that we might know the spring.  We should be so lucky to have 31 days in February so we would know the spring three days better for it.  Spring greens are brighter when they have suffered through a deep gray winter.  So it is with everything.  How do you know the joys of winning if you have never been crushed in loss?

Black could be called gray were it not for white.  What would your fondest summer ride be without your wettest February trial?  Quickly throwing on bibs and a jersey wouldn’t feel so good unless you have spent upwards of 20 minutes getting dressed in February. 

December and January are cold, but not hard.  A ride is so easy to skip in January.  Spring is far off, and for pete’s sake, you’re supposed to have bad form in January.  December and January are for the pros.  They can train for their salaries in the depths of our winter at their off season homes in Spain and Italy.  But now, February—in all her grotesque beauty—is upon us.  Even as I type this, the gloom hangs over my little row-home mocking my inside-ness.  February is our warning that the season is too close to put off anymore.  

February is the hardest month because it is too late to wait it out.  If you stay in that warm bed, you’ve missed the winning break.  It’s gone; so far up the road it’s out of sight.   You must slog it out against February so that you might not get dropped in spring.  The time for excuses is gone.  February was that excuse and now it’s here. 

February is the hardest month and we need it to be.  This is a sport for those who find something in the suffering.  I can’t deny I like to think of myself as someone who rides in February, taking pride in the look I get when I say that I rode in the mid-20s.  Riding in February is dreadfully hard and that is why we should cherish it.  We should cherish the context it gives to this sport, so that we might appreciate the beauty of cycling more fully. 

February is the hardest month and I hope it only gets harder.  

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