It was John Mayer night at a bar in Subic, with an acoustic band playing song after song of heartbreak and regret. It goes from loud to barely audible every time the 7-Eleven doors swing in and out, and I remember looking at the rack of sandwiches and sweetened yogurt feeling strange being in a place I’ve been to once as a sixth-grader, at a field trip to Ocean Adventure, and that night, as a cyclist who dared himself to go for a 200km ride north to Masinloc and back to the city. I felt tense as well, with my gut warm and in knots, in my mind’s eye thinking about the mechanical issues and accidents that could go wrong in the entire trip.
The truth is, I didn’t have the time to recall the day and to write about it: I was just physically tired and mentally drained. As soon as I got my medal I sat down on the steps of the hotel with fellow cyclists and jokingly swore, to myself mostly, but within earshot of some friends, to quit cycling. Little did I know that it will actually come true, that in the next few weeks after that Audax, the thought of riding my Bianchi via Nirone would repulse me. Partly, that’s because its left handlebar was pointing inward due to a stupid fall and that its spanking new chainrings were oddly loose in my only post-audax ride at Jamboree. Partly, it was my new role and the various commitments I have and the time it eats up every day, and the loosened Covid-19 restrictions that harkened back the buses and jeepneys and private cars, making the thought of cycling unappealing once again.
But mostly, it was the idea of competitive cycling – or as I wrote a few months back, cycling with a ‘hard agenda’ – that ruined it for me. (Arguably, the audax is the least competitive of them all, but naturally it has rules and constraints, just like any other competition.) I realized that I enjoy cycling as a way of getting to know myself through my surroundings, as if the roads and the hills were mere projection of the contours and depressions of my brain, a mental landscape externalized and rendered passable and discoverable through cycling, with each spin unspooling an ink ribbon of thoughts that leave its marks and skids on the road. That day onwards the ink ran dry.