Today I felt pain. But not, for once, the dark dog-tired pain of despair, that chronic viral pounding that seems to emerge every Monday morning, and feeds voraciously on the grey cadaver of crushed hope and promise right through to Friday. No, not this. It was something cleaner, something unsullied and uncorrupted. Something pure & physical… the sharp, sentient pain of intervals.
This is a pain that takes you by the scruff of the neck and bangs your face repeatedly into a wall of hurt to let you know you are ALIVE ! It started as my usual Sunday morning ride out to the Tamako lakes and back along the Irumagawa and Arakawa rivers, a perfect 100k loop that sees me back in Tokyo by mid-morning. I’d perfected this route over the winter; the desire to spend time with my nine month old son compelling me to apply a moratorium on my usual long distance mountain rides. It was usually a pedestrian affair.
But today something snapped from deep inside; I accelerated up the hills, time-trialled the straights, and chased other cyclists down, urging my heart rate higher than any time in the last six months, grunting and bellowing obscenities as the pain hit me in waves. The winter colours around me were more luminous than the summer; the birds more musical and the tarmac smoother than I’d ever remembered it to be. My lungs were burning, spasms of pain pinched my lower back and my legs felt they had been sliced open and the veins ripped out.
A systematic punishment of the body… but a panacea for the soul.
It had been a cold icy winter this year. Names of passes remained unspoken for months, and the longer they remained unsaid, the more powerful those words became. No longer simple names of roads, they became prayers, a summons to the Gods of these western mountains. And they were lonely too; it had been far too long without the homage of their two-wheeled acolytes. But they heard the chants of their names, and knew it was time to bargain with the Gods of the seasons. Out with that indolent lazy God of Winter and in with the Goddess of Spring. Bit of a looker, Ms Spring, which is always a bonus.
So the snows melted, and the ice slunk off to the shadows, stubbornly waiting for the less wary; whilst landslides uncleared since Autumn stumbled onto the broken asphalt. Tsuru ! Yabitsu ! Magino ! Nokogiriyama ! My prayers had been answered at last.