Physical & Mental Fitness is Elusive
Cresting a Hill

Physical and mental fitness is an elusive state.

It took us more than four years to get to the top of the hill. Each of us, in our own way, had turned back numerous times before. But that Saturday and Sunday we hung in there and crested that mental hill.

Saturday’s ride was two hours of push. The whole way we floated at the top and above our endurance pace. Unbeknownst to the other, each of us felt the burn and tiredness that announced our heads were getting concerned about our capacity to keep pushing the pedals at the pace we were keeping. And each of us found a way to deal with the pressure to back off. We rode continually above our comfort level and survived the effort. We didn’t crash and burn and didn’t even bonk. We entered the mental zone where we were now able to endure the next level of discomfort. Physical and mental fitness is an elusive state.

The next morning’s ride started a bit stiffly. The circles the pedals turned were not quite as round as the day before. Each push talked back more than we expected. Our legs carried fatigue and we recognized it as we climbed the Steadman hill and rolled on toward our Concord turnaround spot. A few miles in we found ourselves pushing up the rolling hills of Middlesex Turnpike with most of the vigor of the previous day’s ride. A thought rode just ahead of us, and we drafted the notion. Can we do another hard day? Can we maintain a hard endurance pace for another two hours?

An hour and thirty-eight minutes in we crested the hill. We had attempted a breakaway from our previous expectations and had stayed away for the entire ride. We were both tired, but pedaling in a different world, one where fatigued didn’t mean you had to back off, one where you have the confidence to dig a little deeper into your mental stamina. We crested the hill and glided down the back side. Physical and mental fitness is an elusive state.

Szifra told me what she’d accomplished and experienced, and I shared that I had taken the same ride. This was tandeming at its most elegant. We rolled down the hill, the car to the right stopped at the intersection and then pulled out right in front of us. Pleasure at our accomplishment changed instantly to a desperate effort to survive the impact. My four minutes of unconsciousness and Szifra’s hours of concern about my future mental capacity, the ambulance ride and hours in the ER and hospital ward didn’t erase the joy of that ride, but we were separated by weeks from our next ride. Instead of building on our success, we had to navigate back to where we had lost our route.

Fitness, physical and mental, is an elusive state. Difficult to work toward and transitory at the best of times. But once you’ve been there, you know it exists, that it’s possible to get there. I want to get back there for Szifra and for me. She wants to get back there for me and for herself. Tandeming comes with two potential coaches. We are lucky in so many ways. ~ Jay Livingston

Our book about tandeming in life and on two wheels

Tandem riding & relationships in the Boston Globe

Physical and mental fitness is an elusive state.