I love the moon. I love staring at the moon, marveling at its existence and wondering how it can shine so brightly just by reflecting the light of the sun. It amazes me how that little dot in the sky pulls in the tides and lets them out again. I try to imagine what it must have been like to walk around up there and what it looks like on the dark side we never see. I love it so much because it makes me feel small and makes the little things I worry about seem so insignificant.
Sometimes when I’m rushing around, caught up in my own jumbled thoughts, the sight of the moon will catch my eye and stop me in my tracks and take my breath away. Even though it is light years away, or maybe because it is light years away, it keeps me grounded and reminds me to keep sight of the big picture.
My favourite moon is what I call a fingernail moon. That’s not the scientific name for it of course, but it’s the name I give to the moon when you can see just the tiniest sliver of it, when it just barely catches the light of the sun. It makes me think of the end of my fingernail.
I took an astronomy class in University (easy science credit) and learned that this phase of the moon is either the waxing or waning gibbous phase, the phase when it is either just past (waxing) or just before (waning) a new moon. But any moon, whether it is a fingernail moon or a rising harvest moon, always brings a smile to my face and a little piece of peace to my mind.
After four weeks off training, some serious rest and contemplating the reality that my own full moon is disappearing into its waning gibbous phase, it is time to get back in the saddle again. Although the rest is entirely necessary, it comes as a bit of shock to the system after eleven months of intense training and racing.
In past years I used to resist the urge to lie on the couch all day and just let myself rest, feeling as though I should instead utilize my four weeks of freedom to accomplish something useful like tile the bathroom floor or ski my brains out. But over the years I’ve come to accept that I just need to stop, rest and get to a place where I feel completely free of physical and mental stress.
After a couple of weeks I am generally past the phase of physical exhaustion and begin to feel pretty sedentary. I don’t like this feeling but it pulls me in like the tide and I succumb to it every year. It’s what makes starting to train again so physically difficult, as my body resists the movement at first, until my muscles wake up from their slumber and start firing when I tell them to. Sometimes it’s tough to get going again and it takes a while for the motivation to come back.
After the Olympics in 2006 it was nearly two months before I started training again, and even then I didn’t really get into it for a couple more. But that was by design, just as it is now, that I feel truly ready to go again after just four weeks. This is part of the Olympic phase, and a new moon is around the corner.
And so, we ride our bikes. After ten days of bike touring through the national parks of southern Utah I now find myself back with the team in the midst of 35 degree Celsius heat in Tucson, Arizona. Riding is how we get fit, and although the heat is rather extreme for Canadians like us, it is a far better option than the unpredictable, cool and often rainy weather that befalls Calgary this time of year.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, it didn’t take long to get back into the physical exhaustion phase. We are only at the end of day three of a ten-day camp and at 8:40 pm I can barely keep my eyes open. How can I feel so tired already? Maybe it’s the 4-hour rides followed by afternoon runs, core and weights.
Or maybe it’s just the new moon. Every season begins anew, and each year I travel through the same phases of training, fatigue, and rest and finally the culmination of it all in the ultimate end of supreme competition – a full moon!
I know that beyond this cycling camp there is much harder training to come that will challenge me to reach a new level, but somehow, no matter how tired I get, my eyes are wide open to the fact that this is the time of my life. How lucky I am to have the next ten months in front of me, full of possibility and potential. I will never have this chance again.
While other new moons will come and go, I feel absolutely full of enthusiasm, patience and focus, to wholly experience this one as it travels through waxing, waning, and absolutely 100% full.