“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953
I’m not sure whether famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was a cyclist – his apparently prodigious alcohol intake suggests not – but his famous words about raging against the dying of the light became firmly stuck on a mental loop in my mind recently, during a particularly frenetic late afternoon/early evening bike ride.
I’m not sure about the old age bit, but finding myself 20 miles from home and with the sun an orange glow on the horizon and falling fast, I was very much raging against the dying of the light. As it happens, the thought of finding myself out in the open, with the temperature plummeting towards zero and with no lights on the bike, turned out to be a very effective motivator; I couldn’t see my on-board Garmin in the gathering gloom but I know I was riding fast.
I fall into this trap every year.
Once we’ve had the odd day where the sun shines and the temperature hits double figures I start to feel a bit spring-like. I’m suddenly prone to dressing for the wrong weather (i.e. ditching the tedious winter kit for something a bit more racy) and forgetting that the sun will still go down somewhere between 6 and 7pm; at least until we here in the UK click across into British Summer Time (BST) and get that glorious extra hour of daylight.
The problem was that this had been a crisp sunny day, and I’d had plans to bail out of work early when no-one was looking, and clock up 50 miles of joyous spring cycling. But as so happens with the best laid plans, things went awry.
Rather than getting away from work at 3pm, an unforeseen and thorny issue delayed my escape until 4, at which point I should have recalibrated my expectations and downgraded my 50 miles in the saddle to something closer to 30. Despite the fact I knew I would have to ride a PB to get out and back in daylight I recklessly decided this was do-able, and so the rage, rage, raging began.
The lack of light, and the fact that the chilled air was causing what at the time felt like the early stages of frostbite in my feet (my own fault – decided to give the overshoes a miss), meant that I was indeed motivated to ride just about as fast as I ever have. But if I’m brutally honest it was dark by the time I got home.
Not dusk, or gloomy…dark!
But at least I didn’t “go gentle into that good night”.
I also much prefer having the words of a revered poet rolling around my mind, rather than the usual mindless tunes which can get lodged in the brain during solo rides.
Highbrow cycling, you might call it?