All week, it seems, I’ve been dealing with…I’m not sure what to call it. Strained muscle or precursor to an injury, something along those lines. The muscles right above the right knee are the issue, and I’m extremely wary of creating knee problems. And so close to the joint brings up the worry that it could be a tendon issue, not just muscle, so I’ve been worried and cautious.

It doesn’t hurt all the time, so I’ve been able to pay attention and mostly eliminate the pain while riding, which means I’ve been able to not put further stress on it. I expect it will be fine after the weekend rest.

One of the results of my caution is that I’ve been holding back in some ways, despite that I’ve added the Big Hill to my list of hills ridden on my commute. The tough hills actually engage muscles further away from the knee, it is the longer gradual climbs that I seem to do something to stress those particular muscles. Hopefully I’ll figure it out soon.

And that Hill…climbing it…burning lungs, wheezing breath, cramping calves, seizing muscles once I’ve finally reached the summit…it is all part of the exhilaration of making that climb. I’ve surprised myself, in liking this hill. But I do! I really do.

Today I was surprised on a physical level to realize that it was Thursday, day 4 of my weekly commuting, and I wasn’t feeling like it was going to be a challenge just to keep going and finish the rides. I wasn’t fresh, the way I am on Mondays, but I wasn’t really tired either. Maybe last week, when I was in pain all week from the 108 sun salutations, gave me a new comparison on being tired, on painful commutes. Maybe last week pushed my muscles past an edge, making me noticably stronger. Regardless, it is nice to feel that I’m approaching a point where the tiredness at the end of the week isn’t as dramatic. Of course I’m in the habit of cruising now, to save myself for later in the week. But today was Thursday, no more saving required.

So today I decided to push a little harder. To not just cruise. And it was fun. I still cruised a fair amount, but I enjoyed pushing a little harder, and feeling the newfound strength in my body. There is something so satisfying about that.

This whole week I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m going a little faster than I used to. Certain roads where 18 or 19 used to be a reach I can now go 20 without feeling like I’m putting a lot of effort in. Maybe it is a tailwind. And it IS slightly downhill. I haven’t noticed much of a difference on the uphill speeds, even the slight inclines. Maybe that will come. Hopefully that will come.

I was amused to notice, for the first time, that there is a spot I actually hit 30mph. I’d thought about 26 or 27 was my top speed, before. I never looked at the computer in this one spot though. I can’t pat myself on the back about hitting 30mph – I wasn’t even pedaling. It is a very steep hill! I’m glad that in the mornings I go a different way that has a series of three short but very intense hills to climb, instead of straight up that one. Steps, carved in asphalt.

But really, every mile I’ve put on the bike have been steps of one kind or another. I talk about strength, which is accurate enough, but it is more than that. It is self-reliance, the independence that comes from moving self-propelled through the world.