Friday, April 26, 2013

Why I Race

Why do I race?

I am not JHK, Todd Wells or Dave Wiens. I am not as inspirational as Fat Cyclist...I'm not as cool as Drunk Cyclist...I'm just a guy who likes to ride.

So why race? 

There's three parts to a race for me -- signing up, training, and racing. 

Signing up for a race is small effort. A few mouse clicks, $50-$100 on the credit card, and boom, there's a date on the calendar. There's a commitment. There's something Suman, Anya, Anika, and Sirina point to and say "daddy, will you win?" (No Suman does not think I'm winning anything, but I only get to be a superhero for a little while longer, I'll take it)

Now Training becomes a little bit of a commitment. At least 4 people have an expectation I'll be faster than last year.

That means I get up an hour or two early. Lace or buckle the shoes, grease the chain, butter the chamois...sweat. Cut out the beers...well most of the beers.  Eat a little less cake. Push a 245 lb sled around the gym. Sweat some more...

Race day. Now A little more effort. Maybe a a drive, maybe a plane ride. More lube, more cream for the shorts, tighten all the bolts, check the pack, recheck the pack...line up....wait wait wait. And then the guns goes off (ok, rarely is it a gun anymore, but when it is, it's cool).

Now I'm out there. There's a number on the handlebars. There are people passing. There's a BIG clock...and the cranks are turning. There's that sound of 100 knobby tires zinging across the dirt sounding like Tie Fighters. The little squeaks and creaks of forks, rear shocks, and bolts that needed another 1/8 turn. The chain music as riders all around spin, shift spin again...and of course the camaraderie of the entire field. Off the line, only about 10 guys are trying to win. Everyone else is out there to help everyone be fast...and survive I the finish!

When it comes time to think about taking the short cut home, I don't. Because there's a course out there. There's hundreds of other guys in just as much pain, they want to quit too...but they don't. Someone sees me fading, and they give you a "good work...keep it up!" Later in the climb (maybe) I get to return the favor.

Turn the cranks, crest the ridge, rip the descent...everything else melts away.

Worried about the mortgage, email, size of the 401k, braces, will the kids grow up to be as strong as I can dream, am I doing this right? Yes I can worry. May even think deep about all that as the pedals tick over on some long insane climb. On a training ride, I could stop. Pull out the phone, double check that everything is ok at home and at the office.

But this is a Race.

The phone is tucked in the Camelbak, Strava is running...and all of that will just have to wait.

I'm there to go fast, and keep going fast. For these few hours, it's 100% ok to remove all other thoughts from my head. Turning pedals, shifting the weight back, then forward to clear the log, catching air off the ledge...catching the guy in front of me...that's all I need to think about.

Racing lets me get inside myself. Its often said that surviving an endurance event is mental. I heard 3-time defending Leadville 100 champ Rebecca Rusch give an interview the other day. She said the first 20 miles of an endurance event are physical. The rest of it 20,40, or 100 more miles are all mental.

I think I agree. A really good mental that keeps me from going mental. So there you have it.