Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting introspective

I didn't make any resolutions for New Year's, because I think that if you want to resolve something, don't wait for an arbitrary date to do it.  That being said, getting introspective was not a resolution, just something that jarred loose out of my frontal lobe while watching "The Cyclocross Meeting".  The basic premise of this highly entertaining "documentary" was that despite the vast cultural differences, US racers and Japanese racers throw down all the same, and enjoy the same "sub-culture of a sub-culture".

Whilst watching the movie, I got to thinking, "So self, why do you race?"

I'd be very interested in hearing answers from any endurance athlete.  For me personally, it came to light as I was talking to one of my teammates the other day during a ride, and I told him "I race bicycles because I'm terrible at it".  Not meaning that I'm just awful at it, but it would seem that there isn't anything in the universe lined up that would lend any sort of successful bike racing career to me. I'm built more like a boxer than a wispy cyclist, for one thing.  Even as I've lost a lot of weight, I still look more likely that I could throw down in an MMA cage than sprint for a victory in a crit.  Both would be sweet, but I think the crit victory is more likely, and it's a ways away still.

I got to thinking even more about it, and asked myself why I started now.  I'm 34.  No spring chicken.  Only Lance and Chris Horner and Steve Tilford are older than me.  Ok, that's obviously not true, but those guys had been racing since they were teenagers or younger.  I dabbled in MTB racing when I was 23 or so, but then rode my bike maybe 4-5 times a year until something inside stirred last fall and I decided to start racing again.

First cyclocross, then triathlons, and now road racing.  These sports take incredible sums of knowledge to perform well in.  Fortunately, I'm quite capable of being a voracious learner/reader when the subject suits me.  But I have to be just that, a student driven to excel.  I don't have the benefit of just riding around and picking up things as I go.  I have limited training time with two kids, an athletic wife, and too big of a house to take care of.

Somedays I wish I was one of those guys on the team that are in their mid-20's, DINKs (dual-income, no kids), and ride 5+ days a week.  You can afford to make mistakes and crash and blunder your way to becoming a great racer by the time you're 30.  Not so much for me.  So I'm always asking questions.  Always reading.  Always trying to figure out a way to maximize the training/recovery cycle so I can be stronger next week than I am this week.  Maybe that's a challenge I like.  I like it because I'm not SUPPOSED to be doing something like this.  Most guys don't typically have single-digit body fat, love the pain cave, and dance the cyclocross shuffle in snow and mud and hell on the weekends.  We beat the hell out of ourselves because to sit in a cube 40 hours a week then veg in front of the TV is to die a slow terrible death.  Reality TV is where you turn it off and go outside and do something you've never done before.

I don't intend to have life happen to me.  I want to grab hold of it.  Have great stories to share my grandkids.  Make a stranger smile.  Leave this Earth a little better place than it would have been without me.

Man, it's a good thing I wasn't drinking some beer before I started this post.


  1. Good read Chris. I have a lot of similar thoughts sometimes, probably since we're about the same age.

  2. Those 25 year olds, they are getting beat by 18 year olds who chose to train instead of partying and having a social life. Those 18 year olds, they wish their parents cared to get them racing when they were 12 so they aren't getting killed by 15 year olds in belgium. Those kids who started racing when they were 12, they're now partying in college, burnt out on the "commitment."

    I'll bet there are plenty of 45 year olds wishing they had started at your age, there is still plenty of time to be fast, who knows, maybe when your 50 you'll be able to beat Tilford.

    Just pedal harder and don't think much, thats why cross is so good, it makes everyone suffer.

  3. nice post.

    it's hard to put a finger on why i ride / race, but (at least for cross) it feels like a break from real life. Life is complicated, cross is simple, for that one hour all of life's complications take a back seat to whats right in front of you. In a weird way, it's relaxing.