So last year, I made my comeback to racing on July 4th, at the Northfield Criterium. I DNF’ed (did not finish), as I was way out of shape and in no condition to race. In another of my blogs, three days later, I wrote a piece about the experience and why, at the age of 34, I was coming back to racing after a long lay-off. Here it is:
I guess I could talk about how I discovered I have a defective freehub body on my $2000 (retail) set of wheels. Or I could talk about the slow trickle of parts coming in that will leave me with a cyclocross bike sometime in mid-September (and the trepidation of racing it, because I’ve never raced cyclocross before). I could yammer on about having finished reading my former college prof’s book, Heft on Wheels. Or that I have a race tomorrow — the second of my return-to-racing, the second of my attempt to race myself into condition for next season.
But fuck all that. That’s trivial. I want to talk about why I’m doing this again. It’s not that I’m good at it — I was never particularly awesome. Sure, I had my moments of brilliance on the bike, but when I get down to brass tacks, when I honestly look at my abilities and my results, I never had much of a shot at going pro, and certainly don’t now, at the age of 34. I don’t ride for that now, and sometimes I don’t think I ever did. It wasn’t about the destination; it was the journey that mattered. It was that I liked myself when I was racing, when every day was about getting out there on the bike and rolling out the miles, either alone or with friends.
I like what I find in myself when I’m riding. And if I go too long without it, I forget that it’s there.
Found: the ability to suffer mightily and never complain, discipline, happiness, an appreciation for the passing of each day, the ability to press through pain both physical and emotional, a return of my energy levels, a clearness of mind, a sense of direction.
I may not be awesome at anything I do, but when I’m out on the bike, pounding out the miles, suffering up hills and shrugging off rain and sleet, when I’m grinding away with my heart rate pushing 200 while most of the world is still in bed, cooking in the summer sun, puking after intervals, when I’m blowing past people on the Greenway, hell, even when everything is going wrong and my mind’s not in the game, or when I’m struggling at the back of a pack in a local criterium, I am the most awesome bike racer that has ever lived.
But I don’t expect you to understand what I mean by that.
I know I’m in for another summer of horrible, painful suffering. I know that there will be days where I want to quit. But I know I’m not going to. I need some suffering in my life to provide contrast for all the things that are good.