Sunday, June 7, 2009

bike racing as therapy

Yesterday morning was the pits. Or I was in a pit. But I had a race on tap in the afternoon...and though all morning I didn't feel one bit like racing, I'd already paid so...

The girls (A & M) and I trotted the 25 some miles down to Lancaster. They parked their lawn chairs behind the announcer's tent (Joe Jefferson has never pronounced my name right...really, it's these mid-state folks...I can pop down to DC and no one will bat a tongue's eyelash, so to speak, but safe in the bosom of Pennsyltucky they just can't quite get their tongues untangled enough to roll it out) and cheered their little hearts out as I attacked midway through the 25 mile crit, taking an NCVC rider with me, and putting about 15 seconds (according to Beth) on a slow-to-get-motivated field. But, despite the power of little girls' cheers (which are not to be underestimated), after six laps or so they brought us in. But racing for the win lifted my spirits considerably. I just like racing my bike.

(Interestingly, I wasn't really planning on racing this weekend, but some days ago Valerie suggested that if we were staying in Hershey we might be close to something, which we were, so I registered. I'm not sure that yesterday she didn't regret that suggestion. But it did me a world of good.)

Bike racing... In so many ways an absurd activity. The carnage, for one. (A crash in the third or fourth lap--just after I'd moved to the front, thankfully--left two ambulances and a firetruck on the course for about half our race...then finally they took off, one ambulance with sirens blaring. Ugh.) The $ expense, for another. (Exhibit one: I got a quote from rrvelo on fixing my Tarmac's two breakpoints--$600. Holy nuts. It may be just enough for me to swear off carbon...especially when there are perfectly reasonable alternatives.) The time expense. Yeah... Well... And finally the inarguable arrogance of it all. I mean, I'm 35 stinking years old. Why is it so important to get to the crest of a hill or an inauspicious white line quicker than somebody else? What is it about my damaged psyche that takes so much pleasure in being better than some other poor schmuck on two wheels? And yet I do take pleasure from it. A great deal, as a matter of fact. And I'm sure I'm a smaller man because of it, but... Well... What is the defense of middle-aged competitiveness? But of course there's a flip side to the pleasure of being better. And that is, of course, the indignity of being worse. And the thing about low-stakes amateur bike racing (or really all bike racing but for a handful of the world's best) is that there will almost always be people much, much stronger/fitter/more cunning than you, and you will much more often be worse than you will be better. If I were to write an essay on the topic it would probably be called "Of fishes and ponds..."

Yet, for all the reasons not to, I'm somehow convinced that it is a very good thing for me to be doing. Fitness. Endorphins. Self-efficacy. Identify. Goal-setting and achievement. The explanation lies somewhere in that crowded landscape. I suppose.


So the year-to-date race resume...

One mountain bike relay as a season warm-up. I wasn't expecting exceptional results and I didn't get them.

A seventh at the Philly Phlyer.

Third at SoYoCo.

The crash at Turkey Hill. (Despite the obvious disappointment of the in-the-last-500m crash, probably my worst race this year. I've only raced TH twice, but both times that course has just kicked my butt. Those hills...and the constant attacks with nothing really ever getting takes a toll.)

A crappy 13th at Fulton. (I wanted this one bad. On the first lap, up the second, steepest climb I thought, "I'm never going to finish this thing." But by the fourth lap I realized the racing had beat down most everyone more than me and so I rode a pretty stinking aggressive fifth lap. I was in a three-man break for a couple of k (I blame it's lack of success on my breakaway companions not being as strong and/or motivated as me). Then pushed the pace up the leg-breaker hoping for a selection of four or five by the top, but ended up with a selection of more like 20 (a field of around 70 started), then made a bid for solo glory with about 2k to go. To no avail.

And then a back-of-the-field finish at Race Ave yesterday.


I wonder how much my summer Pennsylvania allergies affect my performance. It certainly can't help.

A typical June ride will see me launching a blurring sequence of snot rockets from an allergy-induced runny nose, red, bloodshot eyes, and by the end of the ride my arms and legs are aglow with inflammation. Something like a southern Utah landscape--random mounds and ridges of deep red against a peach-orange background... And if I'm on the mountain bike... Yikes. It's enough to almost make me long for the good ole slip-slide ice-skating runs of December-February. Almost.


Sherry said...

I am glad you are able to get some therapy out of the biking. You are all in our prayers.

mrsmith said...

Good to see you made it out to race; a little sunshine and bike racing is always good for the spirits. We'll be praying for all of you guys as well.

In an attempt to further make the world smaller, allow me to introduce you to the NCVC rider you broke away with:

Funny to read about a two man break on two different blogs, then put it together that it was the same break. Funny.