Pedal Damn It!
I am an hour into my most recent mountain bike race, this one at Winter Park. By my estimates that puts just under halfway. There is one female singlespeed racer in front of me and a few more chasing behind. My mouth open like a bass out of water gasping for air, I look down at my bike wondering if there is a way to drop out without losing all respect for myself. My bleary eyes focus down on three words screaming back at me, “Pedal Damn It!”, from the stem of my tangerine Niner. “Okay Okay” I scream back inside my head and drive the pedals down determinedly.
This internal screaming match is matched only by the deadened wails of my quads wondering aloud why I insist on putting them through this. Every race it is the same. Its what makes an afternoon solo ride so much more enjoyable than racing. Racing hurts. It is not just a group ride with a number plate and a startline. Competitiveness, and a little bit of ego, kicks in and you ride faster and harder than you want to – because you have to. Because you can’t get to the finish line with any gas left in the tank or its a complete waste of time and money…not to mention a waste of the ritual pasta breakfast.
Yet, it IS a choice at the end of the day. I could spend race day whizzing around singletrack closer to home, with no entry fee, no pre race jitters, having a grand ol’ time. None of the sport men behind me would be closing in, riding my back wheel, shouting “On your left!”. I wouldn’t be fixated on the 29’er in the Chipotle jersey that is daring me to keep off my brakes on the rocky descents. Instead I’m hosting an argument with my lungs and quads on my side and my bike and ego on the other, with at least an hour and some change left in the race. Why? What makes riders like me come out and race? There’s no money to be had in it. Maybe a podium finish with medal and t-shirt. Surely I could do without a medal that no one will see but me, and I could buy a t-shirt I’ll actually wear with a lot less pain and suffering attached?
Logic says, stop pedaling when it hurts so bad that you SWEAR that THIS is last race you’ll EVER do. Promise. Niner logic tells me, “Pedal Damn It” over and over…ever time glance down in fatigue. Had I realized my Niner would be so demanding, I may have considering buying a Trek frame instead. Yet, perhaps its just the kick in the proverbial bike shorts I need. It may hurt, but damn I feel alive. And strong. And ready to kick some ass. Racing is my challenge to myself. It strengthens my resolve to ride through the pain, to ride through the doubt, and to ride through the logic.
Screw logic, my Niner has it right. On I pedal…..