Assembled words of the third pre-Breck
article, haven't seen 'em posted elsewhere,
put 'em here to finish the effort...
Sitting at the bar years ago, had a couple seasons of racing under my belt. Shooting the shit, and conversation with buds turns to bikes, as usual.
"Bike racing is about suffering.
Who is more willing." Eric said.
He said it with a playful grin, but his eyes had that hallowed stare for a split second. It was a qwik reflective inventory of the hours spent spinning miserable through pissy grey February rain. It wasn't a reflection of the wins or the effort they required, those days are always magic twinkle in the eye memory. It was about doing the time in the saddle, the preparations beforehand. It's about the choices you make each time you ride. Do you even kit up and step out the door? Do you bail early? or push on? Hold your course for that extra bit of down valley orchard rollers, which will only extend the tailwind overspun 40:15 TT home by an equal amount, being chased by the cramp monster the entire way. It's about the willingness to go there.
It's about doing the work, willing yourself through it. I've actually headed out into the rain on purpose this year. During the week. On my road bike. Believe that shit? Ever since I started playing this bike game, I've stuck to a pretty basic approach. First thing I like to know is how big is the task at hand? Have I done anything similar? yeah? Cool, what did I do to get ready for that? If not, then figure out what it'll take to prepare, get a taste for the effort required. I remember considering my first 40k, wayyyy back in the day. And the weeks before thinking, "I've never actually ridden 40k on my mtn bike..." So, for 'training' on the weekend prior, I went out around the lakes and put together a 20 couple mile loop...was a bit more of an effort than expected, but that was it. I rode the loop and I knew that I could at least pedal that far.
Of course, 40k in WV was a bit different than rolling around the York County Parks system for a few hours, but I got through it. Shortly after, I was hooked and started learning the bike racing ropes. Bike racing is suffering. It's the ordeals you put yourself thru in order to prepare for the 'big event,' doing your time in the proverbial pain cave. It's reviewing the floor plan, then carving out and decorating that quiet space you'll be spending a lot of time in. Find yourself a comfortable place where you don't hear the searing screams out of your legs as you chase yet another ghost just that little bit further. How accessible do you make it? Is the door to your cave like a prohibition password guarded speak easy, or is it brilliant Broadway lighted marquee entrance? How easy is it for you to get in?
"This is for Breck" has been my password this year. For when the going's gone less than smooth and I need to retreat. Knock, knock. "This is for Breck." Need to let me in, gotta hide for a bit, check this place out...eventually, after a handful of visits, you've heard the house band enough times, you recognize the pictures on the walls, cracks in the ceiling, and you move a bit further down the darkened cavern to the next shady place. Knock, knock. "This is for Breck," and you're let in. Again, you enter tentatively, checking out the fresh arrangement of furniture, looking to find a comfortable place to chill. Then in short order you've got the tables and chairs arranged just so and it's time to move on once again.
Rides evolve, hours added to the length, extra climbs tossed into the mix, finding new, quieter places to visit. Hidden passages leading out of those first few rooms, revealed on those 'no way will Colorado be this miserable' days. Getting out and resetting the benchmarks, racing 6+ hours in hypothermic rain & mud on the worst choice of bike possible with stumps of dead wood for legs. Or while bushwacking along a squiggly line on the topo map, a slightly ridable former tramrail which has morphed into an overgrown briary benched scree field..ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, oooo, thorns, neat. Jump in with both feet and try to touch bottom, get a feel for the depth.
So, if it's such a miserable pursuit, then why bother? Why bother? Why? Because you do get rewarded for the work, handsomely. One way or the other you experience the magic. Always tapping into those first tastes of two wheeled exploratory freedom. There's magic in the peaceful rhythm of absent minded creek side spinnin' and in the memory reviving wafted scents that blow across your landscape. There's magic in the hypnotic whirring of the chain as the troubles of the day drift out of your mind on the commute home. And of course there's magic in those spectacular days, heaps of it. Those are the days that inspire you into the saddle when there are no chirping bird distractions. Those are the days when the climbing truly is a dance on the pedals, when the effort is transmitted thru a smile, not a grimace. When your pedaling is in tune with the trail's rhythm and there are no goofy missteps to disrupt the flow. Those days when the finely honed instinct takes over and you become astonished observer of the performance. Those days when it just clicks.
When you tap into that magic, that is the reward. There's always a moment on every ride, every ride, where you just can't help but smile and laugh, little magical moments sprinkled about. Breck has been on my mind for a loooooong time now and I'm planning to smile a lot. Shipped my bike and a box of gear out today, I fly out in a week. Talk about reality check, guess this really is happening! It's been one hell of a fun journey to this point with the cherry on top fast approaching. Thanks for reading, maybe see ya 'round camp.
Assembled words of the third pre-Breck